A Monmouth University Poll came out today claiming New Jersey residents support Education Reform, which is not surprising because everyone does. I don’t know anyone who thinks the current system is perfect – no one, anywhere. Though one should not confuse reforming education with “Education Reform” (aka privatization/corporate takeover).
The poll was done in cooperation with NJ Press Media (Gannett) who have sent some odd signals out about their view of “Education Reform.” Particularly meeting with a “education reformer”/Party Boss George Norcross without inviting one of their political reporters. And trying to kill negative stories about “Education Reformers.”
But let’s table all that for the moment and look at the poll.
Question 1: In general, how would you rate the job the public schools are doing here in New Jersey – excellent, good, only fair, or poor?
Only Fair 31%
Don’t Know 3%
* So much for a “crisis”, at least in confidence. Only 10% thought public schools in New Jersey are doing a poor job. Not a mandate for privatization on any level.
Question 2: Do you think appropriate measures are in place to hold your own local schools accountable for how well they educate students or are better measures needed?
Appropriate measures in place 29%
Better measures needed 63%
Don’t Know 7%
* Talk about a gimme question. I’m actually amazed 29% are happy with current “accountability” measures. Everyone wants more accountability. It’s the equivalent of asking if people want more presents at Christmas. The more the merrier.
Question 3: In your opinion, do you think public school teachers are paid too much, too little, or about the right amount?
Too Much 15%
Too Little 38%
About Right Amount 41%
Don’t Know 7%
* A good first question would have been to first ask “How much do you think public school teachers are paid?” There might be some interesting correlations between what people think public school teachers are paid – the reality of what they are paid – and the opinion that public school teachers are paid too much (or too little).
Now we get into the murky area.
(More after the jump)
Question 4: Do you think salaries should be: Mostly tied to a teacher’s years of experience and formal education or Mostly tied to how well their students do and classroom evaluations, or a combination of both? [FIRST TWO STATEMENTS WERE ROTATED] [IF “COMBINATION”: Should more weight be put on a teacher’s experience and education or on how well their students do and classroom evaluations, or should they be weighted equally?]
Mostly exp/degree 13%
Both, but exp/degree more 5%
Both, equally 47%
Both, but performance more 13%
Mostly on performance 19%
Don’t know 3%
* This tells us exactly nothing other than most people split the difference when they get a question they don’t know the answer to. Nor is this question ask any clarifying questions. Such as “Are teachers, parents, communities, or students themselves most responsible for student achievement?” How many would consider student performance to be most determined by teachers? I don’t know. Good question to ask though.
Or a better question “If salaries were tied to student performance do you think teachers in affluent suburban districts would get paid more than teachers in trouble urban districts despite less experience and education?” The answer would be yes and I think a few of the poll takers would get that or split the difference again.
Question 5: After working in a New Jersey public school for three years, a teacher is either given tenure or let go. A teacher who gets tenure after this trial period is basically given a permanent job unless they engage in serious misconduct. Do you approve or disapprove of giving school teachers tenure?
Don’t know 6%
* Once again I am amazed that 42% supported the Straw Man view of tenure. This is a wild distortion of what tenure is that teachers are “basically given a permanent job unless they engage in serious misconduct.” Tenure is simply due process for the teacher, nothing more, nothing less. When trying to terminate a teacher certain rights are given to him or her before being terminated. Pretending it is a license to do as you please is ridiculous. This is a very dishonest question.
What about a more accurate question “After working in a New Jersey public school for three years, a teacher is either given tenure or let go. A teacher who gets tenure after this trial period is given the right of due process before being terminated. Do you approve or disapprove of giving school teachers tenure?” Bet you get different numbers.
Question 6: One proposal currently being discussed would grant teachers limited tenure, which means they would be evaluated regularly even after getting tenure. If they fail an evaluation, they would be given up to three years to improve and regain their tenure. However, they could also be fired during this time if they do not improve. Do you approve or disapprove of this proposal?
Don’t know 4%
* This is when you wonder about push polling. Whose proposal is this? Where has it been submitted and vetted?
More importantly, the question makes no sense. What about non-tenure tenure? You know where you have tenure until you don’t and when you don’t you could have it again. But when you have it again you could lose it.
“Limited tenure” is not tenure. It’s a happy meaningless spin term now being entered into the poll. It’s designed to fool people which is why it got such a high response rate. It’s rhetorical junk food – empty calories and mush.
Question 7: What kind of job do you think the standardized tests used in New Jersey schools do at accurately measuring students’ abilities – excellent, good, only fair, or poor?
Don’t know 6%
* OK, people think standardized tests are reasonably accurate at measuring student abilities. More think it is poor than excellent but OK. So what? The expectation was different here? Yeah, take a test, measures some stuff.
Question 8: What kind of job do you think the standardized tests used in New Jersey schools do at
accurately measuring the job teachers are doing – excellent, good, only fair, or poor?
Don’t know 8%
* Implied within that question is that student achievement and good teaching are a 1 to 1 ratio, which is absurd. To believe that you have to believe that the difference between the teachers in the best school districts and the worst is exponential.
In which case Teach for America should be shut down immediately because they are sending what must be horrible teachers into poor performing school districts – as reflected by the test scores – which measure teacher performance right?
Question 9: A few years ago, New Jersey allowed groups and individuals to start charter schools. These are schools which serve a town or district but operate independently of the local school district. Have you read or heard anything about these charter schools, or not? [If YES: Have you heard a great deal, some, or only a little?]
YES, Great deal 22%
YES, Some 22%
YES, Only a little 21%
NO, have not heard 34%
Don’t know 1%
* So a majority, 55%, who took this poll have heard little to nothing about charter schools. But yes, let’s ask them important policy questions about “Education Reform” and use those uninformed opinions to draw conclusions about public policy.
Then the poll breaks down into asking questions of people who have heard of charter schools.
Before we go further, let’s be clear. If you have heard of charter schools it is very likely due to their public relations campaigns, which, until recently, received little to no scrutiny. That goes double for Gannett/NJ Press Media.
Question 10: Do you think charter schools do a better, worse or about the same job as traditional public schools in educating students?
Better than traditional 39%
Worse than traditional 10%
About the same 39%
Don’t know 12%
* There is actually a correct answer to this question: about the same. That is the factually correct answer which 39% of respondents achieved. The other 39% who think charter schools do better than traditional schools are dead wrong.
Question 11: Do you think the growth of charter schools has improved or weakened traditional public schools in New Jersey, or has it made no difference?
Improved public schools 20%
Weakened public schools 22%
Made no difference 51%
Don’t know 7%
* There is also a correct answer to this question: weakened public schools. This because charter schools engage in a process known as creaming: taking the best performing students and disqualifying those with behavioral or developmental problems (special education students). This leaves what is left with public schools who still manage to get roughly the same results.
Only 22% of respondents got this question correct with a whopping 71% wrong and 20% dead wrong.
Question 12: Do you think appropriate measures are in place to hold charter schools accountable for how well they educate students or are better measures needed?
Appropriate measures in place 28%
Better measures needed 51%
Don’t know 21%
* Who saw it coming? Majority support more “accountability.” Merry Christmas. And 21% don’t know about what charter schools are doing for accountability.
Question 13: Do you happen to know if charter schools are public schools or private schools? If you do not know, just tell me.
Yes, Public 36%
Yes, Private 40%
Don’t know 24%
* Oy! Come on now! Remember these are the people who said they were aware of charter schools. People who said they were not are not in this portion. I guess it’s good 24% said they don’t know… but then how are they in this portion? Pretty low level of awareness.
Skipping Q 14 because it is equally embarrassing on basic information someone should know before weighing in on policy.
Let’s move on to vouchers.
Question 15: Another suggested change for education in New Jersey is to give vouchers to parents in low-income areas. These vouchers could be used to send a child to any public or private school. Have you read or heard anything about school vouchers, or not? [YES: Have
you heard a great deal, some, or only a little?]
YES, Great deal 14%
YES, Some 19%
YES, Only a little 19%
NO, have not heard 46%
Don’t know 1%
* This is another good example of why “Education Reform” generally polls well. A majority, 65% have heard little to nothing about vouchers.
So a majority of people who took this poll have heard little to nothing about charter schools and vouchers.
Question 16 [includes all from 15]: Would you support or oppose using tax funds to pay for a voucher program so children living in low-income areas can go to a different school?
Don’t know 5%
* OK this apparently includes people who didn’t know what vouchers were or barely knew. But the phrasing of the question as well as the previous question is deceptive.
“These vouchers could be used to send a child to any public or private school.” Any school? That remains to be seen, I look forward to the affluent high-performing suburban schools taking inner-city voucher students en mass. And once again what about a fuller question.
“Would you support sending low-income children to any public or private school that will take them even if it takes needed resources away from their district school?” I actually am not so sure the answer will be wildly different but at least then people would understand there is a cost associated with the perceived benefit.
Question 17: Do you think a voucher program would improve or weaken public schools in New Jersey, or would it make no difference?
Improve public schools 27%
Weaken public schools 25%
Make no difference 42%
Don’t know 6%
* Once again there is a correct answer: weaken public schools. The money leaving the public school in district to go to private/religious schools hurts or weakens the public school who just lost the resources. 69% are just wrong and 27% are dead wrong.
Question 18: Black and Hispanic students generally score lower on standardized tests than white students. In your opinion, how important do you think it is to close this academic achievement gap between these groups of students? Is it very important, somewhat important, not too important, or not important at all?
Very important 71%
Somewhat important 18%
Not too important 4%
Not important at all 4%
Don’t know 3%
* Peace, love and ice cream. Why is this question even on here? None of the “reforms” being advocated have any evidence of shrinking the achievement gap, none.
Very push-polly question.
Question 19: Do you think the proposed education reforms in New Jersey will help close this achievement gap, make it even wider, or have no impact on the gap?
Close gap 25%
Make gap wider 11%
No impact 41%
Don’t know 16%
* There is literally zero evidence ending tenure, “merit pay”, and vouchers will effect the achievement gap. That isn’t even a major selling point of “Education Reform” because it doesn’t pass the laugh test.
Pushing Planting a idea then polling it.
The last question is about changing school board elections which is really of interest to political machines if anyone. I guess that’s education reform?
As anyone can see the headline associated with this poll “New Jersey Supports Education Reforms” is ridiculous. It isn’t even true based on the poll’s own results let alone taking out the biased framing that occurred in a number of questions.
The only true take away from this poll is that the people of New Jersey have a long way to go before understanding the education system enough to making an informed policy choice.
Luckily, Blue Jersey is launching just such an information campaign, tomorrow. Stay Tuned.