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What Parents Aren’t Asked in School Surveys—and Why

Making data-driven education reform decisions is great — unless the results come from flawed questions.


The results of an opinion poll will vary, and not by a little, as a function of how the questions are phrased. “Do you favor special preferences for minorities in the form of affirmative action?” will attract many fewer favorable responses than “Do you favor efforts to help minorities get ahead in order to make up for past discrimination?” And then, of course, there are “push polls,” which only pretend to sample people’s views while attempting to influence them: “Would you be more or less likely to vote for Congressman McDoodle if you knew he was a practicing Satanist?”

I find myself thinking about how much more—and less—there is to polling than meets the eye whenever I come across one of those surveys that school administrators like to distribute to parents. I have to assume these are not intended as the equivalent of push polls, that there’s a sincere desire to be responsive to the community and an honest pride in being able to cite “data” to judge the effectiveness, or at least the popularity, of school policies. (Data good.)

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Obama Made the Right Choice to Speak at the First Black High School in Memphis

Booker T. Washington High School beat out over 450 other schools to get President Obama as a commencement speaker.

\n\n\n\n\n Congratulations are in order for Memphis, Tennessee's Booker T. Washington High School. The school is the winner of the 2011 Race to the Top High School Commencement Challenge. President Obama will head there later this spring to deliver the graduation speech.

Booker T. Washington opened its doors in 1873 and was the first public high school in segregated Memphis that black students were allowed to attend. As the school's finalist video details, in recent years the 500-student campus has overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles—98 percent of students live in poverty and 20 percent of student's homes were lost when a housing project was demolished—and increased the graduation rate from 55 to 82 percent.

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Video: Detroit Student Cries Over "Disgrace" of City's Public Schools

A new two-hour special by Dan Rather looks at the (many) shortcomings of Detroit's public schools. Let's hope it looks at some solutions, too.

On the heels of dismal data about Detroit's literacy rate and the ongoing saga over the closing of half the city's schools comes "A National Disgrace" a two-hour special on education in the Motor City from "Dan Rather Reports." Rather spent a year and a half filming students, parents, teachers, administrators, and school board members in the Detroit Public Schools.

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