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  1. Public Opinion and Public Education: Communicating for Advocacy Presented to the Utah School Boards Association Convention January 13, 2007 Terri Duggan Schwartzbeck American Association of School Administrators


  3. About AASA • Professional organization for 13,000 school system leaders and superintendents • Also professors of educational administration and aspiring school system leaders • Mission: to support and develop effective school system leaders who are dedicated to the highest quality public education for all children • Stand Up for Public Education™ initiative to support public education as the heart of our democracy

  4. About the Stand Up for Public Education™ Campaign • Launched in 2003 in response to NCLB and continued challenges for public education • Three emphases: • Giving school leaders the tools to Stand Up for Public Education • Responding to misinformation about public education • Reshaping the dialogue about public education around how to have schools that are effective for each child • Polling, toolkits, web page, merchandise, and newsletters

  5. Polling Findings – and our Agenda • Political context • Where does the public get information about public education? Who do they believe? • How the public feels about accountability in an NCLB world • How the public feels about current high school reform efforts • Vision and values in public education

  6. Political Context


  8. Right Direction/Wrong Track • Most Americans continue to feel that the country is off on the wrong track. Q. Generally speaking, would you say things in this country are heading in the right direction, or are they off on the wrong track? AP/Ipsos Poll

  9. Presidential Approval • The President’s job approval rating has declined steadily over the last year with many polling organizations reporting all-time lows. Q. Overall, do you approve, disapprove, or have mixed feelings about the way George W. Bush is handling his job as President? AP/Ipsos Poll

  10. National Issue Agenda • Education rates very low when people are asked to name the most important problem facing the US today. • This speaks to the need to address education at the local level. Q. In your opinion, what is the most important problem facing the US today? AP/Ipsos Poll

  11. Education in the U.S. – Right Direction or Wrong Direction? Are public schools in THE U.S. headed in the right direction or the wrong direction? (Ipsos July 2006)

  12. Where does the public (and parents) get their information about public schools? Who do they believe? Whose voice?

  13. Newspapers and Television Are The Predominant Passive Sources of Information About Public Schools Was the Source of the MOST RECENT item about public schools you saw, read, or heard… Ipsos/AASA Poll

  14. Credibility as a News Source on Public Schools Starts In The Classroom And Ends In Washington On a scale from 0 to 10, please tell me how credible you think that source is when it comes to news about public school education. Note: Chart shows total % credible (6-10) Ipsos/AASA poll

  15. Credibility of Public School Education News Sources continued Ipsos/AASA poll On a scale from 0 to 10, please tell me how credible you think that source is when it comes to news about public school education. Note: Chart shows total % credible (6-10)

  16. The Trust Index 5. Now I would like to read you some possible sources of information about your local public high schools. For each one I read, please tell me if you completely trust, somewhat trust, trust only a little, or do not at all trust the source of information about local high schools. Ipsos/AASA poll July 2006

  17. Local School Leaders are Believable on Funding Issues Not sure 2% High-level government official 14% Neither 4% When a high level official from the U.S. Department of Education says there is sufficient funding to meet new federal standards for student achievement and a local school leader says the federal initiatives are under-funded, who is more believable? Local school leader 80% Ipsos/AASA Poll February 2004

  18. Public Doesn’t Believe That Schools “Aren’t Trying Hard Enough” Suppose you read or heard a news report in which a high-level official from the U.S. Department of Education says that students are not making sufficient progress because teachers and administrators are not trying hard enough. Is that something you would definitely believe, probably believe, definitely not believe or probably not believe? 37% 24% Total not believe 61% 26% 11% Total believe 37% 2% Ispos/AASA poll February 2004

  19. Teachers and Leaders Have the Best Ideas on How to Improve Schools Other 8% Senior researcher from a think tank 7% College or University Professor 8% Included in “Other” Political Candidate 3% Federal Official 2% None of the above 2% Not Sure 1% Local Teacher 53% Local school leader 24% Who do you think would have the best ideas about how to improve schools? Ipsos/AASA poll March 2004

  20. Effective Advocacy:Reaching Your Audience • Work hard to develop a good trust relationship with local media, especially local newspapers and the local television news stations your community watches • Most (about 70 – 75%) of the public reads, sees or hears news about public schools • The main passive sources of education information are • Local newspapers • Local television news

  21. Effective Advocacy:Choosing the Right Messenger • Superintendents are a credible source of information about schools • Teachers and principals are even more credible • Federal officials are the least credible source of information about education • Think tanks are less credible than teachers or school system leaders in • judging how effective schools are • Determining how to improve schools • When you disagree with “officials” from Washington, the public believes you

  22. The Public and Accountability in the NCLB World


  24. People Are Influenced More By State Labels 2. As you may know, schools around the country are rated in two ways – a state accountability system required under state law and a federal accountability system required by the federal No Child Left Behind Act. Is your opinion about the quality of schools in your community influenced more by state labels or federal labels? Ipsos/AASA poll August 2004

  25. Impressions of School Quality Would Decline Somewhat for Schools in the Penalty Phase If you heard that a school in your community received a passing mark under the state accountability system, but has failed to make adequate progress and is in the penalty phase under the federal requirements, would your impression of that school’s quality decline significantly, decline somewhat, or would it not have much of an effect at all? Ipsos/AASA August 2004 poll N=1,000

  26. A Majority Disagree with “One Size Fits All” Penalties for Schools Under the federal No Child Left Behind accountability system, there are at least 36 achievement targets that each school must meet. Currently, a school that misses 1 or 2 of its targets receives the same penalty as a school that misses nearly all of its targets. Do agree or disagree with this way of penalizing schools? Ipsos/AASA poll August 2004 N=1,000

  27. Measuring Student Progress Should Focus On EACH Child There is a lot of discussion about the best way to measure student progress in our public schools. Which of the following ways of measuring student progress comes closest to your own opinion? Ispos/AASA poll July 2005

  28. Following Students Year to Year Is Best Measure Of Teaching Effectiveness 8. Thinking about the impact of teaching, which of the following do you think is the best way to accurately measure the job that teachers are doing in educating children… Individuals who feel U.S. public schools are headed in the right direction are more likely to report AYP as an accurate measure of teaching effectiveness (23% vs. 12% among those who feel schools are headed in the wrong direction). Ipsos/AASA poll July 2005

  29. Impact of Standardized Testing • Both parents and teachers are more likely to say that increased emphasis on standardized testing has taken individual attention away from students. AP/AOL Poll – January 2006 Q. Which comes closest to your view about testing at (your child’s school/your school)?

  30. Meeting NCLB Requirements • Teachers are much less confident than parents that their schools will meet state standards by the 2013-2014 school year. Parents Teachers Not too Not at all very very Not too somewhat somewhat Q. The No Child Left Behind law says that ALL students must meet their state’s standards in reading and math by 2013-2014. How confident are you that (your child’s school/your school) will meet those standards by the deadline? AP/AOL Poll – January 2006

  31. The Achievement Gap • A strong majority of Americans believe that the achievement gap between white students and Hispanic and black students is the result of “other factors.” • Parents, teachers, and students all play a role in determining success. • In your opinion, is the achievement gap between white students and black and Hispanic students mostly related to the quality of schooling received or mostly related to other factors? • Q. In your opinion, who is most important in determining how well or how poorly students perform in school . . .? PDK/Gallup – June 2005

  32. The Public and Current High School Reform Efforts A Mixed Bag

  33. Few Want Major Overhaul of High Schools, But Few Are Completely Satisfied Do you think the public high schools in your community… 74% 65% 30% 24% Ipsos/AASA January 2005 poll

  34. The public wants “improvement” – not overhaul 4. Now I would like to read you some words to describe possible changes in your local high schools. Please tell me which one you think best describes the changes that you personally feel need to be made to your local high schools. Do you think your local high schools need… (Ipsos July 2006)

  35. The Public Is Divided On Priorities For High Schools Some people say that high schools should put a higher priority on preparing students for college, while others would say that high schools should put a higher priority on providing students with basic skills, regardless of whether students continue to college or not. Which of these positions comes closest to your own opinion? Prepare for college • Priority – Preparing for college: • Non-white (58%) • Age 18-34 (55%) • Parents (50%) • Urban (49%) • Men (47%) • Schools headed in right direction (47%) • Priority – Basic Skills: • Women (57%) • Age 65+ (63%) • Rural (60%) • HS education or less (57%) • Non-parents (55%) Basic skills Ipsos/AASA January 2005 poll

  36. But…Most Agree That High Schools Have A Responsibility to Prepare Students for College Now please tell me whether you strongly agree, somewhat agree, somewhat disagree, or strongly disagree with the following statement – High schools have a responsibility to prepare every child for college. Ipsos/AASA January 2005 poll

  37. Job Training is the Most Supported Reform, But Strong Majorities Support Standards, Testing, Exit Exams Some people are advocating reforming high schools. For each item I read, please tell me whether you strongly agree, somewhat agree, somewhat disagree or strongly disagree with each possible type of high school reform. How much do you agree or disagree with… Ipsos/AASA January 2005 poll

  38. Career and Technical Skills Retain Favor 6. If you could make one change to your local high schools, would it be…? (Ipsos July 2006)

  39. Most Popular School Board Policy Issues 7. Now, suppose that you were voting in a local school board election where changes in the local high schools were an important issue. Which of the following candidates would be most likely to support? Would you be most likely to support a candidate who proposed…or….? * % of times each option picked Ipsos July 2006

  40. Do parents think students are prepared to succeed? Public Agenda Reality Check 2006

  41. And most think their child gets enough math and science now Don’t know 9% Less math & science 2% Things are fine as is 32% 57% More math and science Public Agenda Reality Check 2006

  42. But they agree with international competitiveness proposals Percent of parents who say the following will improve high school education in the United States: Updating high school classes to better match skills employers want – 71% Greatly increasing the number and quality of math and science courses students take in high schools – 67% Making sure that our high schools expect as much from students as high schools in Europe and Asia – 56% Public Agenda Reality Check 2006

  43. Values and Vision in Public Education

  44. Most Important Goal: Providing Children with Tools to Succeed And from the list of goals I just read, if you had to pick just ONE goal as the most important goal, what do you think the most important goal for a school in your community should be? Ipsos/AASA August 2004 poll

  45. Developing Better Citizens Is Seen As a More Critical Goal For Schools There are two important tasks in public schools today – developing better citizens and improving achievement. If you had to prioritize, which would you say is more critical to the future of the country – developing better citizens or improving achievement? Ipsos/AASA August 2004 poll N=1,000

  46. The Vision Thing • The public has a vision of quality public education: • The American dream • A school where students are happy and eager to learn • Dedicated and trained teachers • Strong parent involvement • Good discipline • Available information about student achievement • Reasonable class sizes • Educators share these goals…yet… • 61 percent of the public thinks schools are going in the wrong direction! Learning First Alliance

  47. We have a great group of young people in school today: Less crime Serious violent crime offending rate by youth ages 12 to 17, 1980-2000 SOURCE: U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, National Crime Victimization Survey. Federal Bureau of Investigation, Uniform Crime Reporting Program, Supplementary Homicide Reports.

  48. Less smoking Percentage of students who reported smoking cigarettes daily in the previous 30 days by school grade (1980-2003) SOURCE: National Institutes of Health, National Institute on Drug Abuse, Monitoring the Future Survey.

  49. Less teen pregnancy Source: The Alan Guttmacher Institute, 2004.

  50. But perception is disconnected from reality Please tell me if you strongly agree, somewhat agree, somewhat disagree, or strongly disagree with the following statements. I have more concern that teens today will engage in aggressive behavior than my parents did when I was a teenager Today’s young people commit fewer crimes and are less likely to use drugs and alcohol than previous generations 71% 84% 27% 14% Ipsos/AASA February 2004 poll