In a well known annual education poll completed by Phi Delta Kappa (PDK) in late August, many Americans, including Georgians, overwhelmingly support for life and career preparation from their public schools. Furthermore, the poll also indicated Americans want public schools to focus less on standardized testing and are skeptical of school vouchers. However, the question on vouchers was worded differently than in previous years.

The 2017 PDK survey conducted a 50 state sample of over 1500 adults interviewed by cell phone or landline phone. For the first time in the poll’s history, the study includes statewide samples focusing on Georgia and New York.

Overall, Americans support for public schools have risen and most polled rated public schools either and “A” or a “B” which is the highest since the 1980’s.

National expectations:

Americans overwhelmingly (over 80 percent) want greater efforts to focus on job skill and career related classes and view this as a major priority for public schools.

  • Americans are open to more diversity in classrooms, but are weary of its actual benefits in student outcomes. Political affiliations within the study are twice as much higher among Democrats than Republicans. However, less than half of the respondents see this as a priority.
  • Fifty-two percent of Americans oppose publicly funded vouchers for private schools and the number was significantly higher funding using publicly funded vouchers for religious schools.
  • Americans are pushing for less focus on standardized test scores as a measure of school quality and want more analysis of how well students are being prepared as successful adults.
  • Sixty-five percent polled wanted more after school support services such as mental, health, and dental programs.

Georgia’s expectations:

The study did additional polling in the state of Georgia of 663 adult residents. Based on the polling, Georgians want greater local control over their schools, which includes failing schools. Georgians also are more likely to support public vouchers for private schools than the nation, but that changes when religious schools are included.

Not surprising, 57% of adults in Georgia said local districts should be responsible for dealing with failing schools compared to 48% of the national respondents. This issue was rejected by Georgia voters in November of 2016; however, a bill passed this past 2017 legislative session allowing for state-intervention of Georgia’s lowest performing schools in the state.

Nearly nine in 10 Georgians want more career skilled based courses taught in the public schools even if students spend less time on academics. And nine in 10 also want the public high schools to offer certificates or licenses for specific fields.

Unlike the mixed views from the national polling, Georgians are more likely to view racial/ethnic diversity in public schools as “extremely” or “very important.” Parents in Georgia overwhelmingly support economic diversity as important as opposed to the national view.

Georgians say that standardized testing is not an important measure of their child’s education, and parents want to see more focus on academic quality at their local schools which includes career skilled classed and “wraparound services” which include health and after-school programs.

In Georgia, allegiance to traditional public schools is lower than the national perspective. If cost and location were not issues, just 27% of Georgians would pick a traditional public school compared to 34% nationally.

“The residents of Georgia want a balance,” noted Joshua P. Starr, the chief executive officer of PDK. “There is a clear perception that the education community’s emphasis on academics as the sole indicator of school quality has gone too far, and the public wants a course correction.  The bottom line in Georgia is that the public supports the academic mission, but they also want local schools to position students for their working lives after school, including programs to develop interpersonal skills,” Starr said

Additional findings from the Georgia poll study –
• Among six aspects of school quality, student performance on standardized tests ranks lowest in importance as a contributor to school quality. Twice as many Georgians – eight in 10 or more – say technology and engineering classes, advanced academic classes, and helping students learn skills such as cooperation, respect, and persistence are highly important.
• A substantial majority of parents in Georgia (71%) give either an “A” or “B” grade to the school their own child attends, but just 26% give similarly high grades to public education in America. Atlantans rate their local schools more negatively than other Georgians, a response that echoes in big cities across the country.
• There’s broad backing in Georgia – as in the rest of the nation – for public schools offering wraparound support services for students who don’t have access to them elsewhere. Tops are after-school programs (94%) and mental health programs (86%), followed by health care (81%), and dental care (71%). Moreover, three-quarters of Georgians say the public schools are justified in seeking additional public funding to offer such services.

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Jeremy Spencer is currently the market and content manager for All on Georgia-Camden  and Glynn Counties. Jeremy’s focus will be local news, statewide education issues, and political commentary for the All on Georgia News Network. Jeremy has served as a education policy analyst for local legislators and state education leaders as well as a campaign strategist for local and statewide political campaigns.

Jeremy grew up in rural Southern Georgia and he has served as a healthcare provider, high school science teacher, and a state education official.  Jeremy holds degrees in science and education from the University of Georgia, Piedmont College, and Valdosta State University. He and his wife have lived in Camden County for 16 years and they have two teenage children. Jeremy and his family attend Christ Church Camden in Kingsland, GA.


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