Relax with stats

Liam Julian

Summer's days wane, and you tire of beach reading. Not of reading on the beach, certainly, but of the candy-colored-covered offerings that comprise the genre. No more tales of Upper East Side ne'er-do-wells! You lust for data, for statistics, for meaningful numbers. And you shall have them.

The second annual survey of U.S. adults' opinions about education--conducted under the auspices of Education Next and Harvard's Program on Education Policy and Governance (PEPG)--is now out, and it seems that the public's generally despondent mood has dripped like four-dollar-a-gallon gasoline into the realm of public schooling.

Note to presidential candidates: No Child Left Behind is growing more unpopular. In 2007, 57 percent of respondents supported reauthorization of that law with no more than minor changes; in 2008, only half do. Forty-two percent of public-school educators, who are charged with implementing No Child Left Behind, don't want it to be renewed in any guise.

And overall, opinions of local public schools have declined during the past year. The percentage of African Americans who bestow on such schools an A or B dropped 7 points (from 27 percent to 20 percent) and the percentage who bestow on them a D or F increased 11 points (from 20 percent to 31 percent). Only 40 percent of all respondents give their local schools an A or B. In contrast, 64 percent thought their local police force worthy of an A or B grade, and 70 percent believe their neighborhood post offices worthy of such high marks.

Some bright spots: Sixty-nine percent of respondents support national standards and testing. Forty-two percent support charter schools and only 16 percent oppose them. Sixty-five percent of African Americans and 63 percent of Hispanics support school vouchers.

Then there's this finding, which may shock the nation's diversity defenders: 63 percent of all respondents (and 58 percent of African Americans) oppose the use of race to determine school assignments. Only 16 percent of the public thinks districts should "definitely" or "probably" be allowed to assign a pupil to a school based on his racial background.

Furthermore, 62 percent of respondents believe that family income should not be used when constructing school assignments--i.e., socio-economic integration is opposed by a strong majority of the American public. Rightly so.

There's more to learn, too. Step away from the Candace Bushnell. The Ed Next-PEPG survey is here.

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