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Poll Shows Support for Higher Taxes, Promotion Tests

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Washington--A large majority of the adults who responded to a national poll sponsored by the Education Department said they would pay higher taxes to improve schools and would support tests for promotion and graduation, even if their own children failed.

At the same time, support for school-reform initiatives would wane if schools were closed or if athletics and other extracurricular activities were eliminated to help pay for them, the survey found.

The poll, designed by Michigan State University and carried out by Market Opinion Research Corporation for the National Institute of Education at a cost of $40,000 to $50,000, is the most "in-depth public-opinion poll ever done on education issues," according to an nie spokesman, Jim Bradshaw.

Mr. Bradshaw described the poll as similar to, but more detailed than, the annual Gallup Poll on the public's attitudes toward schools. Federal officials hope the results of the poll will serve as a guide for education policymakers, Mr. Bradshaw said.

Gallup Findings Compared

The results of the department poll--conducted by telephone between November and January--support some of the principal findings of recent Gallup surveys. (See Education Week, Aug. 22, 1984.)

In a response similar to that in the Gallup poll, the department's survey found that a majority of respondents gave schools a grade of "A'' or "B." Almost 17 percent graded them "A" and 44 percent, "B." The Gallup poll reported an upward trend in the public's attitude towards public schools.

Those responding to the poll also advocated stern measures to impose classroom order. Sixty-four percent favored assigning normally disrup-tive students to alternative classrooms, and 10 percent said those who "disrupt class day after day" should be expelled. The Gallup Poll, too, consistently cites discipline as a major concern of adults.

High Standards Supported

Those who responded to the nie poll expressed strong support for national or state teacher-certification tests; higher pay for teachers; more courses in basic subjects; and greater emphasis on personal or social development.

Eighty-two percent answered "yes" to the question, "If your child were convinced by the experience of failing the junior-high promotion exam that he (or she) was dumb and not able to succeed in school, would you still want your local schools to require those tests?"

More than 66 percent said that they would pay an extra $200 a year in taxes to finance education reforms, but more than half said they would abandon their support for such reforms if it meant closing schools or eliminating athletics and other extracurricular activities.

Only 24 percent favored extending the school year by one month.

Survey Characteristics

According to the department, the polling sample was "generally representative" of the U.S. population. Eighty-one percent of the respondents were white, 58 percent were female, 46 percent reported a family income of between $10,000 and $30,000, and 52 percent said they had attended college.

The survey's findings will be further analyzed by region, race, gender, income, and other factors, officials said. A preliminary report on the findings is available from the nie, 1200 19th St., N.W., Room 816, Washington, D.C. 20208; (202) 254-7900.--jh

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