Putting Education Reform To The Test

What a National Education Survey Says About Florida

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The battle over union rights in Wisconsin are reflected in the results of a national education survey.

A new nationwide education survey released this morning has some interesting implications in Florida, namely that the state sometimes disagrees with the national view on education.

The biggest difference between Florida and the nation in the Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup Poll phone survey of 1002 people is on class sizes. The poll sets up a choice between classes “with fewer students and less effective teachers” or “larger classes with more effective teachers.” The question assumes a limited number of quality teachers, and about two-thirds of those polled favored larger classes.

A similar question was put to Florida voters last year, asking whether the state should relax its class size limits. The measure required approval from 60 percent of Florida voters to amend the Florida constitution, but only 54.5 percent approved.

Florida lawmakers also support online or virtual courses more than those in the national survey. Florida now requires students to take at least one online course before they may graduate. In the survey, however, 59 percent of those surveyed opposed allowing students to attend school for fewer hours if they are using computer technology to learn at home.

The poll also shows a public split over allowing teachers unions to collectively bargain. Slightly more than half of those polled side with unions opposing governors’ attempts to strip collective bargaining while 44 percent side with governors. Florida Gov. Rick Scott has opposed collective bargaining and an adviser said it could be a target next year, but that would require a state constitutional amendment winning approval from 60 percent of voters.

One area where Florida matches the public survey? Perception of school quality.

More than three-quarters of those surveyed gave U.S. schools a grade of C or below, but 79 percent gave their oldest child’s school a grade of A or B. According to Florida data, 79 percent of school districts rated an A or B on the 2011 report card.


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