Report Gauging Public Opinion on K-12 Education Is a Flawed but Helpful Starting Point for Future Research

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Key New NEPC Review Takeaway: Though a unique contribution, report’s inconsistency and lack of clarity make many of its conclusions questionable.

A recent report from Public Agenda compiled public opinion surveys to show where the American public stands on education issues. The report notes the importance of gauging current public understandings about education, particularly given three major policy changes in the past 10 years: Race to the Top, the Common Core State Standards, and the Every Student Succeeds Act.

Gustavo E. Fischman and Kevin Winn of Arizona State University reviewed Our Next Assignment: Where Americans Stand on Public K-12 Education: A Review of Recent Opinion Research. They find that the report makes a unique contribution in its gathering of many surveys into a single report, as well as its inclusion of interviews with employers. But a lack of methodological clarity makes many of the report’s conclusions questionable.

The report is also inconsistent in how it addresses respondents from different demographic groups (e.g., race, class, political affiliation) and in how it treats disaggregated data, resulting in an inability to generalize to the population or to any subgroup. Therefore, the conclusions are cursory and incomplete, requiring further study and research.

For these reasons, Fischman and Winn do not recommend that the report be used to make policy, but they do see the report as a good starting point for understanding where more research should be undertaken. As the report’s authors accurately point out, this includes incorporating the often-ignored voices of students and parents.

Find the review, by Gustavo E. Fischman and Kevin Winn, at:
http://nepc.colorado.edu/thinktank/review-k12-surveys

Find Our Next Assignment: Where Americans Stand on Public K-12 Education: A Review of Recent Opinion Research, written by Rebecca Silliman and David Schleifer and published by Public Agenda, at:
https://www.publicagenda.org/files/PublicAgenda_OurNextAssignment_2018.pdf

Find Documents:
Publication Announcement: nepc.info/node/9566
NEPC Review: nepc.colorado.edu/thinktank/review-k12-surveys
Report Reviewed: http://www.publicagenda.org/files/PublicAgenda_OurNextAssignment_2018.pdf

NEPC Reviews (http://thinktankreview.org) provide the public, policymakers, and the press with timely, academically sound reviews of selected publications. NEPC Reviews are made possible in part by support provided by the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice: http://www.greatlakescenter.org

The National Education Policy Center (NEPC), housed at the University of Colorado Boulder School of Education, produces and disseminates high-quality, peer-reviewed research to inform education policy discussions. Visit us at: https://nepc.colorado.edu

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William J. Mathis

Gustavo E. Fischman
Arizona State University
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