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Friday, December 12, 2014

How valid if the JPEF/UNF public education poll?

Usually these polls give confidence intervals, they say things like, we are 95 percent confident that the answers are within plus or minus 4 percentage points. It gives them some wiggle room in case something is totally wrong.

Well when reading the poll a couple questions jumped out at me.

Did you vote in the most recent election, 72 percent yes, 28 percent no.  Well according to the supervisor of elections a little less than fifty percent of people voted. That’s one of those questions people might be embarrassed to answer truthfully especially if they didn’t so I guess begrudgingly we can give this question a pass.   

The next question was, are you in support of Common Core, it was worded awkwardly but that was the gist. 62.4 percent of the respondents either agreed or strongly agreed that common core was a good idea. Well if that’s the case then Jacksonville is one of the last bastions of Common Core support. A lot of polls have shown support for common core plummeting and even the ultra-pro-common core Education Next group reported support had dropped to 53 percent nationwide though it was much lower among teachers.

Okay just a ten percent swing, outside the margin of error but hey maybe we love common core here.

The next question was about holding teachers and schools accountable based on standards. Nearly 62 percent of the people agreed that was a great or good idea. But the poll never asked the same question about holding them accountable based on high stakes testing, which is both more accurate about how things are done and has been a huge issue lately. There are question about the business community, non-profits and Alvin Brown but nothing on testing? The Mel Gibson Conspiracy Theory part of me thinks they didn’t want to know the answer because it would have been dreadful, but I will save that for the next question.   

The next question was about open enrollment, which asked if your child should be able to go to any school in any part of town. A whopping 77.1 percent of the people thought this was a great or good idea and I will admit it sounds very attractive, the problem is it falls apart when any critical thinking is applied,

but why this question? Where is the question about high stakes testing, teacher pay, charter schools, Teach for America, vouchers or a whole host of seemingly more important issues?

Nowhere to be found that’s where.

I believe it’s because the JPEF and district are setting us up for a spring push to start open enrollment in the 15-16 school year. The JPEF recently recommended it in their school choice study and now the district can go, hey remember that survey we did a couple months back? We’re just doing what the people want us to do. Which would be ironic because another question asked if the board listened to public opinion and 55 percent of the respondents said either no or hell no.  

I could review/question about a half dozen more questions but I’m going to do just one more. When asked where money from a potential new tax should go to there were a whole host of options, improving technology which is the supers favorite and safety which I am sure is parents were the two most popular options, but an option that wasn’t offered was to spend the money on human capital.  How about higher salaries for teachers or heck just hiring more teachers to comply with the class size amendment, something open enrollment goes around. How about using it to hire art, music and P.E. teachers which is what Palm Beach does with it’s special tax. Nope hiring more or paying better the people doing the actual educating wasn’t even mentioned and I believe that’s because to the district and the JPEF, we’re after thoughts.

I am sure there are people at the UNF Public Opinion Research Laboratory who could explain why they asked this question and why they left one that out. I am sure they can explain why they worded questions the way they did too. The real problem however is the influence that came from who they were working with.

The JPEF board is made up of common core loving, charter school running, high stakes testing supporters and it would be beyond the pale to think the people paying the bills don’t have any influence. These are the same people that though the QEA has hijacked democracy which has partnered with UNF to run the new teacher residency program, which may or may not be unraveling as we speak. This morning’s piece on NPR was a little vague but did mention that 2 out of the 13 member first class didn’t survive the first semester.

I am a proud graduate of UNF but when I see this poll the best I can do is give a slight nod to its veracity while I question its independence and I can’t help but think that if they were left to their own devices the questions and results might be totally different and probably more honest too.  

To see the poll so you can make your own judgments click the link:

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