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School & District Management

Vast Majority of Americans Want Failing Schools Fixed, Not Closed, Poll Finds

By Andrew Ujifusa — August 29, 2016 2 min read
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A new survey of public opinion about education has found that by a ratio of six to one, the American public wants schools that are falling down on the job to remain open instead of being closed.

Results of the annual Phi Delta Kappa International poll about K-12, released Monday, reported that 84 percent of Americans want officials to overhaul those struggling schools in some fashion, while just 14 percent say they prefer those schools to be shut down. However, the poll also found that doesn’t necessarily mean the public doesn’t want major changes at those schools.

The survey also found that nearly half of those surveyed gave their local public schools an A or B grade, but that fewer than one-quarter of respondents would give the same high marks to the nation’s public schools as a whole. Those figures are roughly consistent with the findings of another public-opinion poll about education released by the Education Next policy journal last week.

So on that question of schools that are falling down on the job: The PDK poll asked people about the popularity of closing them versus keeping them open, but then asked about the best strategies in each of those scenarios. Here’s what it found:

On that second question about keeping or replacing staff, it’s important to note that the option presented to respondents in which staff would be kept included sending more resources to that school. That boost in resources, however, didn’t make the “keep the same staff” option more popular than replacing the staff.

But on the question of closing failing schools versus keeping them open, an analysis from PDK accompanying the poll results states, “This finding, perhaps more than any other, exemplifies the divide between the reform agenda of the past 16 years and the actual desires of the American public. ... If decreased enrollment isn’t driving a school consolidation and closing effort, school system leaders and policy makers should pay heed to what the public actually wants regarding failing schools.”

Above, we mentioned that Education Next poll which asked a similar question about the grades the public would assign to local and national schools. Below you can find two charts comparing the results from that poll and the PDK survey:

And what are the trend lines for these two questions going back over four decades? The survey analysis has that information for you too:

For the survey 1,221 adults were interviewed in April and May of this year, including 305 parents of school-age children, 211 black respondents, and 219 Hispanics. It has a margin of error of 3.5 percentage points.