Despite the belief that money given to schools should be spent more wisely and that higher academic standards are a better way to improve our schools than giving them more money, 60% of respondents said they would be willing to pay higher taxes to increase school funding (the question did not specify how large the tax increase would be). Just 35% said they would not be willing.
Parents believe schools should be teaching more than just the three Rs.
There has been a lot of discussion in California public schools about the need to teach more than just basic academic subjects. Respondents were asked what they thought the primary purpose of education should be -- beyond the basics -- and given a list of options. Among them, the highest proportion chose "teaching children to work hard and have discipline" (chosen by 28%). This was followed closely by teaching students to "have personal responsibility", with 24% of respondents giving this answer. Eleven percent said the primary purpose of public schools should be to teach self-esteem, 10% said to teach tolerance and acceptance, 17% said "to work in teams and solve problems" and 30% volunteered that all these areas should be the primary purpose of education.
When it comes to teaching math, however, parents and non-parents alike want kids taught the old-fashioned way. An overwhelming 91% of Californians said that students at a young age should be taught the fundamentals of math in school, such as adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing, without the aid of calculators. Just six percent approve of giving young students calculators for this purpose.
Parental involvement is seen as one of the most important predictors of a student's success in school.
Most Californians do not think natural ability is the main reason some kids do better than others, but instead attribute success to an external factor. Respondents were asked why some kids do better in school than others and were read a list of options. Most Californians attributed success to parental involvement (42%). In a distant second, 17% said kids with a more stable home life do better. This response is similar to the top mention, indicating the value Californians place on parental factors. Another 11% said kids who work harder do better and 10% volunteered that all the reasons read to them stand behind some kids doing better than others. Just six percent said the kids with more natural ability do better and just five percent said the kids with better teachers are more likely to stand out.
Asian parents were more likely to attribute academic success to hard work, with 22% of Asian parents giving this response compared with 13% of Latino, 8% of African American, and 5% of white parents. White (45%), African American (40%) and Latino (55%) parents were more likely to attribute academic success to parental involvement than were Asian parents (35%).
Californians overwhelmingly believe that too many students get passed to the next grade who should be held back.
A high 85% of respondents believe that too many students get passed to the next grade when they should have been held back. In fact, 62% strongly agreed with this statement. Just ten percent disagreed. Asian parents were significantly less likely to agree with this statement. While 89% of white parents, 94% of African American parents, and 85% of Latino parents agreed, just 59% of Asian parents did so (31% disagreed). Among Asian parents who agreed, intensity was lower. Just 30% of Asian parents strongly agreed, compared with 67% of whites, 77% of African Americans, and 61% of Latinos.
While more Californians think grades are a better indicator of success in school than tests, they overwhelmingly support standardized tests as a criterion for advancement.
Three-fourths (78%) of Californians approved of requiring students to pass a standardized test as one of the criteria for advancing to the next grade level or graduating from high school. In fact, 56% strongly approved. Just 17% disapproved (nine percent strongly).
However, when asked what is a better indicator of a child's progress in school, Californians (48% to 38%) and parents (49% to 37%) chose grades over tests by a small margin.
Asian parents were substantially more likely to chose tests over grades -- with 54% choosing tests and 33% choosing grades. White, African American, and Latino parents were more likely to choose grades over tests.
Strong support exists for the voucher program, but opinions are divided on full-inclusion practices.
The survey results indicate that Californians and California parents specifically support efforts to give them more choice about where their children go to school and with whom. Sixty-one percent of all respondents and 64% of parents said they favor establishing a school voucher program that would allow parents to use tax funds to send their children to the school of their choice, even if it were a private school. In fact, 40% of all respondents and 42% of parents strongly favored this program. Thirty-two percent of all respondents and 28% of parents opposed it. Parents of children 18 years of age or older were more likely to oppose the voucher program, with 40 percent giving this response. Private school parents, who usually pay costly tuition without assistance, were somewhat more in favor of the voucher program than public school parents (73% to 62%).
Opinions were nearly divided on full inclusion, which places students with behavioral or learning disabilities in classrooms with students without these disabilities, rather than in special education classes. Forty-two percent approved of the practice and 50% opposed it. Opposition was more intense, with 33% strongly opposed, compared to 20% who strongly favored the practice. Parents of children 18 years of age or older were more likely to oppose full inclusion. More affluent residents were also more likely to oppose full inclusion. Latino and Asian parents showed more support for full inclusion (63% and 57% respectively) than white and African American parents.
High proportions of parents report participating in their child's education.
The majority of parents claimed that they always help their kids with homework, with 55% giving this response; another 27% said they usually do, and 13% said they sometimes help their kids with their homework. Just three percent said they rarely help and one percent said they never do. All parent groups were nearly equally as likely to say they help their children with homework. However, parents of elementary school children were more likely to say they always help their child.