Parent Survey (or Statistics are Dangerous)

We began the week reflecting on an AP poll on parent sentiments about public education.  As we roll into hump day, we now have the 2013 edition of the Gallup/PDK poll of "what Americans said about the public schools."

This year's Gallup/PDK highlights:
* As we've heard for decades, most Americans give the public schools a "C" grade, but give their own schools an "A" or "B"
* 62 percent of parents have never heard of Common Core State Standards
* 36 percent believe increased testing has hurt school performance, 22 percent say it has helped, and 41 percent said it makes no diff at all
* 58 percent oppose using standardized test scores in teacher evals, up from 47 percent in last year's survey
* 52 percent said teachers have a right to strike (yes, that really is a question PDK asked)
* 88 percent say their child is safe when they are in school
* 66 percent favor educating children whose parents are in the United States illegally
* Only 29 percent favor sending kids to private schools at public school expense

Overall, the survey results aren't that big a surprise.  They seem to jive with what PDK reports annually in this survey, and they aren't too big a deviation from what AP released earlier in the week.

What's disappointing is how PDK decided to present this year.  One would think that a semi-intelligent human being could take a look at polling toplines and understand that when only 22 percent say high stakes testing helps school performance, the majority doesn't believe it to be so.  Unfortunately, PDK dumbed it down a step further, putting out a "highlights" document that makes sweeping statements without providing any statistical backup,  While one can track down the supports, it is definitely a dangerous document in the hands of the wrong folks.

Some of these self-proclaimed "highlights include:
  • Common Core - "Most Americans don't know about the Common Core and those who do don't understand it."
  • Standardized Tests - "The significant increase in testing in the past decade has either hurt or made no difference in improving schools."
  • Charter Schools - "Charter schools probably offer a better education than traditional schools."
  • Online Learning - "High school students should be able to earn college credits via the Internet while attending high school."
  • Biggest Problem - "Lack of financial support continues to be the biggest problem facing public schools."
Let's just take the last item.  Per-pupil public school funding is at its highest rates ever in the history of United States public education.  Do we honestly believe that is the biggest problem facing the schools?  More so than the obscene achievement gap?  More so than a third of all fourth graders unable to read on grade level?  More so than our inability to address the needs of a growing ELL population in our classrooms?  More so than ensuring that good teachers remain in the classroom and get the support and respect they need?

They again, sometimes poll results are just poll results.  But looking at the latest PDK release, Eduflack is left with two thoughts.

"A little information is a dangerous thing." Albert Einstein
"There are three kinds of lies: lies, damn lies, and statistics." Mark Twain

 

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