A new survey of American parents indicates that many think schools place too much emphasis on standardized tests.
A plurality of U.S. adults, 36 percent, think that the amount of time spent on standardized tests in education is “too high.” The number for parents with school-age children is even higher. Forty-four percent of them think testing focus is too high, compared to just 22 percent who think too little focus is put on testing.
Standardized tests have come into the spotlight recently, as the controversial new Common Core multi-state education standards rely heavily on using common standardized tests between states to track student progress.
The Schooling in America Survey, commissioned annually by the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, also found large and growing support for school choice programs, across the entire ideological spectrum.
In fact, few things seem to unify American public opinion like support for charter schools and voucher programs. Not only did a 61 percent of U.S. adults support charter schools, but every single subgroup tracked by the poll did as well.
Every race, income group, age group, political party and regional bloc gave charter schools at least 53 percent support, with most groups at 60 percent or above. School vouchers saw even stronger support, with 63 percent of adults supporting them and every subgrouping expressing at least 56 percent support.
Vouchers are often seen as a conservative issue, but the strongest overall support for vouchers is from Hispanics and African Americans. Seventy-four and 71 percent of them, respectively, support school vouchers, compared to 61 percent of non-Hispanic whites.
Both vouchers and charter schools drew slightly more support in 2014’s poll than they did in 2013.
Robert Enlow, president of the Friedman Foundation, said the results showed school choice could have major electoral influence for both parties.
“No matter the outcome of the fall elections, what parents and the general public think about Common Core, standardized testing, and school choice will have a serious impact on state legislatures,” Enlow said in a statement.
More divisive, however, are Common Core multi-state educational standards: Just 50 percent of respondents support the new standards, while 41 percent are opposed with 9 percent unsure.
Among parents with school-age children, the numbers reverse, with 49 percent opposed and 44 percent supportive. Opponents were also more energized in their dislike, with 33 percent “strongly opposed” to Common Core compared to just 12 percent “strongly supportive.”
A breakdown of those classed as Common Core “champions” (strong supporters) and “dissidents” (strong opponents) reveals major differences between the two groups. Champions tend to have lower incomes, and are more urban and African-American. They are also less likely to be parents of schoolchildren themselves. Dissidents are rural or suburban, whiter, and more likely to have school-age children.
Champions and dissidents also are strongly divided on the issue of standardized testing, with 61 percent of dissidents thinking standardized test focus in schools is “too high,” while just 12 percent of champions think the same. The difference if indicative of a greater overall satisfaction with the state of education among champions, who were also more likely to classify U.S. education policy as on the “right track.”
Interestingly, champions and dissidents still had very similar views on other education reform questions. About two-thirds of each group support charter schools and school vouchers, with about a third of each group opposed.
The survey polled 1,007 U.S. adults and was conducted from April 23 to May 4, 2014. It was conducted by Braun Research, an independent data collection and market research firm.
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