The Essential Eight
At a time when the loudest voices and news headlines don’t necessarily reflect the experience of everyday Texans, quality public opinion research is more essential than ever.
For our 2022 Charles Butt Foundation Poll, we surveyed 1,154 Texans about public education, and the following eight takeaways stood out to us. They tell a story we don’t always hear about our public schools, yet they reflect a representative sample of all geographic areas, ideologies, and demographics of this great state.
Let’s listen to fellow Texans and learn together as we work to strengthen public education and build an even stronger Texas.
#1 Given other options, Texas parents would stick with their local public schools.
Why? Texas teachers. Parents’ ratings are up for both.
- A supermajority of parents, 80%, would keep their child in their current public school, even when given other options.
- The top cited reason (96%) parents gave for choosing to keep their child in their current school: The quality of the school’s teachers.
- A/B ratings for public schools and teachers by Texas parents are at an all-time high for our poll (68% and 76% respectively).
#2 Texans expect and value what public schools do for students, families, and communities.
- Student opportunities:
- Critical thinking and problem-solving skills (92%)
- Self-management, interpersonal skills, and decision-making skills (91%)
- Preparation to succeed in the workforce (91%)
- School programming:
- Extracurricular programs like sports, music, arts, and clubs (97%)
- Offering pre-kindergarten classes for any student whose family wants it (90%)
- Providing on-site health services for students (87%)
- Providing on-site mental health services for students (87%)
- Community supports:
- On-site resource centers for students and families (85%)
- Contributing to the Texas economy by developing a well-prepared workforce (82%)
#3 Texans don’t trust the STAAR test, but they do trust teachers.
- Only 44% of Texans are confident the STAAR test effectively measures how well a student is learning.
- Three-fourths (76%) of Texans and 81% of parents trust teachers to assess and monitor students’ academic progress.
- Texans trust teachers more than any other group to make decisions in the best interest of students – a full 71% say they trust them a great deal or a good amount.
#4 It is really important for students to feel they belong.
- More than three-fourths (77%) of public school parents said their child’s sense of belonging was very or somewhat strong at their school.
- A student’s sense of belonging is connected to other positive school outcomes. Parents reporting a higher sense of belonging for their child also report higher rates of:
- preference to keep their child enrolled in their current public school, given other options;
- A/B ratings for teachers; and
- A/B ratings for local public schools.
#5 The pandemic is still looming, yet parents report negative and positive takeaways.
- For the second year in a row, the pandemic ranks as the biggest problem facing Texas public schools.
- Parents report mixed impacts of the pandemic across an array of areas including students’ educational progress, relationships with other students, and emotional health and well-being.
- Parents report positive impacts in their child’s technology skills, a parent’s knowledge of their child’s educational progress, and parents’ communication with teachers.
#6 Texans want critical thinkers.
- When given a list of nine opportunities schools provide students, Texans rated critical thinking and problem-solving skills as the most essential or highly desirable (92%), above things like college preparation and extracurriculars.
- A strong majority of Texans, 70%, think the STAAR test requires students to focus on answers rather than deep thinking.
#7 Pre-kindergarten has arrived.
- A full 90% of Texans support public schools offering pre-kindergarten classes for any student whose family wants it.
#8 Texans support schools as community connectors and contributors.
Nearly three-fourths (74%) of Texas parents believe the following:
- It is essential or highly desirable that public schools expose students to different cultures and communities.
- It is essential or highly desirable that public schools connect people from different backgrounds and cultures.
- The quality of the local schools was a major factor or factor in deciding where to live.