Survey: Idahoans want accountability for educators

Most Idahoans think it’s a good idea to base teacher and school effectiveness on student achievement.

A statewide survey, “The People’s Perspective,” found a majority of Idahoans prefer the idea of rating the state’s public schools based on multiple achievement indicators.

  • More than seven in 10 of those polled said it’s generally a good idea to rate and publicize all of Idaho’s public schools based on multiple indicators, such as test scores, graduation rates and student growth. Twenty-six percent said it’s a bad idea.
  • More than three of four respondents thought it’s generally a good idea to measure teacher effectiveness by assessing students’ skills and knowledge when they first come to a teacher and to measure them again when students leave. Twenty percent said it’s a bad idea.
  • Approximately two in three said it’s generally a good idea to require students to pass a standardized test to show they have learned what they were supposed to before getting a high school diploma. Thirty-two percent said this is a bad idea.

The nonpartisan public opinion research firm The Farkas Duffett Research Group conducted the research for this study, which was facilitated by Idaho Education News and paid for by the J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Family Foundation. The FDR Group conducted 1,000 phone interviews with a randomly selected representative sample of Idaho adults at least 18 years old. It’s the third in a series of annual polls conducted to document attitudes about public education. Previous surveys include the 2017 People’s Perspective and 2016’s People’s Review of Education in Idaho.

Like these past surveys, the 2018 analysis weighed education against other pressing issues, like the environment and the economy. In Idaho’s case, education again emerged as the top issue of concern. Sixty percent said public education is the most important issue facing Idaho, compared with 31 percent who said it’s the economy and 8 percent who pointed to the environment. Fifty percent named education as their top priority in 2016. The number climbed to 55 percent in 2017. Boise State University researchers found similar results in their annual Idaho Public Policy Survey, released Thursday.

“The results found the people’s focus on education has only grown over the years,” said Jennifer Swindell, managing editor of Idaho Education News.

“Yet parents, the adults who are closest to the school systems, are dissatisfied,” Swindell added. “They say schools must change their ways to improve.”

Other key findings from the 2018 survey include:

  • Idahoans think public schools could be better. Almost seven out of 10 said, “Idaho’s public school system is OK, but could be a lot better with some changes.” Another 23 percent said, “there’s so much wrong with it that a complete overhaul is necessary.” Only 7 percent believe “it’s in very good shape and needs little change.”
  • Improvements are key to public school spending. If additional funds were to be allotted to the public school system, Idahoans would expect results. Asked what they would want to happen if Idaho increased spending through higher teacher salaries and bigger school budgets but saw no improvement in student achievement after several years, just 13 percent said they would stay the course and continue to increase spending. Eighty-five percent said they would look for other strategies.
  • Hard work and grit are important lessons. The vast majority of Idahoans — 83 percent — said it’s just as important to teach values of hard work, persistence, and responsibility as it is to focus on academics.
  • Idahoans are increasingly comfortable with charter schools. Charter schools received resounding support — 75 percent said they favor charter schools, described as “public schools that have a lot more control over their own budget, staff, and curriculum, and are free from many existing regulations.” Only one in five respondents opposed them.

Follow us in the days ahead as we take a deeper look at the latest findings from the “People’s Perspective.”

Disclaimer: Idaho Education News facilitated the production of the People’s Perspective and both are funded by the J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Family Foundation.

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