Polling the Public on Education Shows the Importance of Family Engagement

Phi Delta Kappa International (PDK) annual poll on the public’s attitude towards education was recently released. The poll revealed mixed views on education, but showed a strong relationship between school satisfaction and how engaged parents feel about their child’s school.

Less than half of the survey respondents (45%) believe that the role of public education is to prepare students academically, while the remainder of participants believe public education is to prepare students for the workforce (25%) or for citizenship (26%).

While Americans may not agree on the role of public education they do agree that a lack of funding for education is the number one problem that public schools face. Seventy percent of respondents support increased property taxes for school improvements.

The poll also found that:

  • 55% of parents oppose allowing students to opt out of standardized tests.
  • 56% of parents say their child has the right amount of homework.
  • 79% of parents review their child’s grades often.
  • 56% of parents say the new education standards have changed what’s being taught in their child’s classroom and 45% of those parents think it is for the better.

Another important finding from the survey was that a school’s ability to effectively communicate with families and provide frequent opportunities for input greatly influenced the parent’s opinion of the school’s performance.

Sixty percent of parents reported they were satisfied with their child’s school’s ability to keep them informed and involved. The poll shows that two-thirds of public school parents gave their child’s local school an A or B when they felt there was a strong family-school partnership.

The survey findings arrive in the wake of the passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)—the new federal law governing K-12 education—which strengthens family engagement provisions and provides more state and local flexibility over their accountability systems, assessments and standards. Under ESSA, parents and other education stakeholders are required to be meaningfully consulted and engaged in new education plans and implementation of the law.

ESSA also included the Statewide Family Engagement Centers (SFECs) grant program as a standalone program in the law to strengthen family-school partnerships and parent-teacher relationships. For the 15th consecutive year the PDK poll has found that Americans believe the biggest problem facing schools is the lack of financial support for education. Despite the findings on the importance of family engagement in schools and the need for more education funding, both the Senate and House Appropriations Committees did not invest in SFECs this year.

Funding family engagement programs, such as SFECs, is imperative to school improvement and student success. The PDK poll results send a clear message to Congress that the public desires more investments in education and more family engagement in schools.

National PTA and our members will continue to advocate for SFEC funding in FY 2017 and for family engagement to remain an essential part of the ESSA implementation process. Our association is committed to providing our members resources on the ESSA implementation process and ways to get involved at PTA.org/ESSA.

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Joshua Westfall is the government affairs manager at National PTA.

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