Four Ways Parents, Policy Makers Talk Past Each Other on Education Reform
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NEW YORK, Sept. 8 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- President Obama extolled the importance of persistence today to students at Wakefield High School in Arlington, VA, but much of the news coverage focused on whether the President should (as other presidents have) speak directly to the nation's school children despite the opposition of some parents. Unfortunately, the sparring over the speech attracted a lot more attention than many of the more fundamental gaps between parents and much of the national education reform movement. More than a decade of research by Public Agenda suggests that reformers, parents, and educators nationwide are often talking past each other when it comes to improving the public schools. Many parents and educators nationwide come at the issue of education from a very different starting point - one that national reformers often misunderstand or overlook. Marshalling support for reform and building a consensus to bring American schools up to world-class standards requires narrowing this gap and launching a more informed and inclusive discussion on how to improve the schools. Here are four key areas where views of parents and educators contrast sharply with much of the national education reform discussion. In our research, parents say: 1. School culture - not academics -- is the biggest problem facing America's high schools: 73% of parents and 89% of teachers say the major issues facing local high schools are social and behavioral -- not academic standards and outdated curricula. 2. Their children will be well prepared for college and work. a. Despite recent reports that many Americans are not ready for college level work, 69% of parents say their child will have the necessary skills to succeed in college upon high school graduation. b. 61% of parents believe their child will have the necessary skills to succeed in the working world upon high school graduation. c. Phi Delta Kappa's recent survey of attitudes on schools confirms high levels of parental confidence, 74% of parents give the school their own child attends a grade of A or B. 3. Low standards aren't a problem. Parental support for standards and testing remains strong, but calls for reform centering mainly on raising standards and increasing accountability have lost some of their urgency. Educators are even less likely to focus on low standards as their chief problem. a. 86% of parents say local schools have been careful and reasonable in raising standards. b. Just 15% of parents say that low academic standards are very serious problem in local schools. c. 92% of superintendents and 80% of principals believe that children in their school district are getting a better education than the one they themselves received. d. Only 27% of school superintendents say it is a serious problem locally that students get passed through the system without learning. 4. Math and science education is just fine as is. National policymakers and business leaders worry that the nation is losing its technological edge, but parents and educators feel less urgency about ramping up student skills and knowledge. a. 70% of parents of high school students say their child's math and science coursework is fine as is. b. Just 13% of parents consider inadequate math and science education a very serious problem in local schools. Even fewer superintendents and principals say the same -- only 7% of superintendents and 6% of principals say that kids not being taught enough math and science is a very serious problem. An expanded version of Public Agenda's report and detailed methodology can be found in our Reality Check surveys. For more information, please contact Melissa Feldsher at 212-686-6610 ext. 50 or email@example.com. Public Agenda, www.publicagenda.org, is a nonprofit organization dedicated to nonpartisan public policy research. Founded in 1975 by former U.S. Secretary of State Cyrus Vance and Daniel Yankelovich, the social scientist and author, Public Agenda is well respected for its influential public opinion surveys and balanced citizen education materials. Its mission is to inject the public's voice into crucial policy debates. SOURCE Public Agenda Melissa Feldsher of Public Agenda, +1-212-686-6610 ext. 50, firstname.lastname@example.org.
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