Parents Express Their Hopes for Schools

In advance of its national convention, the American Federation of Teachers, the nation’s second largest teacher union, conducted a survey of about 1,000 parents nationwide to ask them a variety of questions related to education and schools.  We were quite pleased to see that the survey found parents overwhelmingly believed that public schools were “most important in providing a good future for America and the American people.” 
The survey also asked about some specific policies related to schooling. On these, a large majority of parents (72%) believed that having a common set of academic standards would be a positive development for schools, so there appears to be broad support for the kind of reform the Common Core State Standards is about to usher in. The question about reform through the use of longer school days and years, however, did not get clear support –more than one-third of parents supported it, but 58 percent did not. 
I must say that such a response about the longer school day and year surprised me a bit because our own survey earlier this year found the public overwhelmingly supportive of a longer day and year.  A full 75 percent of all respondents—and 80 percent of parents with children in public schools—thought more time in school would better prepare students for their future. From many years in this work, I know that I should hold off speculating too much without more detail about the poll.  (The AFT released only topline analysis without question text or crosstabs available.) However, I will say that in looking at the public presentation of results, I was struck by the manner in which the polling organization frames the responses, for the framing suggests that the question presented these options as reforms imposed upon schools.   And, indeed, if that is the case, then such a response is totally understandable. What parent would want their children’s own school to fall prey to the decisions of others?


At NCTL, we firmly believe that expanding school time should be a choice by the community. More time in school is not right for all schools, since many children have a family support system that enables ready access to positive learning and development opportunities outside of school. But in those many, many places where such opportunities are more scarce, then we believe it is incumbent upon public schools—charged with providing all children with an education that prepares them adequately for their future—to do all they can to meet that key mission. 
Indeed, on this point, a vast majority of the parents responding to the AFT survey would agree: 77 percent expressed the opinion that, as a society, we should “focus on ensuring that every child has access to a good public school in their community [which includes] that we need to make the investments needed to ensure all schools provide safe conditions, an enriching curriculum, support for students' social and emotional development, and effective teachers.” Certainly, the investments we make to expand school time have proven essential to bringing about the many hopes we have for schools to best meet the needs and the ambitions of our children.