With elections upcoming in 2020, most people associate the term “public polling” with electoral politics. SCORE takes a different approach, however. Periodically, SCORE works with a public opinion firm to survey Tennesseans about many of the most important issues in education.
SCORE’s most recent public opinion survey was conducted September 23-25 by our partner Public Opinion Strategies. We surveyed 500 registered Tennessee voters from across the state who were representative of the population and asked them about the most important and talked about education issues in 2019. While there were many interesting results in the polling, three key items stood out as particularly significant.
Just like in previous polls, voters across the state and from both major political parties strongly support accountability in K-12 education. When voters were asked whether they support using student academic growth for accountability so parents and communities know how well schools are performing, more than three-quarters (77 percent) voiced support. Similarly, 54 percent support the policy of using student academic growth as a part of annual teacher evaluation.
Additionally, when voters were asked whether they favored or opposed more accountability in schools, support for “more accountability” surged.
These results indicate that voters recognize the importance of continuing to ensure that student learning is prioritized when it comes to Tennessee’s accountability system.
Public School Choice
With the significant public charter school legislation that passed in the 2019 legislative session, public school choice has remained a topic of conversation in Tennessee for several months. Following that discussion earlier this year, a plurality of voters from across the state have a favorable view of the term “public charter schools” with 44 percent favorable and 24 percent unfavorable.
Interestingly, support for public school choice overall has dramatically increased in recent months. When asked whether or not voters support public school choice that gives parents more choices in where their child can attend school, like a charter school or a magnet school, 75 percent said they support public school choice.
With SCORE’s recent expansion into the postsecondary education policy arena, a significant number of our polling questions focused on this area of work. The results are very interesting.
Overall, 58 percent of voters believe that colleges and universities in Tennessee are properly preparing students for success in the workforce and 52 percent of voters said that the purpose of college or postsecondary education is to prepare students for a career. These numbers rebut the perception that colleges and universities are not adequately preparing students for the workforce.
Support for community college in Tennessee also continues to be strong with 93 percent of voters saying that a degree from a community college is valuable. With Tennessee Promise making community college affordable and accessible for Tennessee students, support has surged.
In addition, we know from economic data that some form of postsecondary education is critical for economic independence after postsecondary graduation. More than 70 percent of voters believe this to be true.
While this is only a sampling of the full poll, these results highlight three of the key areas that stood out in the context of our current policy environment. SCORE will continue to track public opinion on a variety of education areas, and you can be on the lookout for future poll results here.
Taylor Hall is the senior director of public affairs at SCORE.