Education A Decisive Issue In Tennessee Race For Governor, SCORE Poll Finds

Education ranks among the most important issues for Tennesseans who are likely to vote in the November election for governor, according to a statewide poll.

The State Collaborative on Reforming Education (SCORE), a nonpartisan education policy and advocacy nonprofit that focuses on improving student achievement, today released the results of the survey of 600 likely Tennessee voters. The poll was conducted by telephone August 27-30 by Fabrizio, Lee & Associates and Benenson Strategy Group.

One-third of voters said education is an important issue in deciding their vote for governor. When asked to be more specific, 25 percent of education-focused voters zeroed in on providing a high-quality education for students.

Besides education, the top issues identified in the race for governor were the economy and jobs (34 percent of likely voters) and health care (32 percent).

This survey is the third SCORE has released since August 2017, and voters have consistently identified education as one of the top three issues in the gubernatorial race.

“Tennessee as a state has been working to improve education for more than 10 years, and this survey indicates voters see a need for the next governor to continue to focus on education,” SCORE President David Mansouri said. “Over the next 58 days, voters are going to be thinking about how Tennessee can continue to advance the state’s historic gains in student achievement as they decide their vote for governor.”

Voters expressed doubt that Tennessee students are graduating ready for the next steps after high school, with 59 percent of survey respondents saying students are not properly prepared for the workforce. A plurality of voters polled, 47 percent, said students are inadequately prepared for college.

Nearly three out of four voters surveyed said they would be more likely to support candidates who favor policies that would better prepare students for postsecondary education and careers. The survey found a majority of voters support five readiness policies:

  • • Expanding efforts to ensure Tennesseans have greater access to post-high school education, 73 percent
  • • Providing more opportunities for workforce certificates for high school students, 72 percent
  • •State grants to local communities to improve workforce and college readiness, 73 percent
  • • A work-based learning experience for every high school student, 65 percent
  • • Personalized college and career counseling for every high school student, 58 percent

 
“One of the biggest problems facing Tennessee education is voters do not think the state’s high school graduates are properly prepared for the next stages of life, whether that is college or a job. In response to this concern, views of programs that can benefit high school graduates are very positive,” according to a joint memo from the two polling firms.

Other education policies supported by a majority of voters surveyed include making early grade literacy the state’s top priority (64 percent), giving parents more choices for where to send their child to school (63 percent), and expanding quality pre-kindergarten opportunities (59 percent).

Since 2012, SCORE polls have found consistently strong support for annual statewide assessment that measures whether students are meeting Tennessee’s academic standards. This year 88 percent agreed the testing was important, with 54 percent calling it very important. When it comes to TNReady, the current statewide assessment that has faced implementation challenges, 61 percent said the test should be fixed while 27 percent said it cannot become a good measure of student progress.

“Once voters learn what TNReady is – a test designed to measure problem solving, critical thinking, and other skills needed for 21st century careers – a 2-to-1 majority favor its use to measure Tennessee students’ progress,” the polling memo said.

METHODOLOGY STATEMENT: Fabrizio, Lee & Associates conducted a Tennessee statewide survey of 600 likely 2018 election voters via landline and cell phone on August 27-30, 2018. Landline interviews accounted for 60 percent of the sample and cell phone interviews 40 percent. Geography by county and media market were matched to previous statewide elections. Gender and age were matched to the population of likely voters according to a state-provided voter file. Respondents were randomly selected from lists of known registered voters who had previously voted in a general election. The margin of error at the 95 percent confidence interval for 600 voters is ±4.00 percent.

More poll results

Polling firm memo

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The State Collaborative on Reforming Education (SCORE) is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to the goal that every student in Tennessee graduates from high school prepared for postsecondary education and the work force. SCORE was founded by former U.S. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, MD, and it drives collaboration across the state on policy and practice to ensure student success. We believe that we can achieve our goals for Tennessee’s students by empowering people to lead change on behalf of students, insisting on high expectations for what students can achieve, and fostering a culture of innovation.

The SCORE Sheet is the online conversation on public education reform in Tennessee and is hosted by SCORE. The blog mirrors SCORE’s collaborative nature and features contributors from Tennessee and across the country including students, parents, teachers, policymakers, community groups, and members of SCORE’s team. Regardless of perspective, contributors share a common goal: that every child graduates from high school prepared for college or the workforce.

Posts on The SCORE Sheet are the opinions of the individual contributors and are not necessarily reflective of the opinions and positions of the State Collaborative on Reforming Education (SCORE).