The public school advocacy group called We Raise NJ just released a the results of a recent poll exploring NJ residents’ views on current course content standards, aligned tests, and school quality. According to a press release, “the poll — conducted by Global Strategy Group — revealed that voters, especially those of color, believe strongly in high standards, aligned assessments, and importance of being prepared for college and career.”
This is a hot topic in NJ: Governor Murphy is determined to replace our current standardized test, PARCC, with, well, something else yet to be determined. This may be what NJEA wants — he swore to them during his keynote at the 2016 annual union convention, “I’ll get rid of PARCC Day One” — but not necessarily what voters want. According to the poll, 69 percent of voters believe that standardized tests are a “good measure of what students learn.” And, while there’s a bromide out there that voters believe that students these days have too many tests, the poll reveals that just 40 percent feel that way. In fact, 44 percent of those polled believe that students either have “too few” or “just the right amount.”
Regarding high standards, 70 percent of those polled look negatively at social promotion and believe that “students should meet statewide requirements before advancing on to the next grade.” Only 30 percent oppose using a statewide test to ascertain that those requirements have been met; 60 percent think a statewide standardized test is the way to go.
From the press release:
If students don’t meet minimum standards, voters expect consequences. A strong majority [70 percent] believe New Jersey students will not be prepared for college and will have to repeat high school-level classes in college, 63 percent believe New Jersey’s workforce will not be prepared for jobs in the new economy, and 57 percent expect fewer New Jersey students to be able to compete for jobs generally.
Interestingly, while many polled expressed approval for their local schools, there was less enthusiasm among voters of color. Forty-four percent of Black voters and 55 percent of Hispanic voters gave high ratings to their schools, compared to 75 percent of White voters. From the press release: “African-American and Hispanic voters are also less likely to believe their schools are adequately preparing students for college.”
Here’s Michael Taylor of the African American Chamber of Commerce of NJ:
The fact that our African American voters have expressed more concern about their schools and more support for the state test is telling. The most recent state assessment results show that the achievement gap between African American and white students is 30 percentage points for 3rd-grade English Language Arts and 33 percentage points for Algebra 1 — two academic benchmarks often used to project college and career readiness. These voters recognize that we need this kind of honest , objective information to determine where more support is needed and to ensure students receive that support.