External Author Name: 
Liam Julian

Public Agenda

From 1998 through 2002, Public Agenda conducted Reality Check surveys of parents, teachers, students, employers and college professors, asking them questions about educational accountability and testing. The 2006 surveys, of which this is the second in a series, cover a broader topical landscape. This report’s focus is clear from its title, and its results are derived from a pair of focus groups and sizable national telephone survey. Some findings are interesting, others less so, and some are rather unfortunate. An example of the latter: 65 percent of black and Hispanic students, and 69 percent of white students, believe they are learning “a lot when it comes to reading, writing, spelling, and vocabulary.” This is a fine sentiment, but patently not true. Test after test after test, not to mention sundry testimonials from exasperated business leaders and college professors, makes clear that students are, in fact, not learning a lot in those subjects. Further evidence that students (and parents) are clueless and/or misled about how they’re doing educationally. Also of note, “twice as many black parents as white parents give the local superintendent fair or poor marks for ensuring that the district has high standards and students get the support they need to reach them,” and 40 percent of black parents (compared to 26 percent of white parents) “say that a diploma from a local high school doesn’t guarantee a student has learned the basics.” More positively, “the vast majority of all youngsters, white, black and Hispanic, are aiming for college” (although, if these students aren’t adequately prepared, the results will be profoundly negative), and 84 percent of black and Hispanic students, and 79 percent of white students, think “it is a good idea for school districts to require students to meet higher academic standards or go to summer school to catch up.” The report rightly wonders if adults, were they forced to endure environments as chaotic as our nation’s schools, could learn anything there, either. Read it here.

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