California voters strongly support standardized testing and believe that student performance on the tests should play an important role in teacher evaluations, according to an online poll released Tuesday.
Nearly two-thirds of voters said that students should be tested in every grade, according to the poll of 1,001 registered voters conducted at the end of August by Policy Analysis for California Education (PACE) and the University of Southern California Rossier School of Education.
The results may surprise California legislators, who are currently considering Assembly Bill 484, which would reduce the number of tests students are required to take during the transition to better, more comprehensive assessments aligned to Common Core Standards, a nationwide set of academic standards being implemented in 45 states.
“Most of the political experts say that parents think their children are tested too frequently, but our poll says just the opposite,” said poll director Dan Schnur in a news release. Schnur is the director of USC’s Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics.
David Plank, director of PACE, told EdSource that the poll showed “strong support for tracking student progress.” Those polled “value test scores as a way to measure how schools are doing,” he said, and discontinuing them, even in a transition period to Common Core Standards, would likely be “politically, a hard sell” to voters.
Those polled also value local control of education. They overwhelmingly agreed that the power and responsibility for school performance should be in the hands of school boards and teachers. A majority wanted to pay teachers more when their students exceed performance standards. Although a plurality of those voters said they would choose to provide additional support and training to struggling teachers rather than making it easier to fire teachers who repeatedly underperform, almost half said that teachers are largely to blame if a school fails. When asked what would have the most positive impact on public schools, the top answer (43 percent) was “removing bad teachers from the classroom.”
But this support for local control did not lead to favorable reviews of Gov. Jerry Brown’s handling of education, even though his main education policy achievement, the Local Control Funding Formula in the budget, gives districts considerably more power over how to spend state education funds. Some 46 percent of voters said they disapproved of the way Brown has handled education in the state, while 42 percent said they approved. Only three in 10 of the voters polled indicated they were aware of the new funding policy, however.
Results are based on online surveys of 1,001 registered California voters. Respondents could complete the survey on computer, tablet or smartphone. The margin of error was plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.