MTSU Poll: On average, Tennesseans give local schools C+

MTSU Poll: On average, Tennesseans give local schools C+ | MTSU Poll, poll, WGNS, Murfreesboro news, schools

The spring 2014 MTSU Poll found that Tennesseans’ give their schools “Cs,” are uncertain about school vouchers, trust their teachers, and have mixed feelings about the use of standardized testing.

Data for the statewide poll was collected Jan. 23–26, with results having an error margin of plus-or-minus 4 percentage points.

Tennesseans give their schools middling grades

When asked to grade schools on an “A” to “F” scale, 45 percent of Tennesseans give their local schools either an “A” (16 percent) or a “B” (29 percent). Significantly fewer, 31 percent, give the quality of all Tennessee schools either an “A” (9 percent) or a “B” (22 percent).

On average, Tennesseans give their local schools a “C+” for quality and schools statewide a “C.”

Davidson and Shelby county citizens give markedly lower quality ratings to state and local schools than those living in less urban counties. Respondents in Davison and Shelby counties – collectively about 15 percent of the sample – give the quality of both state and local schools about a C-minus on average.

“Despite the various changes that have been made to education policy over the last few years, the grades that Tennesseans give their schools – both statewide and locally – have remained fairly stable since fall of 2011,” said Ken Blake, director of the poll at Middle Tennessee State University.

Percentages of Tennesseans Giving Grades to Schools in the MTSU Poll

 

 

Local Schools

Grade

 

Spring 2014

 

Spring 2013

 

Fall 2011

A

 

16%

 

18%

 

15%

B

 

29%

 

36%

 

33%

C

 

27%

 

22%

 

26%

D

 

12%

 

7%

 

12%

F

 

6%

 

6%

 

7%

 

 

 

 

 

State’s Schools

Grade

 

Spring 2014

 

Spring 2013

 

Fall 2011

A

 

9%

 

8%

 

5%

B

 

22%

 

28%

 

29%

C

 

34%

 

36%

 

40%

D

 

16%

 

8%

 

11%

F

 

8%

 

6%

 

4%

Source: MTSU Poll

Percentages do not add to 100% due to rounding, “don’t know” responses, and refusals to answer the question.

Uncertainty on school vouchers

Just under half (48 percent) of Tennesseans support “providing most families in Tennessee with tax-funded school vouchers that they could use to help pay for sending their children to private or religious schools if they wanted to.”

That’s followed by a significantly smaller, but still sizable, 41 percent who oppose the idea. Another 11 percent are unsure.

The percentages remain essentially unchanged when Tennesseans are asked the follow-up question, “What about if school vouchers were provided only to poor families whose children are attending low-achieving Tennessee schools?” (49 percent in favor, 40 percent opposed, and 12 percent unsure).

Support for vouchers is greatest among Tennesseans age 55 and younger, especially those who are also African American or who are both white and lower-income. Support for vouchers only to poor families with children in low-achieving schools also shows an age trend, with younger Tennesseans more supportive.

Tennesseans trust teachers

More than two-thirds of Tennesseans (68 percent) “have trust and confidence in the men and women who are teaching children in the public schools,” while a fifth (20 percent) do not. Another 10 percent aren’t sure, and the rest decline to answer.

Political orientation plays a stronger role than other demographics do, with significantly larger percentages of liberals (76 percent) and moderates (73 percent) than of conservatives (66 percent) expressing confidence in teachers. Gender plays a role, too, with more men (77 percent) than women (61 percent) saying they have trust and confidence in teachers.

Standardized testing seen as ineffective

Tennesseans express skepticism about the helpfulness of increased testing in public schools to measure academic achievement.

Asked whether such testing has “helped, hurt, or made no difference,” only 22 percent say it has helped. Another 22 percent say it has hurt, and 38 percent say it has made no difference. Another 20 percent say they don’t know, and the rest decline to answer.

Perceptions of testing as helpful grow significantly less common among Tennesseans as their education level rises, with college-educated females expressing the most skepticism. Nationally, 22 percent of Americans – the same percentage among Tennesseans – perceive increased testing as helpful, according to a 2013 poll by Gallup and Phi Delta Kappa International.

Opinion split on using standardized test scores to evaluate teachers

When asked about requiring that teacher evaluations include how well a teacher’s students perform on standardized tests, 47 percent of Tennesseans say they are in favor of such a requirement while 40 percent are opposed. The rest don’t know or refuse to answer the question.

One’s own level of education is the most important predictor of attitudes about using standardized test scores to evaluate teachers. Among those who have a high school diploma or less education, 58 percent favor evaluating teachers based on standardized test scores while only 25 percent are opposed. Among those with education beyond high school, only 37 percent favor using standardized test scores to evaluate teachers while 54 percent are opposed.

Methods

Poll data were collected Jan. 23–26, via telephone interviews of 600 Tennessee adults conducted by Issues and Answers Network Inc. using balanced, random samples of Tennessee landline and cell phones. Results have an error margin of plus-or-minus 4 percentage points at the 95 percent level of confidence. The data were weighted to match the latest available Census estimates of gender and race proportions in Tennessee.

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