What You Need to Know About the EdChoice Public Opinion Tracker

Today, we launch EdChoice’s Public Opinion Tracker, a monthly survey of public opinion about K–12 education in America, conducted by national polling and data intelligence firm Morning Consult.

Starting this past January, we began conducting monthly polls of the general public and parents. We are also surveying teachers on a quarterly basis. We are fielding the surveys online, obtaining responses from approximately 2,200 people representing the general public. That relatively large sample size will allow us to observe more reliable sub-samples of many demographic groups. Monthly results should include, on average, a monthly sample of about 500 K-12 school parents. We expect responses from about 1,000 educators each quarter—roughly 700 public district school teachers, 200 private school teachers and another 100 responses from public charter school teachers.

While polls and surveys on education issues continue to proliferate, most polls about K–12 education release in late summer or fall. We want to change that dynamic. To be clear, polls from PDK, EdNext, and (we hope) EdChoice do cast a light on public perceptions and opinions. AP-NORC conducts great education surveys periodically. Gallup publishes results to education-specific questions around the time students normally go back to school. Common Sense has recently partnered with SurveyMonkey to poll American teenagers, including some questions about their education. And some advocacy organizations like the American Federation for Children (AFC) and Democrats for Education Reform sponsor annual polls focusing on particular issue areas affecting K–12. We see our efforts adding to the knowledge that these polls generate.

Our goals for the opinion tracker are four-fold.

First, we want to provide timely, non-partisan analysis—drawing on a wealth of data and information collected by Morning Consult, a global data intelligence company and leader in the collection, organization and dissemination of survey research data.

Second, we want to deliver state-level public opinion estimates and findings that can assist policymakers and stakeholders better understand the views and attitudes of constituent K-12 school parents, educators and the general public.

Third, we plan to publish monthly reports, toplines, crosstabs and other polling data to aid policy wonks and researchers in their work

Fourth and finally, we are going to produce information and content briefings, webinars and roundtables to build new connections and lines of communication about public opinion; promote open and critical thinking about issues based on stakeholder perspectives; and provide room for reasoned debate.

Some of our questions are familiar and have been adapted from our annual Schooling in America survey (SIA). Other questions will be new. Because we are fielding the poll more frequently, we can be responsive to current events and developments that have national implications, such as the current COVID-19 pandemic. We have already included a handful of questions on the pandemic – especially for parents and teachers—to begin asking how it has been affecting their children’s schooling, their jobs and their households. To date, we have collected responses from three waves of surveys asking about the pandemic and plan to continue to do so at least into the fall.

We plan to refresh the national and state dashboards on the first Tuesday of every month. At the same time, we will post the new downloadable report(s), crosstabs file and questionnaire.

So, how can you find the results?

We have developed the home page as a National Results dashboard. Here you will see the main navigation at the top (State Results, Resource Downloads, Methodology). And as you scroll down the page, you will see at least 10 polling results sections. Some displays will show the monthly trends. Other sections will show the snapshot for the most current month and wave of polling data. We are focused on reporting and comparing results based on the full sample of the general population—all adults—as well as samples of school parents and teachers. As mentioned above, we are polling the latter group each quarter. The sample sizes obtained for each of these groups are approximately N=2,200 for all adults, N=500 for school parents, and N=1,000 for teachers.

The State Results dashboard allows users to dig deeper into state-level results. We are maintaining a rolling cumulative average in order to produce reliable state opinion estimate on our questions. What does that mean? We simply add up the monthly state-specific samples and report the averages for the question responses. Once we hit 12 months, we will replace the last month’s state sample that is built into this average with the newest month’s state sample. So eventually we will report 12-month rolling cumulative averages for the states.

The layout of the state results pages are identical and report on the same poll questions. We are not reporting trends, however, at the state level. Cumulative state sample sizes vary widely and are proportional to a state’s adult population as percentage of the national population. We are advising caution on interpreting results for those states having cumulative samples below 100 respondents.

Our approach brings bad news and good news. The bad news is that after 12 months there will likely be a handful of states, unfortunately, for which we will not be able to report results because of their persistent low sample size. The good news is that we should eventually be able to report cumulative public opinion results for at least 45 states—based on the same questions and surveyed at the same time.

As far as we know, that is something never been done before for polling on K–12 education affairs and issues. We expect in a few weeks users will be able to download state-specific PDF files based on the most recent wave of polling. Like on the national dashboard, there will be download buttons at the top-right of the page and at the bottom of the page in the footer.

The Resource Downloads page is straightforward. This is the part of the site where we archive Morning Consult’s monthly and quarterly reports, crosstabs files, and the questionnaires. Users can really go much deeper into the results compared to the dashboards, whether by response option or by analyzing demographic subgroups. We hope this can be a useful page bookmarked by wonks, journalists and researchers. Morning Consult will upload our new files monthly.

The Methodology page provides an overview of Morning Consult’s monthly polling procedures and how we are reporting the results via online dashboards. Information about methods also are indicated in the footers for the dashboards.

For a long time EdChoice has used a “Survey Profile” to disclose key specifications and administrative outcomes of our polls. There is a Survey Profile located in the appendix of each monthly and quarterly report from Morning Consult. Such a disclosures format is  analogous to the ubiquitous Nutrition Facts label found on nearly all commercially produced food products. Reporting of our Survey Profile helps us to meet standards of the AAPOR Transparency Initiative, of which EdChoice is a charter member.

The overarching goal of this project is to conduct polling and provide online dashboards that can be useful for policymakers, policy wonks, journalists and researchers. We’re excited to see how it goes. We are planning for a couple more additional phase-ins this summer.

I will be the first to say this is going to be a work-in-progress. If you have any questions at all, or any other feedback, please feel free to contact me directly at any time: paul@edchoice.org