Beginning this year, Raise Your Hand is taking the bold step of committing to an annual poll on Texans’ perceptions of public education. We modeled it after the PDK Poll of the Public’s Attitudes Toward the Public Schools, which has been measuring Americans’ perceptions of the issue since 1969. We’ve commissioned the same researchers who conduct the PDK poll so we can look for longitudinal trends in the data and see how Texas compares to the rest of the country.
As former chair of the Department of Education at Trinity University, I often taught from the PDK Poll in my classes, using it as a barometer of the national sentiment toward public education. How, I’d ask my graduate students, can we be informed by that research and adjust our approach accordingly? The research was valuable in the academic setting, and it has been valuable to hundreds of organizations in the advocacy and non-profit sectors as well.
We hope this poll prompts a continuously updated set of questions that we as a state should be asking ourselves. Do Texans feel more or less connected to their public schools? Do they think public schools are meeting their needs? What are their biggest concerns, hopes and dreams for the public schools in our state?
For this inaugural year, we opted to focus a number of the questions on teachers and the teaching profession. Knowing that Texas stands on the brink of a teacher retirement bubble and a substantial teacher shortage, this is a major focus of our organization. However, we also included many questions related to issues that Raise Your Hand has yet to tackle. This was intentional. We want the poll to provide Texas with broad insight into the many opportunities and challenges public schools face — not just those that interest us. In future years, while some questions will remain the same to track how perceptions evolve, we plan to add new items that reflect the current debates of the field.
Admittedly, Raise Your Hand is still in the initial phases of thinking about what this means for our work. This is our first foray into this sort of research; no one in Texas nor the country is doing this kind of polling of attitudes on public education on an annual statewide basis. As a result, just like everyone else, we are only beginning to assess how the poll can inform our internal dialogues and direction setting. The insights and opportunities it brings are both daunting and exciting.
We also plan to take the unprecedented step of making the entire poll available for further research. Our hope is others can also dig deep into the data, wrestle with it and affirm whether the directions they are taking still make sense. We firmly believe the value is in knowing. When we know something, it compels action. This isn’t Raise Your Hand’s research. This is everyone’s research. Let it be a call to action for all to let the responses inform how we do our work.
The poll results, toplines, news release, downloadable photos and b-roll, graphics, and charts can be found at RaiseYourHandTexas.org/2020poll.