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Media Contacts

Terry Spradlin
Center for Evaluation and Education Policy
tspradli@indiana.edu.
812-855-4438

Jonathan Plucker
Center for Evaluation and Education Policy
jplucker@indiana.edu
812-855-4438

Elisabeth Andrews
IU Media Relations
ecandrew@indiana.edu
812-855-2153

Last modified: Wednesday, January 3, 2007

Hoosiers support full-day kindergarten; perceptions of school quality vary by race

Findings released from IU's 2006 Public Opinion Survey on Education in Indiana

EDITORS: To speak with Jonathan Plucker or Terry Spradlin today (Jan. 3), call Plucker at 812-325-7608 and Spradlin at 317-750-2056. On Thursday (Jan. 4) and afterward, they can be reached at 812-855-4438.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Jan. 3, 2007

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- A vast majority of Indiana residents support state-funded, full-day kindergarten programs, as well as state-sponsored preschool for at-risk children, according to the 2006 Public Opinion Survey on Education in Indiana, conducted by Indiana University's Center for Evaluation & Education Policy (CEEP). The survey found that, as a whole, Hoosiers continue to hold positive attitudes about public K-12 schools, but non-whites were more likely than whites to give unfavorable ratings. School funding was an issue for many respondents, but a new question containing information on per-pupil expenditures resulted in lower numbers of residents indicating that funding levels were too low.

The responses came from a representative sample of 612 adult residents including both parents and non-parents. The full report is available online at http://ceep.indiana.edu/projects/PDF/2006_POS.pdf.

The report was presented today to the Indiana State Board of Education. This is the fourth year that the survey has been conducted. Public opinion about early childhood education, school funding, achievement gaps, and overall perception about the quality of Indiana's schools and teachers were primary issues highlighted in the report presentation. The full report also contains information on school choice, vouchers and charter schools, teacher compensation, No Child Left Behind and Indiana's P.L. 221, and ISTEP testing.

Kindergarten and Pre-K. Hoosiers support full-day kindergarten and are willing to pay higher taxes for it: 74 percent of residents indicated support for state-funded full-day kindergarten; 61 percent support full-day kindergarten even if a tax increase is necessary to fund it. However, results indicate some preference for parental choice in whether children will attend full-day or half-day kindergarten: 75 percent of respondents support mandatory kindergarten attendance, but that number drops to 58 percent if students would be required to attend for a full day. With regard to state-funded preschool for at-risk children, 82 percent of respondents indicated their support.

Overall attitudes toward public schools and teachers. Consistent with the 2003-2005 surveys, a majority of residents rated schools highly: 65 percent of respondents rated schools in their district as excellent or good and 56 percent gave such ratings for overall state education. When broken down by ethnicity, 48 percent of non-white respondents rated schools in their district as excellent or good, compared to 69 percent of whites. A total of 15 percent of non-whites rated their local schools as poor compared to only 6 percent of white respondents. Whites were also more likely than non-whites to rate teachers as excellent or good -- 74 percent versus 58 percent. Ratings of local schools were correlated to income, with 77 percent of those in the highest income bracket indicating that schools were excellent or good compared to 55 percent of those in the lowest income bracket.

School funding. Initially, 61 percent of respondents stated that schools are under-funded. However, when a subsequent question indicated that the average expenditure per pupil is roughly $10,000 per year, less than half (45 percent) of the respondents felt this number was too low. A large majority of respondents saw a connection between funding and quality of education, with 80 percent indicating that funding affects quality "a lot" or "somewhat."

Achievement gap. Closing the achievement gap is a priority for Hoosiers: 94 percent of respondents indicated that this issue has at least some importance, surpassing the national Gallup / Phi Delta Kappa Poll result of 88 percent. Indiana respondents, like national respondents, indicated that the factors responsible for achievement gaps were societal disparities such as income and educational attainment of parents--not the quality of education in public schools. However, respondents did feel that public schools have a responsibility to help close the gaps, indicating public school choice and scientifically-based reading programs as preferred strategies.

Perceived improvements and downturns. Among the 32 percent of respondents who indicated that schools in their community had improved over the past five years, the most frequently cited reasons were better curriculum, more programs, increased competition and more emphasis on results, new or improved facilities and equipment, computers in schools, and teachers doing a better job in the classroom. Those who indicated that schools had declined over the last five years (15 percent) cited an insufficient emphasis on education and students not learning enough, fewer teachers and larger classes, poor discipline and classroom management, inadequate teacher performance and a decline in teacher commitment, and reduced funding for schools.

Additional findings include a majority of residents favoring assistance to low-performing schools over school choice or vouchers as a strategy to help students who are struggling academically. Most respondents were not very familiar or not at all familiar with charter schools, and support for the creation of additional charter schools was below 50 percent. Support was high for providing financial incentives to highly qualified teachers in order to draw them to schools with poor performance or high poverty. Attitudes toward standardized testing varied, with a majority of residents viewing ISTEP testing as beneficial, but fewer than 50 percent identifying benefits from No Child Left Behind or P.L. 221.

"2006 Public Opinion Survey on Education in Indiana" was co-authored by CEEP Director Jonathan Plucker and CEEP Associate Director Terry Spradlin, with additional support from research assistants Jason Zapf and Rosanne Chien.

The Center for Evaluation & Education Policy, Indiana's leading non-partisan education policy research center, promotes and supports rigorous program evaluation and education policy research primarily, but not exclusively, for educational, human services and nonprofit organizations. Center projects address state and national education questions. CEEP is part of the IU School of Education. To learn more about CEEP and the latest survey, go to http://ceep.indiana.edu.

Terry Spradlin and/or Jonathan Plucker can be reached at 812-855-4438. On Wednesday (Jan. 3), however, Plucker can be reached at 812-325-7608, and Spradlin can be reached at 317-750-2056.