PDK Poll: Strong Academics and Career Preparation Matter to Parents

On August 28, 2017 Jim Cowen, Executive Director of the Collaborative for Student Success, released the following memo on the results of the Phi Delta Kappa International Poll.

Results from today’s Phi Delta Kappa International (PDK) poll, combined with results from the 2017 Education Next survey earlier this month, demonstrate how both strong academics and career preparation are important to parents.

Parents Want Challenging Academics

The recent Education Next results found that the public strongly supports high, comparable standards. PDK reaffirmed these results, showing that parents want schools that offer advanced academic courses for their children, as well as STEM courses and career training. In fact, 76 percent of respondents see advanced academic classes as highly important indicators of school quality.

Parents also said it was highly important that schools support students in building interpersonal skills and problem-solving skills, which, combined with academics and career training, can provide a holistic skillset for students as they enter the workplace. According to PDK, “Americans recognize that success in the workplace and in life requires people skills as much as academic smarts, and they believe that schools should focus on both.”

While PDK respondents did list standards as one of the “biggest problems facing schools in their community,” we wonder how the public would have responded if they had been directly asked about the value of standards. In the past, PDK’s results have made clear that parents support—and expect—rigorous education standards that emphasize critical thinking and real-world application. Last year, PDK reported that more than four out of five parents believed it was “extremely” or “very” important for schools to prepare their kids to think critically across subject areas, and just seven percent thought academic expectations were set too high.

Parents Need More Info

Parents deserve to have more – not less – information to help their child succeed. Information from assessments are just one part of the picture. We know from recent Learning Heroes research that while 9 in 10 parents believe their child is performing at or above grade level in math and reading, unfortunately we see from NAEP data that only one in three 8th graders are proficient in math and reading.

While Education Next found more than 60 percent of parents of school-aged children generally support assessments, PDK asked public school parents how confident they were that standardized tests do a good job measuring how well their child is learning, and found that 77 percent of parents felt “confident” to “very confident” of the quality of assessments being administered.

One of the most surprising things about these results was not the overwhelming confidence parents have in these assessments, but rather, that the authors framed these results through such a negative lens in their report. According to the PDK report: “58 percent of public school parents are confident that standardized tests do a good job measuring how well their child is learning, but a mere 19 percent are very confident of this.” While we find it very encouraging that a combined 77 percent of parents are confident that standardized tests do a good job of measuring their child’s progress, we were surprised to see PDK sums up their findings with the claim that annual assessments “draw little support from the public.” To us, the results are clear:  A vast majority of public school parents recognize that high-quality assessments are providing parents and educators with valuable, accurate information about students’ academic performance.

Today’s PDK results demonstrate the commitment that parents and the public have made to rigorous expectations and their confidence in high-quality, aligned assessments. Parents understand the value of setting high standards for all students and accurately measuring how students are meeting those expectations. Coupled with the Education Next findings, this is more evidence that the path forward for all students is to continue raising the bar – and to continue supporting students as they work to meet it.