HPU Poll: North Carolinians Share Their Views on Education Policy

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HIGH POINT, N.C., April 14, 2021– North Carolinians are engaged and interested in offering opinions on the state’s public schools, according to the 2021 HPU Education Poll, a joint venture between selected faculty in the Department of Leadership Studies in the School of Education and HPU’s Survey Research Center.

In the statewide survey, 37% of North Carolinians said that they think public education in North Carolina is headed in the wrong direction, and 34% said it is headed in the right direction. More than one quarter (29%) did not offer an opinion one way or another.

North Carolinians on average give their local public schools a C+ for their response to COVID-19. When asked, 16% of NC residents said their local public schools should receive a grade of “A” on a scale of A to F for their response to COVID-19. An additional 25% give local schools a “B” for their COVID-19 efforts.

North Carolinians on average give their local public schools a C+ for their overall quality. When asked, 11% of NC residents said their local public schools should receive a grade of “A” on a scale of A to F for their quality. An additional 27% give local schools a “B” in overall quality.

North Carolinians on average give North Carolina public schools a C for their overall quality. When asked, 10% of NC residents said North Carolina public schools should receive a grade of “A” on a scale of A to F for their quality. An additional 21% give North Carolina public schools a “B” in overall quality.

Almost half (48%) of North Carolinians said the state should give schools a rating of A – F based on student test scores. Just more than one-quarter (29%) said the state should not give such ratings. An additional 23% did not offer a response one way or another.

They also believe that ratings that report “quality” of schools should emphasize overall improvement scores of students more than their proficiency scores. More (39%) North Carolinians said that they favored grading schools with more emphasis on overall improvement rather than more emphasis on how many students attain a proficiency standard (23%). Less than one-quarter (23%) said “both.”

When asked who has the biggest influence on schools, the largest fraction of NC residents said teachers (36%) followed by parents (23%), legislators (20%), and principals of schools (9%).

NC residents also believe that, in general, most people have respect for principals, teachers and superintendents. More than three out of five North Carolinians said most people have respect for these groups: school principals (75%), public school teachers (74%) and school superintendents (61%). These ratings were comparable to respect for North Carolina’s governor (63%).

Smaller majorities of North Carolina residents said the school boards (53%), North Carolina State Superintendent of Public Instruction (56%), the State Board of Education (56%) and county commissioners (55%) receive respect from most people.

Just less than half of respondents (46%) said they would pay more in taxes for additional public school nurses, counselors, social workers, and school psychologists. A third (37%) said they would not pay more in taxes for those new school staff.

“The challenges COVID has wrought upon our global community have exacerbated the gross inequities found across our public education system,’” said Dr. Amy Holcombe, interim dean Stout School of Education. “Survey results clearly demonstrate that while taxpayers hold educators in great esteem, we have not yet made our case for funding the additional resources necessary to mitigate these inequities. Until the voters and taxpayers of North Carolina prioritize education as an investment in our state’s future, the expectations of schools will continue to exceed their capacity to deliver upon them.”

All adults – Direction of Public Education (March/April 2021)

Overall, in which direction would you said that public education in North Carolina is headed? Would you said the right direction or wrong direction?

Right direction – 34%

Wrong direction – 37%

(Don’t know/Refused) – 29%

(Telephone and online interviews with North Carolina residents, surveyed Mar. 19 – Apr. 1, n = 941 and credibility interval is +/- 3.9%)

All adults – Grading North Carolina School Quality Overall (March/April 2021)

Using a grade of A, B, C, D and F — where A is excellent and F is very poor — how would you grade North Carolina on the quality of its public schools?

A – 10%

B – 21%

C – 33%

D – 18%

F – 7%

Don’t know/refuse/unsure – 11%

On an A – F (1 – 5) scale, the mean = C (2.89)

(Telephone and online interviews with North Carolina residents, surveyed Mar. 19 – Apr. 1, n = 941 and credibility interval is +/- 3.9%)

All adults – Grading Local Public School Quality Overall (March/April 2021)

Using a grade of A, B, C, D and F — where A is excellent and F is very poor — how would you grade North Carolina on the quality of its public schools?

A – 11%

B – 27%

C – 27%

D – 16%

F – 7%

Don’t know/refuse/unsure – 12%

On an A – F (1 – 5) scale, the mean = C+ (2.80)

(Telephone and online interviews with North Carolina residents, surveyed Mar. 19 – Apr. 1, n = 941 and credibility interval is +/- 3.9%)

All adults – Grading Local Public School COVID-19 Response (March/April 2021)

Using a grade of A, B, C, D and F — where A is excellent and F is very poor — how would you grade North Carolina on the quality of its public schools?

A – 16%

B – 25%

C – 21%

D – 13%

F – 11%

Don’t know/refuse/unsure – 14%

On an A – F (1 – 5) scale, the mean = C+ (2.73)

(Telephone and online interviews with North Carolina residents, surveyed Mar. 19 – Apr. 1, n = 941 and credibility interval is +/- 3.9%)

All adults – State rating for schools (March/April 2021)

Do you believe that the state should give schools a rating of A, B, C, D, or F based on students’ test scores?

Yes – 48%  

No – 29%   

Don’t know/refuse/unsure – 23%

(Telephone and online interviews with North Carolina residents, surveyed Mar. 19 – Apr. 1, n = 941 and credibility interval is +/- 3.9%)

All adults – Influence on Quality (March/April 2021)

Thinking about the quality of schools, who would you said has biggest influence on quality, parents, teachers, legislators, or principals of schools?

Parents – 23%

Teachers – 36%

Legislators –  20%

Principals of schools – 9%

Don’t know/refuse/unsure – 12%

(Telephone and online interviews with North Carolina residents, surveyed Mar. 19 – Apr. 1, n = 941 and credibility interval is +/- 3.9%)

All adults – Improvement versus proficiency (March/April 2021)

I am going to read two statements about how to rate the quality of schools. Please tell me whether the first statement or the second statement is closer to your own view.

More emphasis on overall improvement – 39%

More emphasis on how many students attain proficiency – 23%

Neither – 6%

Both – 23%

Don’t know/refuse/unsure – 8%

(Telephone and online interviews with North Carolina residents, surveyed Mar. 19 – Apr. 1, n = 941 and credibility interval is +/- 3.9%)

All adults – Respect for Education Officials (March/April 2021)

I am going to read you a list of government officials and some other groups. Please tell me whether you think that in general most people have respect for these people or groups.

[Presented in a randomized order]

Public school teachers

Yes – 74%

No – 26%

School principals

Yes – 75%

No – 25%

School superintendents

Yes – 61%

No – 39%

School boards

Yes – 53%

No – 47%

County commissioners

Yes – 55%

No – 45%

North Carolina State Superintendent of Public Instruction

Yes – 56%

No – 44%

North Carolina Governor

Yes – 63%

No – 38%

State legislators

Yes – 48%

No – 52%

State Board of Education

Yes – 56%

No – 44%

(Telephone and online interviews with North Carolina residents, surveyed Mar. 19 – Apr. 1, n = 941 and credibility interval is +/- 3.9%)

All adults – Pay More in Taxes for More School Workers (March/April 2021)

Would you be willing to pay more in taxes for additional public school nurses, counselors, social worker and school psychologists?

Yes – 46%  

No – 37%   

Don’t know/refuse/unsure – 18%

(Telephone and online interviews with North Carolina residents, surveyed Mar. 19 – Apr. 1, n = 941 and credibility interval is +/- 3.9%)

The most recent HPU Poll was fielded by live interviewers at the High Point University Survey Research Center calling on March 19 – April 1, 2021 and an online survey fielded at the same time. The responses from a sample of all North Carolina counties came from 941 adults interviewed online (805 respondents) as well as landline or cellular telephones (136 respondents). The Survey Research Center contracted with dynata, formerly Research Now SSI: https://www.dynata.com/ to acquire these samples, and fielded the online survey using the SRC’s Qualtrics platform. This is a combined sample of live phone interviews and online interviews. The online sampling is from a panel of respondents, so their participation does not adhere to usual assumptions associated with random selection. Therefore, it is not appropriate to assign a classical margin of sampling error for the results. In this case, the SRC provides a credibility interval of plus or minus 3.9 percentage points to account for a traditional 95% confidence interval for the estimates (plus or minus 3.2 percentage points) and a design effect of 1.5 (based on the weighting). The data is weighted toward population estimates for age, gender, and race/ethnicity based on U.S. Census numbers for North Carolina. Factors such as question wording and other methodological choices in conducting survey research can introduce additional error into the findings of opinion polls. Details from this survey are available by clicking here

Further results and methodological details from the most recent survey and past studies can be found at the Survey Research Center website at http://www.highpoint.edu/src/. The materials online include past press releases as well as memos summarizing the findings (including approval ratings) for each poll since 2010.

The HPU Poll reports methodological details in accordance with the standards set out by AAPOR’s Transparency Initiative, and the HPU Survey Research Center is a Charter Member of the Initiative. For more information, see http://transparency.aapor.org/index.php/transparency.

You can follow the HPU Poll on Twitter at https://twitter.com/HPUSurveyCenter.

Dr. Martin Kifer, chair and associate professor of political science, serves as the director of the HPU Poll, and Brian McDonald is the associate director of the HPU Poll.

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