Parents want their children to succeed in school and, by huge margins, expect them to complete college and even graduate school degrees. Their aspirations, as measured by a new multilingual public opinion survey of parents of school-aged children in eight Southeastern states, reveal them to be ideal allies to drive the school reform initiatives now underway in so many districts. The problem, as the survey reveals, is a vast information disconnect between what they want and what they know about the steep odds many children face to finish high school, let alone complete college. Nor are they aware of or engaged in the issues driving -- and dividing --the school reformers who are trying to reverse the decline in American education.
The survey, Positive Aspirations vs. Negative Realities: Public Opinion Survey on Educational Issues in Eight Southeastern States, was commissioned by New America Media and surveyed in seven languages (English, Spanish, Mandarin, Cantonese, Korean, Vietnamese, Creole) a representative sample of 1,400 parents in February 2012. It found that a huge majority of parents across all ethnic groups believe the schools are doing a good or excellent job of preparing their children for college and teaching them basic skills in reading and math. Yet, less than one-third Black and Hispanic 8th graders in the eight states read or do math at grade level. Overall, American students perform worse on math and reading tests than students in most Western European countries as well as countries like China, South Korea and Estonia.
This survey is a call to action for the media, especially the ethnic media, and also for organizations involved in school reform. Parents care deeply about education -- aside from the economy, education ranked as their most important issue. Until they understand the limitations of the schools their children attend, they are unlikely to be part of any effort to improve those schools.
The survey was conducted in Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Tennessee, Texas, Kentucky, Arkansas, North Carolina, by Bendixen & Amandi International and funded by a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
After the poll is conducted, we shared our results with ethnic media and education reformers in four cities to jumpstart discussions on how to further engage parents and the public in bringing improvements to the current school system. The four cities include Altanta, New Orleans, Memphis and Miami.
ETHNIC MEDIA COVERAGE