We speak with Holly Grant, someone who became a supporter of the school choice movement when she searched for options to for her children when the pandemic first started in spring of 2020.
Mike McShane: Hello, and welcome back to another edition of EdChoice Chats. This is Mike McShane, director of national research at EdChoice. And welcome to another monthly installment of our tracker podcast where we discuss the results of our monthly survey of Americans that we conduct in conjunction with Morning Consult. A little bit about this poll: It was in the field from October 12th to October 16th, 2021. We polled 2,200 members of the general population of the United States, which included an over-sample of school parents that… We put in an extra 700 school parents, so in total, there were over 1,100 school parents polled this month.
Now, to discuss these findings, of which there were many interesting ones, I am joined by my colleague, Drew Catt, who many of you will be familiar with from his many appearances on this and other EdChoice-branded podcasts. But we have a special guest this week, Holly Grant, who we’ve met through various EdChoice events that we’ve had, and we think that she’s a star, and it’s her time to make her debut on an EdChoice podcast. She is going to be joining us, schooling us, informing us, telling us her opinions about these things. So Holly, welcome to the podcast. And I wonder if maybe we could start with, if you could just tell us a little bit about yourself.
Holly Grant: Sure. Thanks, Mike. That’s such a nice introduction. I, like many parents in March 2020, was scrambling to find schooling options for my three children, and their private school tried to transition to virtual learning. But being a Montessori school, that wasn’t really aligned with the philosophy. So juggling a newborn and just spending a lot of time at home with my children at the time was great, but clearly not something that we could keep up forever.
So when the public schools did not reopen, but the private Montessori school did reopen, we started looking at ways to continue the private school education that we had for them and not to put them back in the public schools, and that’s when I really found EdChoice, looking at how I could stay at home with the newborn and also have them in private school while our public schools were still closed, so that led me here to you all. It’s been great getting to know everybody.
Mike McShane: Yes. Yeah, it’s been great getting to know you as well. And I would love to know a bit of your background sort of prior to March of 2020.
Holly Grant: Yeah. Sure.
Mike McShane: What were you doing? What were you up to?
Holly Grant: Life existed before then. So I was a former high school public school teacher for a high school in New Jersey. I taught mathematics. And then I got a PhD in mathematics, and I was a university professor for about two years until I went on maternity leave and then kind of a continued leave since then.
Mike McShane: So what you’re saying is that if Drew and I somehow mangle our numbers, you will be the first to call us out on it?
Holly Grant: I don’t think so. I don’t think so. I would never do such thing.
Mike McShane: Drew, consider yourself warned.
Holly Grant: I would never do anything like that. I would never do that.
Mike McShane: Well, that’s A-okay.
Holly Grant: Yeah.
Mike McShane: Well, look, let’s dive into this. So one of these questions we have been asking for months is a very simple question to school parents. Based on what you have seen, read, or heard about the coronavirus outbreak so far, how comfortable are you with your child returning to school this year? And it’s been generally a kind of… There was a downtick and then a slow kind of uptick over the months with a little bit of a dip sort of at the beginning of this school year, but we saw from October…
Again, these results are from mid-October. But from September to October, we saw, if we combine the groups that are not comfortable, so some that say that they’re not that comfortable or not at all comfortable, that was down two points from September to October, and those who said that they were comfortable was up five points.
So the spread now, 68% of parents polled said that they were comfortable with their children going back to school. 30% said that they were uncomfortable. And I would just love… You’ve been doing a lot of these events, you’re around other parents, parent activists in parent communities. Does that kind of meet the vibe that you’ve experienced, or when you look at those numbers, what do you think?
Holly Grant: Well, I mean, right away, I have a couple of questions. I think, how many of the parents had their kids in school full-time since the pandemic started?
Mike McShane: See, this is the mathematician in you.
Holly Grant: Yeah, I know.
Mike McShane: You see numbers and immediately start questioning.
Holly Grant: Questioning. No. Yeah.
Mike McShane: See, I just look at them and think of what take can come off the top of my head. So this is a poll of all parents, so this could be a mix of parents whose children are in public schools or in public charter schools, private schools, homeschooled, et cetera.
Holly Grant: Yeah. Are the don’t-knows still sending their kids to school?
Mike McShane: Very good question that I don’t know if we know the answer to.
Holly Grant: Because I mean, not that it changes much of the outcome of what the percentages are saying, but… And what’s tied to them being comfortable sending to their kids to school, is it that more vaccines are available now, is it that there are mask mandates, is it that we have other methods of mitigating the virus, is it that they don’t think the virus is a threat at all? Those are sort of my… I don’t know if I can answer your question directly.
Mike McShane: Well, I’m just wondering, just from people that you talk to.
Holly Grant: Yeah.
Mike McShane: Do you think it is some of those, or do you think when folks have said, “Oh, now the vaccines are rolling out for younger kids,” or it’s just that, I don’t know, that they say, “Oh, we don’t think that our kids are necessarily a great risk for it,” or that they think that their school is doing a good job? Yeah.
Holly Grant: Okay. So I’m thinking universally here, so in what… Particularly what?
Mike McShane: Yeah. No. You don’t have to explain American public opinion.
Holly Grant: I’ll leave that to you. Okay.
Mike McShane: Yeah.
Holly Grant: In what I’ve seen and just my personal experience, I would say that I think this is pretty accurate representation. I just worry about those that are uncomfortable sending their kids to school but are still required to-
Mike McShane: Totally.
Holly Grant: … by the state, so I am empathetic to their situation, certainly.
Mike McShane: No, totally. And I mean, that’s something that we’ve been seeing throughout the course of the pandemic, where you’ve had people on both sides of this, right? So you had families who were comfortable but were unable to send their kids to school, and then you had families who were uncomfortable but felt forced to having to send their kids to school. So obviously, this is a place of tension and conflict.
And speaking of tension and conflict, so Drew, we asked these series of questions about any number of hot-button topics in education right now, but related to coronavirus mitigation. So we’ve asked these questions about, obviously, two topics lots of people are talking about, which is masks and vaccines. And so, we’ve asked this question: Now that a vaccine is available, do you think it should be mandatory or encouraged for the following groups?
And we asked, should masking be mandatory for the following groups or should vaccines be mandatory? And we gave them the options of mandatory, encouraged but not mandatory, and neither encouraged nor mandatory. And we asked about teachers, professors, students, employees, older students, younger students. And Drew, one of the things, and I think I pointed this out on social media last week, and it seemed to me like one of the reasons that these fights have been so vicious in so many places is because when you look at the mandatory numbers for teachers, 53% of people think that masks should be mandatory and 50% think that vaccines should be mandatory.
And so obviously, the inverse of that is that 50% don’t think that vaccines should be mandatory. So we see this, just like, split down the middle on that, so two big, evenly-sized groups of people on either side of these debates. But when you look at these numbers, and they’re oddly kind of… They’re reasonably consistent, sort of what people think about masks is also what they think about vaccines, which isn’t necessarily intuitive, but maybe it is. I don’t know. I’m just kind of spinning around on these things. But Drew, when you look at all these numbers, what do you see?
Drew Catt: Thanks, Mike. I think there’s an interesting connection to the previous question as well. Having done some of the dives into why parents are saying comfortable or uncomfortable, they’re the same two things that we’re talking about right now. Parents that say they feel comfortable say they feel comfortable because of masks and vaccines. Parents that say they’re uncomfortable sending their child to school is because of mask and vaccines.
So it’s really fascinating talking about those two groups. The one group who says, “I only want my child to go to school if everyone’s being masked,” versus the other group of parents that say… And being generally broad, breaking people down into two groups when in fact we’re all very unique individuals, but the other group of parents saying, “I don’t want my kid to wear a mask and my kid’s not going to go to school if he has to wear a mask.”
So I think we’re seeing the same kind of shift in some ways when we’re talking about whether vaccines and masks should be mandatory, encouraged, or neither encouraged nor mandatory. And it’s really fascinating to think, from somebody who has dove in to the regulations, the schools have to live up to by the various states that they are in, how many various vaccinations are already required of students. And I’m really curious, and I mean, maybe we can have a talk with Morning Consult at some point.
It would be fascinating to put the COVID vaccine, but basically put all vaccines that are currently mandated by any state and the COVID vaccine and then gauge based on that, because I wonder if it’s just this vaccine specifically or vaccines in general. It’s just something that I’ve been kind of ruminating on over the last few weeks. Is it pure vaccine hesitancy or is it COVID vaccine hesitancy?
Mike McShane: No, that’s a really interesting one too. And I think that we are seeing in some of these. We do ask a question about masks and vaccines broken down by age groups, so we talk about children aged 12 and over or 12 and under based on these things, and I think mostly because that the vaccines were recently approved for 5 to 11-year-olds.
But I always wonder, because in so many school districts and places where they’ve set sort of blanket policies, it’s tough. The polling questions are tough because I think a lot of people are experiencing them, just like the baseline is whatever their district is doing. “I’m joining this call from the Republic of Ireland where they’ve had different policies over the course of the last couple years, generally working very hard to keep schools open, even if that involved clothing, other things.” But one of their big decisions that they’ve made around masks, basically around anything related to the coronavirus, is 12 years old is the magic age where if you’re older than 12, things apply to you.
So in schools, that’s where kids are wearing masks. That’s where all… If you’re in shops or whatever, that’s where people have to wear masks. But under 12, they just don’t. And so, it’s easier here because there’s only two, there’s primary schools, which is K-6, and then there’s secondary schools, which is 7 through 12. So it’s like, secondary schools have stuff that students have to do, but primary schools are basically kind of going on as normal.
And I wonder the degree to which that sort of diffused things where it was like, people were stressed out about little kids wearing masks but they didn’t necessarily care about ninth or tenth graders doing it. But because districts were setting entirely district-wide policies, you’re treating a ninth grader and a second grader the same way. Again, it’s tough because I don’t know of many counterfactuals, again, other than across country lines where there’s a lot of other stuff going on there.
And I also wonder with that, if that could have been something that would’ve changed people’s opinions if there was a little bit more. But again, it sort of ties into what we’ve been talking about on this podcast throughout this, these uniform one-size-fits-all solutions to more nuanced situations that require a little bit more fine-tuning perhaps.
But another thing, talking about something that can’t necessarily be as fine-tuned, we’ve been asking this question. We just started asking it I think two months ago, about quarantining in the percentage of parents who’ve had to quarantine their children. And so, we asked this question in the past month, “Have any of your students, any of your children had to quarantine because of a COVID-19 outbreak?” And this was a kind of interesting spread this month because amongst all parents, 26% said at least one of their children has had to quarantine in the last month, which is wild.
If you think about 25% of American school children, that’s a lot of kids taking, I think, usually two weeks for what that is. But it was much higher amongst private school parents than district school parents. So private school parents, 41% had had at least one of their children quarantined, while only 24% of district school parents. So again, Holly, I mean, I’m sort of interested. Have you been noticing these quarantines? Did they kind of roll through somewhere and then people have to figure it out, and what the impact of that’s been?
Holly Grant: Certainly. So I have four children, Mike. So quarantining for us at our school, there’s not been one two-week quarantine in the private school that my kids are in. We’ve had about… I think my daughter had three days until she was waiting a COVID test. She had symptoms and had to have a COVID test, but then once it was negative, she was allowed to go back to school.
Is that what people are considering a quarantine? Because if that’s what people are considering a quarantine, then I would say that number, 41%, it seems pretty high for the number of people that are actually quarantining. Of my four children’s classes, none of their classmates have had to quarantine. So that’s-
Mike McShane: Oh wow!
Holly Grant: That says to me that… Yeah. Seems really pretty high. Yeah.
Mike McShane: And so, what is the… Do you know what the quarantining policy is for the school? What triggers a quarantine?
Holly Grant: A positive… I mean, I guess a positive case is what you’re considering a… Like the full two-week quarantine.
Mike McShane: That’s what would trigger one at the school?
Holly Grant: Yeah.
Mike McShane: Sure.
Holly Grant: Yeah. Yeah. So that’s what, in ours, would trigger one, but I don’t even know now. The policies are changing so quickly and what is having to happen at that. I mean, they are registered with the state as an independent school, so with things changing as quickly as they do, I don’t even know if now the whole class has to quarantine. I think just the student does. So that number, 41%, seems high to me in the private school sector, but that’s only based on my experience with my four kids.
Mike McShane: Well, but I mean, as you brought up, which I think is important, it’s just like, from state to state or district to district or county to county or school to school, it could all be different. Right? So one school that says, “If there’s a positive test, every kid in the classroom has to quarantine,” or “Everyone has to wait until they’re tested before they come back,” or it’s like, only the kids in the immediate vicinity or whatever. I mean, I think lots and lots of different things have been developed over it. Yeah, for sure.
Drew Catt: Yeah. And I think it definitely varies state to state and even district to district. Here in central Indiana, I have a sister-in-law that teaches elementary school the next county south, and she’s had to completely quarantine her entire classroom twice because the district does not require masks, versus the public high school that my wife teaches at the next county north. They realized first week of school like, “Hey, if we require masks, students can be close to each other and we don’t have to quarantine them.”
So then they rolled out a mask policy, and since they have the mask policy, they don’t have to quarantine as much as they were that first week of school because the distance requirements completely change whether or not a student is masked or not and whether they have to quarantine, so even that little nuance is really fascinating. Combining what we were talking about previously with whether or not masks are required and the impact that that may or may not have on whether or not students have to quarantine is really interesting.
Holly Grant: Yeah. And Drew, I’ll jump in. That too, of the percentage of the private school parents, right? So minor in an elementary school where vaccination has not yet… I mean, just within the last two weeks has been available for students ages 5 to 11.
Drew Catt: Mm-hmm.
Holly Grant: I mean, the students that are going to private school, are they mostly younger students? Are they older students, where vaccinations have already been available? Are they not vaccinating? And now, even the definition of vaccination is changing, so I don’t know. I would add, are you double vaccinated? Do you have a single dose? It’s hard to unpack that 41% of private school parents are quarantined. I don’t know.
Mike McShane: Yes. Well, it remains to be seen, and we’re going to continue asking this question.
Holly Grant: Okay.
Mike McShane: It’ll be interesting too to look at the numbers. What’s cool about these polls that we’ve been doing, because we do it every month, we introduce new questions. And at first, we have to do a lot of this kind of grasping in the dark where we don’t know exactly what’s happening, and then over time, it starts to level out. And so, it’s interesting too because there was another… One of these questions we’ve been asking where we ask parents where their children attended school last year and then where they will be attending school this year.
And Drew, you and I were talking about this even before the podcast started, because I think of all of this month’s figures, Morning Consult put together this really interesting flowchart where you can see all the people, what they said the year before and what they said this year. And I think as far as changes goes, obviously most people stay in whatever they were doing last year. But one of the things that stands out in the chart for me this month is a big flow from homeschooling into public district schools. So while 19% of families said that they homeschooled last year, by this year, it’s down to 9%, and it looks like the bulk of that 10% went back into district schools. Is that what you saw, Drew, and can you help me make sense of that?
Drew Catt: Yeah, it’s really fascinating. I mean, just the huge bump that we saw in homeschooling this past spring, and really the shift that happened. And as we’ve talked before, Mike, there’s always the question of what do parents actually mean by homeschooling. Having schooling happen at home versus actually physically schooling them themselves with their own curriculum.
But even if you pull up from… So I went back and looked at the October 2020 report for Morning Consult. So basically from pre-COVID to COVID, it was 7% staying homeschooled, shifted to a little over 16%, so pretty close to that 19 that we have. And it seemed at that point in time that there was a sizeable shift from the public district sector to homeschooling. And yes, there was also a shift from private schools and charter schools as well.
But it seems, based on what we’re looking at here, that there’s less of the students going back from schooling at home to a public charter school or a private school, and it seems like, yes, there is the flow back to the public district schools, but the fact that we’re still seeing a significant percentage that are staying homeschooled. So I’m kind of wondering if once parents are exposed to this as an option and they see how their children are… In a lot of things that I’ve heard, a lot of students are thriving being homeschool students.
I mean, personally, I enjoyed my time being a homeschooled student and really pushed myself academically. But yeah, I’m just wondering how many parents are kind of getting the taste for the choice, seeing how their students are doing, and just sticking with it because they see that that’s what they deem to be the best fit for their student.
Mike McShane: So another question we just started asking recently was about delaying kindergarten enrollment, because we’d heard a lot about “missing students” for the last year that if you looked at public school enrollments or school enrollments in general before the coronavirus pandemic and after, there just seemed to be a couple million kids that were missing. And at least an initial explanation from lots of school districts and others was, “Oh, they’re just kindergartners. It’s people who just delayed enrolling their students.” And I don’t doubt that that’s actually a large percentage of it. I think there’s probably a bit more into that story, but it’s interesting.
So we designed… This is what’s awesome about being able to put a national poll in the field every month. We said, “All right. Cool. Let’s ask a question.” So we asked a question, “Did you delay enrollment of kindergarten for any of your children and why?” And so, we found that around 10% of school parents say that they have delayed enrollment for kindergarten for their children. Then we asked them why. The most common answer was that their child would’ve been too young for their grade, which is about 29% of respondents.
Mike McShane: But interestingly, number two was the coronavirus pandemic. About 28% of that 10% of folks who said that they’ve done it, fully a quarter, said that it was the coronavirus pandemic. And then the other ones kind of go down the line, not emotionally ready, not socially ready, et cetera. So Holly, when you look at those numbers, and I don’t know if you know folks who’ve delayed kindergarten enrollment, I know it’s obviously something a lot of parents are thinking about, so I’d just love to know your reaction to that.
Holly Grant: So I think it’s interesting because prior to the pandemic, it was never a consideration for people holding their children back in kindergarten either. This is obviously a once in a lifetime… hopefully once in a time sort of event. And so, that almost 30% of the people who had their kids back from kindergarten from going to school is the same as that their child are too young for the grade or, I mean pretty close to, they’re not emotionally ready for kindergarten.
Mike McShane: For sure.
Holly Grant: I think that it is a real consideration for why people were either… Maybe that’s what they were considering going back to the last slide. Maybe that’s why they were considering homeschooling or they’re among the group of people that were homeschooling that held them back and now are sending them to the public school for kindergarten.
Maybe that explains that flow drilled in the last statistic talking about… I don’t know if 30% of 10% is enough to change that number, but it’s a consideration that parents didn’t have prior to 2020. I think it’s where we’re in. Yeah, health. Health is obviously emerging as a reason for people keeping their kids at home.
Mike McShane: Totally. Well, speaking of another thing that sort of emerged during this, pandemic pods. So we’ve been asking this question. Obviously, we’ve been very interested in understanding pandemic pods and what’s going on in those. And once we kind of got some more information about people participating in pods, one of the things that we asked is, how much would parents be willing to spend on a monthly basis to participate in a pod? And Drew, it looks like this month, the answer is $380, which is up about 20 bucks a month from September. So when you look at that or any of the breakdowns, what do you see?
Drew Catt: Yeah. Thanks, Mike. It is really interesting. And especially with the max of 1,000 versus the minimum of zero, and that, as you said, that $20 shift. Part of it to me is what… Again, the loose definitions and kind of learning about this stuff as it happens is, what do parents think of when they think of a learning pod?
I’d talked to some parents that they thought a pod was when their student was working remotely at home on the district school stuff and they get together with other parents and all the kids did their work at one person’s house instead of working on the work at their own houses. Well, now things have shifted a little bit and you don’t have as many hybrid schedules for the district schools.
So I really do wonder how much of this is the pure learning pod of getting students together with a single teacher and having them teach them the content and curriculum, which, if you’re talking about that, 380 bucks a month is a seal compared to what you would be paying for a full private school curriculum or what the district would be paying their teachers. Well, honestly, it’s the better deal for teachers in the pods over time, if you think about it. But we’ll not get into the bureaucracies of the system right now.
Mike McShane: Yeah. Right.
Drew Catt: Yeah. I do think it’s interesting. What we see with the income breakouts, the shakeout, “Oh, you make more money. You’re willing to pay more money.” That’s something that’s fairly intuitive. But also I think some of the regional breakouts are interesting as well, just seeing the shift from the West to the Northeast, and those in the Northeast are willing to pay a little more, which that really doesn’t surprise me as much because if you look at private school costs, private schools in the Northeast are typically a little bit more than the rest of the nation, so it may honestly just shake out as any demographer may kind of hypothesize looking at it in terms of the percentages.
Holly Grant: So, Mike and Drew, when I look at this, my immediate response is, “Wow, what a bargain!”
Mike McShane: Right?
Drew Catt: Mm-hmm.
Holly Grant: And that parents are willing to put a dollar amount on the amount of money that they are willing to spend on education. And in fact, when you look at the income levels between really low-income families and really high-income families, the difference is not much.
Mike McShane: For sure.
Holly Grant: That is not a lot of money between what low-income families… The difference between what high-income and low-income families are willing to spend on education is, I mean, almost the same. That’s huge to me. $380, people put that number on their educate… This is what we’re going to spend monthly per kid, and that’s not a lot of money. What is… That’s, I mean, a homeschool… I’m not familiar with how much a homeschool curriculum costs, but I mean, in what I pay for private tuition or what people are paying for property taxes, people have put a number on it, and that to me is important to know.
Mike McShane: Sure. Yeah. 380 times… I mean, if we imagine a 12-month school year, it’s about 4,500 bucks, 4,560. Now, again, I look at that number and I think, “Well, I get that you’re willing to spend that, but you have to have someone on the other side of that who is willing to be paid that, and you have to kind of… You multiply that. You think of how many kids would have to be in a pod before it becomes worthwhile for a teacher if they’re doing it full-time.”
Yeah. So lots of things to be worked out there, but I think you’re right, Holly. It is cool and it’s been interesting to see that kind of… We’ve watched these numbers over the last couple months kind of fluctuate in different directions, and it seems like as situations in schools get more dire, that number goes up, and as things sort of level off, that number starts to go down.
Holly Grant: Yeah. Right, right.
Mike McShane: But we’ll keep watching. But look, there was another thing. So we asked this question too, and there’s federal legislation that was debated over the last few months about a variety of topics in infrastructure and all of these things. So we’ve asked both all adults in our sample, as well as school parents, how helpful do you think each of the following will be in helping students? And when we ask all adults, we say helping students; when we ask school parents, we say, “Your children,” next year following the COVID pandemic.
And interestingly, so the top of the list is… Well, it’s interesting because there’s a bit of a spread. So for parents, the big stuff is individualized learning plans, providing all students with high-speed internet, and giving all students laptops or tablets. For all adults, offering after-school tutoring is the top of the list, then the individualized learning plans, then high-speed internet, and offering counseling or mental health support.
So I’m just wondering, Holly, looking at both the national numbers and those things, do any of those stand out to you? So if you had resources of your state and district at your disposal, are there some of those things on the list that you would say, “I think this is where we should be spending money,” and other ones where you’re like, “Ah, that doesn’t seem like we’d get the bang for the buck”?
Holly Grant: Right. Right. Well, I mean, 68% of people want a customized education in terms of individualized learning plans, and they want their children to have access to computers, maybe, to be able to do that. I mean, how are you going to… I’m losing my words here because that’s shocking to me to actually see that number is large.
I mean, and the other one that stands out to me is the mental health support for students and staff. Does that mean that the schools should be where you’re getting your mental health care? And is that okay? I mean, I think-
Mike McShane: Very good question.
Holly Grant: … a lot of the schools are… A lot of children are having mental health issues because of where they are in school, learning disabilities, test anxiety, bullying. Those sorts of things are causing the mental distress. And if the place you’re going to get the care is also the place that’s causing you the problem, I can see why people would want individualized learning plans for their students, and a tablet, so they can do their work at home and not being in a place that’s-
Mike McShane: For sure.
Holly Grant: … causing them mental health. So the numbers here to me almost seem to make sense in terms of that. But to answer your second question, what do we have in place in terms of infrastructure and what we’re able to do in the schools, that’s a whole nother policy and another conversation, I think. Should the health and the care be in the same place as the instruction? Where you’re getting your instruction. That’s a different…
Mike McShane: Totally. No, absolutely.
Holly Grant: That’s a different question, I think. Do you change the school? Do you change the people at the school? I can see why it’s so complex.
Drew Catt: I think there’s also something interesting in doing that comparison between all adults and school parents. Yes. As you talked about, Holly, that huge discrepancy between all adults and school parents when it came to individualized learning plans. The other two big gaps kind of make a little more sense to me with the providing all students with high-speed internet and providing all students with laptops or tablets that the parents would have higher percentages there because the parents are the ones that are having to deal with a slow internet connection with multiple people on the same internet, and having to deal with having to let their student borrow their computer because there’s only one computer in the household.
Yeah. I do wonder if those parental experiences over the last year and a half are driving those gaps for those two. Yeah. Like you said, in pointing out the individualized learning plans that more than two out of three parents thinking that that would be extremely or very helpful, is great to hear and great to see.
Mike McShane: Yeah. So as we kind of bring this to a close, I want to close on two questions that we’ve asked. Well, I should say it’s really the same question, but we’ve split it out between two different audiences. Again, there’s been lots of debate recently in politics and in the broader society about schools and what schools should be doing and what schools should be teaching or not teaching or how it should be taught.
And so, again, when we have the opportunity to ask questions to the nation, we go ahead and do that. So rather than… I mean, listen, we’ll still develop opinions that are unmoored from facts, but at least we’ll also put the facts out there, so we’ll kind of keep the equilibrium balanced in the world. So we asked this question, what do you think should be the main purpose of education? And split out between K-8 parents and 9 through 12 parents, parents of kids in grades K-8 and parents of kids in grades 9 through 12.
And I actually thought these numbers were really interesting. So for K-8, the most popular, the one that said… We allowed people to say extremely important, very important, somewhat important, not that important, not at all important, and we sort of rank order them. And again, this is all available on the website. Morning Consult put out this lovely graph for us.
So if we take the people who said extremely important and very important, the number one answer for K-8 parents is core academic subjects, and it’s something like 87% of parents said that that is either very or extremely important. Next is to become independent thinkers, and then it sort of goes on from there. And for 9 through 12 parents, the most popular, with 86%, is skills for future employment, then to become independent thinkers, then core academic subjects.
So it’s interesting. The top three are the same in both but the orders are slightly different. And I will say that the bottom two are the same as well, with values, moral character, or religious virtues coming in second to last, and to fix social problems coming in last in both of these cases. So I’d be kind of interested in how both of you look at those numbers.
It doesn’t really surprise me the idea that in K-8, the most important thing people say is core academic subjects. I’m a little bit surprised that 9 through 12 is skills for future employment. I imagine that would be popular. I didn’t realize it would be that popular. And honestly, given all of the hubbub, I’m a little bit surprised that to fix social problems is dead last in both of them, but in both of them, it’s dead last. I mean, maybe, Drew, I’ll have you go first and then we’ll give Holly kind of the last word on this as our guest.
Drew Catt: Yeah. Thanks, Mike. It is really interesting. I’m sitting here with the PowerPoint slides going back and forth between the two to see what the differences are, and really it is. It’s a complete swap between skills for future employment and core academic subjects, with becoming independent thinkers being that second one for both top threes. Yeah. It really is fascinating when we think about what is the purpose of high school. Yeah. Especially if you think about the history of education and the K-8 classroom versus, “Okay. Let’s add on a high school now because you got to add all these skills so students can be employed and go on to college,” which I don’t mean to belittle or anything. It’s a wonderful noble thing that has happened in our country.
I wonder how much, if we also included something for the high school group about how important is it to go to college, like how that may change things if we actually added something in there specific to college or technical school or trade school or anything about continuing education beyond K-12 experience, what that may shift with things because I wonder how much is the… Less so on the core academic subjects and more the skills for future employment is also including skills for college success.
A lot of high schools now have classes specific to career and college readiness. So I wonder how much of that is already ingrained in that skills for future employment versus how much of it is… I remember in high school like, “Oh, here’s how you do an interview. Here’s how you create a résumé,” and that was meaningful and everything but I feel like the more meaningful things for me in the trajectory that I had for my life were the ones that better prepared me for college, which there again, I learned, here’s how to do an interview. Here’s how to do a résumé.
So I really want to know what that split out would be if we asked the high school parents and all adults when thinking about high school, the importance of continuing education and beyond.
Mike McShane: For sure. Absolutely. Holly, what do you think when you see those?
Holly Grant: Yeah. Drew, I had the same immediate thought that you did about what are the goals of the students who are in high school, because it seems to me a case where the goals, the alignment is off a little bit, right? If it’s saying that the high school is there to help with skills for future employment but everybody is sending their kids to college, that seems like the goals are almost not aligned there. So I would be interested too in the thoughts on higher education from that same group that says high school is for learning skills for future employment.
Are they discouraging their children from going to college? Are they not going to send them to college? If they’re going to college, why do we care about employability in high school? I can understand employability if you are in a technical school or a vocational school. Obviously, they’re thinking about the next stage of their life in terms of maybe not going or delaying college, which the demographic of the college student is certainly different now than it was a while back. There’s parents going back to school, military veterans.
The particular student in higher education has changed as well. So that, I wanted to piggyback off of Drew and say that was really surprising to me as well. But then in the kindergarten to grade eight education poll, it makes sense to me that skills for future employment are not as high as academic core subjects, but maybe not further down the line that it’s number three out of… That are there. I think skills for future employment in K-8, that one surprised… that it’s so high up there still, because thinking back to when I was in kindergarten, there was no such thing as a Bitcoin miner or a web developer or anything along those lines, so trying to imagine in the future what jobs are K-8 students are going to have.
And then also, I wanted to make one comment about, are we swapping moral character and employability? It seems to me that values, moral character, and becoming good citizens would be higher up. So what is that saying about our culture that things are not switched around a little bit? But maybe next month, it’ll be different.
Mike McShane: This is the beauty of it. You just ended this with the teaser for next month’s podcast. So for all of you waiting with bated breath for us to sort this out, you got to come back one month from now and we’ll talk about it.
Well, Holly, thank you so much for joining us today. This was wonderful. Drew, a pleasure as always. Always got to give a shout out to Jacob Vinson, our podcast producer, who’s going to make us all sound coherent. God bless him. And thanks to everybody who is listening, and I look forward to chatting with all of you again on another edition of EdChoice Chats.