Between America's long-standing national objective of improving the strength of the public school system to prepare students for college and careers and the focus of the Obama administration on education as a pathway to economic security for the middle class and improving the economy, education issues and policy are in the spotlight. A central focus of the policy discussion is the measurement of quality and the utilization of quality data to improve student outcomes. This quality-focused policy agenda covers a range of high-profile issues, from standardized testing to teacher evaluation to early childhood education, and involves a range of stakeholders.
While regular survey research is conducted with a variety of stakeholders, including teachers, very few nationally representative surveys of parents have been conducted recently. Often cited as a key determinant of student outcomes, parents represent an important perspective that policymakers need to understand in the design, articulation, and implementation of quality-focused education initiatives.
This study provides a comprehensive description of parents' perspectives on education in America today, with a specific focus on understanding what quality education and teaching means to parents and how it should be measured and rewarded.
With funding from the Joyce Foundation, the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research conducted a national survey of 1,025 parents or guardians of children who completed a grade between kindergarten and 12th during the 2012-2013 school year.
- Observation: A majority of parents think public schools are preparing students for college and to be good citizens, but not for work or life as an adult.
- Observation: Parents rate teachers who are passionate, effective, and caring especially high; they put less emphasis on experience. Nearly three quarters favor making it easier to fire teachers for poor performance.
- Observation: Three in four parents believe it is very important for schools to regularly assess children's performance, and three in five believe the number of standardized tests their child takes is appropriate.
- Observation: 80% of parents believe that preschool programs improve student performance in later school years.