As a new week dawns, please enjoy this "snapshot" courtesy of the team at Education Next with a special focus of our Home State of California along with the Education policies of President Trump:
- When it Comes to Education, Are Californians Unique? – by Paul E. Peterson
- Support for Common Standards Has Rebounded – by Michael J. Petrilli
- In the News: How Does the ‘Trump Effect’ Change the Public’s View of Education? – by Education Next
Posted: 16 Aug 2017 09:07 PM PDT
Of all the 48 continental states, the Grizzly Bear State, as it was originally known, has the hottest, driest valley (Death Valley), the highest hill (Mt. Whitney), the largest living tree (Sequoia), the most people, and the greatest number of domestically raised turkeys living outside the state capital (Sacramento). But when it comes to K-12 education, are the views of Californians any different from those living elsewhere across the United States?
To gather up some indications on this intriguing topic, I took a look at the Californians who participated in the 2017 Education Next survey of American adults, which was administered to a representative sample of 4,200 respondents nationwide, including 523 Californians. As reported elsewhere, the survey asked about school spending, charters, vouchers, teacher unions, bilingual education, digital learning, state take-overs of troubled district schools, teacher unions, merit pay, teacher tenure, and many other matters. For all results see the data here.
One word of caution. The Education Next sample is drawn to be nationally representative of the United States as a whole. It does not contain representative samples for any of the states, not even the largest one. So the results reported below can only be suggestive; to get a reliable sample of public opinion in the state, a survey for that state would need to be conducted. What follows only offers hints as to what such a survey might find.
Those who would hasten the movement of the tectonic plate destined to drag a goodly share of California into the depths of the Pacific Ocean will be surprised to learn that Californians are not direct descendants of aliens from the other side of Pluto but common, ordinary Americans who think pretty much like everyone else. On dozens of questions, the answers provided by the average Californian do not deviate from the responses provided by the average American by any more than 6 percentage points. That difference is too small to be worth discussing, especially since we cannot be certain we have a representative sample.
Yet one large difference turned up in an experiment Education Next undertook. The survey sample was split into two random halves. The respondents in the first group were asked whether they thought teacher salaries should increase, decrease, or remain about the same. The second half was asked the same question only after first being told current average salaries in the state.
This information had a much greater impact on Californians than elsewhere. When simply asked whether they think salaries should increase, decrease, or remain about the same, 68% of Californians, but just 61% of the U. S. public, favors an increase. But when first given current average salaries, the support for an increase plummets in California to just 27%, as compared to 36% across the country. In other words, the shift in opinion is no less than 41 percentage points in California, as compared to 25 percentage points in the United States as a whole.
Why does information about teacher salaries have a bigger impact in California? Very likely, it is because Californians seriously underestimate current teacher salaries. They think teachers in their state are paid an average of about $45,600 when in fact they are paid about $72,800, on average. That’s an underestimate of over $27,000. In the United States as a whole, the underestimate is just short of $18,000. While both under-estimates are similar in percentage terms, the bigger dollar difference probably leaves most Californians wondering why teachers need to be paid still more.
A few other differences were also discerned.
1. Californians are more suspicious of homeschooling. Only 33% would allow it, while 41% would not. The rest take no position. For the U. S. public as a whole, the balance of opinion is much more favorable: 45% in favor, 34% opposed.
2. Californians are more likely to favor allowing the formation of after-school clubs by Muslim students than by Evangelical ones. Fifty-seven percent of Grizzly State residents would allow a group of Muslim students to organize an after-school club at their local public school, and only 17% would not. This compares to 45% favor, 27% opposed among the U. S. public. But Californians are less likely to give that same opportunity to Evangelical students. Only 39% would allow it, while 31% oppose the exercise of that religious right. Among the U. S. public as a whole, 48% support the Evangelical’s right to organize clubs, and just 21% oppose it.
3. Californians are much more likely to favor Common Core state standards. Fifty-one percent of Californians express a positive view, as compared to 41% for the country as a whole. Californians are also more likely to favor the testing of students than are people in the United States as a whole. Seventy-three percent of Californians, but only 63% of the U. S. public favor the federal requirement that students be tested in grades three through eight and again in high school. Californians are also more likely to favor testing of pre-school children.All of these differences are provocative in one way or another. But the more important fact is that on most issues the opinions in California resemble those of the public across the United States as a whole. We suspect this to be the case. In order to be sure, a survey would need to be given to a specific sample drawn to be representative of the state’s adult population, not one that includes Californians but is drawn to be representative of the U. S. adult population.
— Paul E. Peterson
Paul E. Peterson is the Henry Lee Shattuck Professor of Government and Director of the Program on Education Policy and Governance at Harvard University, a Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, and Senior Editor of Education Next.
Posted: 16 Aug 2017 09:03 PM PDT
The big news out of this year’s Education Next poll is the sharp decline in support for charter schools, even among Republicans, which is going to leave us wonks scratching our heads for months. But don’t miss the findings on what we used to call “standards-based reform.” Support for common standards has rebounded, with proponents outnumbering opponents three to one. And a strong plurality of Americans want states—and not the feds, and not local school boards—to set academic standards, determine whether a school is failing, and if so, determine how to fix it.
Perhaps not coincidentally, this is precisely where Congress landed two years ago when it passed the Every Student Succeeds Act. Lawmakers pushed key decisions to the states and, in some cases, to local communities. But there were limits. When it came to standards-setting and testing, the feds made it clear that states could not delegate their responsibilities. Uniform, statewide systems are still required, just as they have been for over twenty years.
Alas, someone needs to explain that to Arizona and New Hampshire. While both states deserve plaudits for innovative moves in recent years—Arizona for its excellent approach to school ratings under ESSA, and New Hampshire for its work on competency-based education — they have erred in enacting laws that would let local elementary and middle schools select among a range of options when it’s time for annual standardized testing. That’s bad on policy grounds, and it clearly violates ESSA.
First let’s tackle the substantive concerns. The reason that policymakers have embraced statewide standards and assessments for more than two decades is that they are proven ways to raise expectations for all students. In the bad old days, before statewide standards, affluent communities tended to ask their kids to shoot for the moon (or at least 3s, 4s, and 5s on a battery of Advanced Placement exams), while too many schools in low-income neighborhoods were happy with basic literacy and numeracy. These expectations gaps haven’t disappeared, but they have narrowed. And statewide standards and assessments at least point to a common North Star, plus provide transparency about how close students and schools are coming to achieving college-and-career-ready benchmarks.
The risk with Arizona and New Hampshire’s approach is that some schools will opt for easier tests—and that will exacerbate the expectations and achievement gaps.
As for the legal question, as this brief from Dennis Cariello makes clear, Congress debated whether to allow states to let districts choose among a menu of tests, and decided against it—at least for grades 3–8. It did open the door to such an approach in high school, where kids are already taking lots of other tests. And there’s good evidence that getting everyone to take the SAT or ACT is smart policy. But not for younger students.
To be sure, the testing landscape is going to continue to evolve, and federal policy should be supportive. Already, for example, several states have asked for waivers from ESSA to allow them to give an algebra test to some of their middle schoolers, rather than the regular assessment, so as to avoid double-testing. That strikes me as perfectly reasonable. There’s also ESSA’s “innovative assessments pilot,” which provides space for breaking new ground.
But a general balkanization of standards and testing is not allowed, for good reason. Local control has its place—but, as Americans told Education Next, it also has its limits.
— Mike Petrilli
Mike Petrilli is president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, research fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, and executive editor of Education Next.
This post originally appeared in Flypaper.
Posted: 16 Aug 2017 09:51 AM PDT
Andrew Ujifusa writes about one of the more interesting findings from the new EdNext survey on the Politics K-12 blog. He notes:
People’s views of charter schools, tax-credit scholarships, the Common Core State Standards, and teacher merit pay were sharply affected in several instances when they were told where Trump stands on them.He further explains:
The survey found that Republicans who were asked about four key policy issues, and then told of Trump’s opinion about them, moved closer to Trump’s view on three of those four issues. Specifically, there was a 15 percentage-point increase in support for charter schools among those identifying with the GOP when told of the president’s support for charters, and a 10 percentage-point bump in support for tax-credit scholarships. Meanwhile, support for the common core dropped by 5 percentage points when Republicans were told of Trump’s opposition to the standards.Anya Kamenetz of NPR also wrote about this phenomenon in “Suprise, Trump’s Education Ideas are Polarizing.”
For more information about the survey, please read “The 2017 EdNext Poll on School Reform,” released on August 15, 2017.
— Education Next