Sophisticated Tool Launched for Education Policymakers

A new and unprecedented national survey reveals that Canadian parents and teachers jointly give high ratings to local public schools, but their views on many education issues often diverge widely and hold some surprises.

Undertaken on behalf of the Society for the Advancement of Excellence in Education (SAEE), a Canadian education research agency, the extensive telephone survey collected the views of more than 2,000 parents and 2,000 teachers. No previous national study has simultaneously compared the views of these two key stakeholder groups on fundamental issues such as assessment and accountability, school choice, school climate, leadership, parental involvement, and the teaching profession.

“More than 1,000 pages of survey data create an invaluable baseline for policymakers to track opinion over time,” states SAEE Research Director, Helen Raham. “Results flag a number of key policy issues for educational decision-makers in every province.”

Among the noteworthy findings:
– Compared to their wealthier counterparts, lower-income parents give lower marks to their children’s schools and desire more educational choice.
– Parents and teachers agree funding levels and class size are the most critical issues facing public schools.
– Parents overwhelmingly want greater accountability through tools such as annual school reports, while teachers remain largely cautious of standardized testing. Both parents and teachers support the idea of school improvement plans, although a third of parents are unaware of their existence.
– Teachers prefer seniority and education credentials to determine salary. Parents would support the use of broader criteria, including teaching skills and student progress.
– Despite their unique cultural and linguistic heritage, most Quebec teachers and parents join their counterparts elsewhere in supporting national education standards.
– Though teachers support a strong role for their union, a majority agree with parents that their unions are ineffective in contributing to school improvement.

The findings of the June 2005 survey conducted by Insightrix Research are considered accurate 19 times out of 20 at the confidence level of +-2.2 percent. Principal investigator was UBC sociologist Neil Guppy, with co-investigators Scott Davies (McMaster University), Robert Crocker (Memorial University), Claire Lapointe (Université Laval), and Larry Sackney (University of Saskatchewan). The research was funded by the Max Bell Foundation and Donner Canadian Foundation.

A series of five policy roundtables across Canada will immediately follow the release of the report to examine the regional findings.

For an Executive Summary of the 82-page report, “Parent and Teacher Views on Education: A Policymaker’s Guide” and further information, see http://www.aceresearch.ca

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