Poll finds widespread satisfaction with Bay State public schools but concerns about teacher quality and school safety issues

Significant numbers are ambivalent about education reform and high stakes testing policies and are concerned about the role of unions and politics in K-12 Education

Additional results from the inaugural UMass Dartmouth Public Policy Poll released  today provide a detailed look at public attitudes towards K-12 education in Massachusetts. 

"A large majority of families across the Commonwealth are satisfied with the performance of their local public schools and the professional commitment of their local teachers," noted Professor Michael D. Goodman, Chair of the UMass Dartmouth Department of Public Policy who directed the poll.  "But nearly half oppose the MCAS graduation requirement and less than half agree that education reform has significantly improved student performance in Massachusetts," Goodman noted. 

According to the Poll: 

Large majorities express satisfaction with the quality of K-12 education in Massachusetts. 

* Over 7 in 10 (73.9 percent) of parents with school-age children in public schools report being satisfied with the quality of K-12 education their child is receiving in Massachusetts. In 2009, a national Gallup survey found that 76 percent of American parents felt similarly. 

* Over 3 in 4 (76.1 percent) Massachusetts residents agree that teachers in their local schools are committed to improving student performance. 

Teacher quality and school safety are the K-12 education issues of greatest concern 

* Just over 8 in 10 (80.3 percent) identified "getting and keeping good teachers" as a serious (27.0 percent) or very serious (53.3 percent) issue facing Massachusetts schools today.  Over 6 in 10 (63 percent) felt that "quality of instruction" was a serious or very serious issue. 

* Large majorities also identified bullying (75.1 percent), "fighting, violence and gangs" (69.7 percent) and "lack of student discipline" (66.6 percent) as serious or very serious issues. 
Support for "education reform" is decidedly mixed 

* 7 in 10 (70.1 percent)  "agree" or "strongly agree" that parents should have more options about where their children attend school. 

* But nearly 2 in 3 (63.8 percent) oppose having the government provide parents with vouchers that can be used to pay for private schools. 

* Massachusetts residents are ambivalent about proposals to lengthen the school day (50.0 percent oppose the idea, 44.5 percent support the idea and the rest are unsure) and a modest majority (52.3 percent) oppose a longer school year. 

* Less than half (42.5 percent) agree that K-12 education reform has significantly improved student performance in Massachusetts.  Nearly 1 in 4 (23.9 percent) were unsure. 

* A significant minority (46.7 percent) oppose the MCAS graduation requirement, 49.1 percent support the requirement. 

* Just over 1 in 3 (36.4 percent) believe that K-12 education in Massachusetts is better today then when they were students, over 1 in 4 (26.4 percent) think its worse,19.8 percent think it is the same, and the remaining 17.3 percent "don't know". 

A significant minority are concerned about the role of unions and politics in education 

* Nearly 3 in 10 (29.1 percent) believe that teacher unions "obstruct improved performance" in Massachusetts public schools, while 33.5 percent believe that they have no effect and 24.7 percent believe that they promote improved performance. 

* A striking 4 in 10 (40.1 percent) believe that "political favoritism is a significant problem in hiring teachers and administrators in their school district". 

* A plurality (38.7 percent) believe that charter schools have outperformed traditional public schools although over 1 in 3 (34.6 percent) were unsure. 

To review the detailed poll findings, poll questions and methodological information, please visit the UMass Dartmouth Department of Public Policy's website. 

About the UMass Dartmouth Public Policy Poll 

The UMass Dartmouth Public Policy Poll surveyed 1,207 residents statewide. The Poll was administered by the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth's Department of Public Policy in collaboration with its Center for Policy Analysis and was conducted during February and March, 2011.  Support for this project was provided by the School of Education, Public Policy and Civic Engagement (SEPPCE) 

The margin of error for the Poll was plus or minus 2.8 percent for the statewide sample. The confidence interval of this poll was 95 percent. This means that, in theory in 19 cases out of 20, overall results based on such a sample would differ by no more than 2.8 percentage points in either direction from what would have been obtained by interviewing all Massachusetts residents.  For subgroups of this sample, the margin of sampling error is larger. 

About the UMass Dartmouth Department of Public Policy 

The Department of Public Policy is an interdisciplinary academic department that offers its students a wide variety of graduate educational options including a traditional and online Masters in Public Policy (MPP) program, online graduate certificates in environmental policy and educational policy, and a joint JD/MPP program in collaboration with the University of Massachusetts School of Law.  All of the Department's programs of study center around courses that emphasize the development of policy analysis, applied research, and public management skills. 

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