But Some Aspects of Student Testing are Vexing to Adults

Frustrated with a variety of issues in public education, nearly 60 percent of the respondents to a Saint Leo University Polling Institute survey conducted nationally and in Florida say they are willing to “pay somewhat more in taxes to better fund public schools in my community.”

In the national survey of 1,005 adults conducted between October 17 – 22, 59.7 percent agreed they would be willing to pay “somewhat” more in taxes. The margin of error on responses for the national results is plus or minus 3 percentage points. In Florida, where 521 people were surveyed during the the same time period, 59.9 percent agreed they would be willing to pay more. The margin of error on the statewide responses is plus or minus 4.5 percentage points.

The responses seem in keeping with a view held by 69.4 percent of those polled nationally, and 67.8 percent of those polled in Florida, that schools are either significantly or somewhat underfunded. Another segment of the survey group—17.2 percent nationally and 17.7 percent in Florida—believe schools receive “reasonable and balanced funding.”

Dr. Karen Hahn, longtime education faculty member at Saint Leo University, said the apparent willingness to put more money into schools is a bit surprising, but a welcome development. Some of the other sentiments expressed were also surprising, but understandable, she said.

For instance, 54.7 percent of respondents nationally, and 57 percent in Florida said the quality of public education in the United States today is either poor or very poor. (Possible answers were: very good, good, poor, very poor, or don’t know.) Yet in their own communities, the picture was reversed, with 54.4 percent nationally saying their local schools were good or very good, and 50.8 percent in Florida agreed with that. Dr. Hahn attributed the apparent disconnect to the influence of media stories on problems in education that lead people to believe the public system nationally is faring poorly. On the other hand, Dr. Hahn suggests that people feel: “I know what happens in my children’s school, and it’s good.”

Questions on Testing Reveal Shifting Attitudes

Adults generally support testing students at specific grade levels to ensure children are learning, but a group of poll questions also showed limits to the current practice as they see it. Respondents were asked to read statements specifically on testing and indicate whether they strongly support, somewhat support, somewhat oppose, or strongly oppose the the ideas presented. The following statements received somewhat and strong support in the combined percentages reported here.

Public School Program National Support – Percent Florida Support – Percent
Testing students at specific grade intervals in all public schools 80.1 78.3
Common Core Testing (Common Core State Standards define expectations, state-by-state, for what students should know and be able to do by the end of each grade. Common Core is not tied to the federal No Child Left Behind Program) 61.8 56.0
Parents should have the option of allowing their own children to opt out of standardized tests used in student and school assessment. 45.9 44.6


Dr. Hahn noted the gap between support for yearly testing and for Common Core, which sets literacy and math standards. As an educator and parent who has seen multiple generations of educational standards enforced, Dr. Hahn said she doesn’t consider Common Core itself to be the cause of trouble. “The standards themselves are actually good,” she said. “But when they are tied to high-stakes testing, the test becomes the focus of the curriculum, and it takes the creativity out of the classroom. Common Core has the recognizable name, so it gets blamed.”

As parents have seen children exposed to this environment for years, they have become disenchanted with the results, Dr. Hahn believes. “What I think is that many parents are saying: ‘No more.’ ’’ It is that frustration, she said, that likely led roughly 45 percent of respondents in both the state and national sample to say they would at some level approve of families allowing children to opt out of standardized tests. “I’m not sure that would even have happened before,” Dr. Hahn said.

(Note: The survey was completed just days before President Barack Obama’s October 25 recommendation that schools curb excessive testing and limit student instructional time for tests to no more than 2 percent.)

Best Measurements and Appropriate Authorities for Oversight

All respondents were asked to select from these options what they see as the best ways for school systems to measure their own levels of success. Multiple answers were allowed.

How Should a School System Measure Success? National – Percent Florida – Percent
Graduation rates 57.5 58.4
Student test scores 52.1 52.2
Scholarships awarded 23.8 24.1
Teacher qualification / accomplishments 41.8 41.6
Unsure 9.7 6.7


Respondents were divided when they were asked to name which entity or group should be most responsible for setting educational standards for public schools.

Which of the following should be MOST responsible for setting educational standards for public schools? National – Percent Florida – Percent
Federal Government/Department of Education 24.8 25.9
State Government/Departments of Education 27.9 28
Local Government/Local School Districts 20.7 22.1
Parents and Teachers 22 20
There should be no standards 2.6 1.7


About the Saint Leo University Polling Institute/Methodology

This Saint Leo University poll sampled opinions of 1,005 adults approximately proportional to state population contribution nationwide. The survey was conducted between October 17 and 22, 2015, using an online survey instrument. The margin of error is approximately 3 percent +/- with a 95 percent confidence level on a composite basis. The Saint Leo University Polling Institute conducts its surveys using cutting-edge online methodology, which is rapidly transforming the field of survey research. The sample is drawn from large online panels, which allow for random selections that reflect accurate cross sections of all demographic groups. Online methodology has the additional advantage of allowing participants to respond to the survey at a time, place, and speed that is convenient to them, which may result in more thoughtful answers. The Saint Leo University Polling Institute develops the questionnaires, administers the surveys, and conducts analysis of the results. Panel participants typically receive a token incentive—usually $1 dollar deposited into an iTunes or Amazon account—for their participation.

About Saint Leo University

Saint Leo University is a regionally accredited, liberal-arts-based institution known for an inclusive Catholic heritage, enduring values, and capacity for innovation. The school was chartered in 1889 by Catholic Benedictine monks in rural Pasco County, FL, making Saint Leo the first Catholic college in the state. Saint Leo provides access to education to people of all faiths, emphasizing the Benedictine philosophy of balanced growth of mind, body, and spirit.

The university welcomes learners from all generations and backgrounds, from civilian occupations and the armed forces, and from across the country and more than 60 nations around the world. Saint Leo’s nearly 16,000 undergraduate and graduate students may elect to study at the beautiful University Campus in Florida, at more than 40 teaching locations in seven states, or online from any location. The university’s degree programs range from the associate to the doctorate. Through these rich offerings, Saint Leo develops principled leaders for a challenging world.

Saint Leo University boasts nearly 80,000 alumni in all 50 states, Washington, DC, five U.S. territories, and 72 countries.

Media Contacts: Kim Payne, staff writer and media coordinator, at kim.payne@saintleo.edu or (352) 588-7233/(717) 798-1508 or Jo-Ann Johnston, academic communications manager, at jo-ann.johnston@saintleo.edu or (352) 588-8237/(352) 467-0843.