New National PDK/Gallup Poll Shows Parents Skeptical of Common Core and Testing

Public school parents and the public at large are skeptical of the Common Core State Standards (Common Core) and the usefulness of standardized testing, according to The 47th Annual PDK/Gallup Poll of The Public Attitudes Toward The Public Schools released this week. The annual poll also found that while parents like to have a choice on where to send their child to school, they oppose the use of public dollars to send students to private schools in the form of vouchers.

The poll’s findings show the general public, as well as parents of public school children, value other measures of school effectiveness beyond standardized tests. However, the results should not be seen as a total indictment of standardized tests, as results show the public is just as skeptical about allowing students to opt-out of standardized tests. This aligns with the results of the most recent Education Next poll which found the majority of the public supportive of the federal requirement to test students annually in math and reading. So, while the public may be getting weary of standardized testing, there is little support for their abolishment, especially among Black and Hispanic respondents. However, the public clearly feels that schools should be judged by more than test scores.

This year’s PDK/Gallup Poll is titled “Testing Doesn’t Measure Up for Americans.” In addition to garnering public opinion on standardized testing, the poll explores an array of education “hot topics,” including Common Core, school choice, school performance, school funding, vaccinations, and more.

New to this year’s poll, data are reported by specific population sectors, including public school parents, political party affiliation, and race (white, black, and Hispanic).

Some brief highlights of this year’s results include the following:

School Funding:  For the 10th consecutive year, Americans named lack of financial support as the biggest problem facing their local schools. Having sufficient money to spend would improve the quality of the public schools, according to a sizeable portion of American adults. Nearly half of public school parents said having sufficient money is key to improving the quality of the public schools.

Grading U.S. Public School Performance:  A majority of Americans surveyed—57 percent—would give the public schools in their community a grade of A or B, while 70 percent of parents would give the public schools their child attends a grade of A or B. However, when asked to rank the public schools in the nation as a whole, only 19 percent of respondents would give those schools a grade of A or B.

School Choice:  A majority of Americans surveyed—57 percent—oppose allowing students and parents to choose a private school at public expense (vouchers), while 64 percent favor charter schools. By a similar margin 64 percent of respondents say parents should be able to choose any public school in their community for their child to attend.

Improving Public SchoolsWhen asked to rank ideas about how to improve the quality of public schools in their communities, 95 percent say the quality of teachers, followed by expectations for what students should learn (67 percent), effective principals (61 percent), how much money the schools have to spend (45 percent). Using tests to measure what students have learned was named by just 19 percent of respondents.

Measuring the Effectiveness of SchoolsWhen respondents were asked to rank the importance of several factors for measuring the effectiveness of the public schools in their communities those listed as “very important” were the following: “How engaged students are” was cited by 78 percent of respondents, while “the percentage of students who feel hopeful about their future” was cited by 77 percent and 69 percent of respondents cited “the percentage of students who graduate from college.” Trailing as “very important” indicators were: the percentage of high school graduates who go on to a 2-year or 4-year college (38 percent); the percentage of graduates who get jobs immediately after completing high school (27 percent); and scores that students receive on standardized tests (14 percent)

When asked how important the scores students receive on standardized tests are for measuring the effectiveness of the public schools in their communities, only 14 percent said “very important”; 43 percent said “somewhat important;” 28 percent said “not very important;” and 13 percent said “not at all important.” Among Black respondents, 28 percent said the scores students receive on standardized tests are “very important” for measuring the effectiveness of the public schools in their communities.

Testing64 percent of respondents say there is too much emphasis on standardized testing in the public schools in their communities. However, while Americans in general agree that there is too much testing in schools, few parents report that their children are complaining about excessive testing.

Most Americans believe parents should have the right to opt out of standardized testing, but few said they would exercise that option themselves. However, a majority of Blacks respondents said parents should not be allowed to excuse a child from taking standardized tests, and they overwhelmingly said they would not let their own child opt out.

Overall, tests are viewed as “somewhat important” in improving the quality of public schools, and the scores that students receive on tests are “somewhat important” in evaluating whether schools are effective.

Many Americans, especially public-school parents, give low marks to rating a teacher based partly on how students perform on standardized tests, while 55 percent of parents surveyed oppose linking teacher evaluations to their students’ test scores.

Common Core:

A majority of Americans—54 percent—say they oppose having the teachers in their community use the Common Core State Standards to guide what they teach, while 24 percent favor having teachers use Common Core and 22 percent don’t know.