Ep. 333: Monthly Tracker – June 2022

July 14, 2022

June edition of the Monthly Tracker Podcast.

Mike McShane: Hello, and welcome back to another edition of EdChoice Chats. This is Mike McShane, director of national research at EdChoice, and it is time for our monthly installment of the Ed Choice Tracker podcast. For those of you that may be unfamiliar, every month we in partnership with Morning Consult poll a nationally representative sample of Americans about a battery of education questions. We also over-sample parents to get a really good idea of what American parents are thinking about. And this month we’ll be talking about our poll that was in the field from June 15th to June 21st. Now it’s a really interesting time to be asking these questions as it’s sort of end of the 2021-2022 school year. We have the opportunity to ask parents and citizens in general, but particularly parents to look back on this school year and think about how their children progressed and what they think about the American education system writ large. And for those of you that have been listening to this podcast, you realize that we’ve been asking lots of questions about the coronavirus. Well, thankfully the coronavirus is less salient in all of our lives and less salient in American education, and as a result, that’s allowed us some space. We’re going to be cycling off most of those questions and hopefully, hopefully, hopefully, hopefully never cycling them back on. But as we cycle those off, we’ll be able to ask more questions about current events. And as different things happen in schools and states around the country, we’ll really have this opportunity, even if it’s every month, we might leave the questions in the field for a month or two to get some numbers, to really get a pulse of what Americans think about salient education issues. Now, it’s terrible that the salient education issue that we’re going to be talking about this month is school violence and school shootings. Obviously on May 24th, no one needs to be told this, there was a horrific school shooting in Uvalde, Texas. This was the first time we’d had a poll in the field since that terrible incident happened. And because we were cycling off some of the coronavirus questions, we had space to ask questions to parents and actually to some teachers as well, about what they think about school safety, school shootings, and others. And we’ll get to that in a little bit, but let’s go ahead and start, and I should say I’m joined by my colleagues, John Kristof, and Colyn Ritter. Many of you will be familiar at this point, but why don’t we start. John, I’ll throw the first thing off to you, and again, everyone can see this at EdChoice.morningconsultintelligence.com. This is where we put all of the results of these things. We’re just going to do the kind of movie trailer version of all of the findings, but everything in all of their details are available on the website there. But John, I’ll throw the first question to you. So again, it’s the end of the 2021-2022 school year. We asked school parents, how do you feel your child or children progressed in the last school year? We asked them to rate it on academic learning, emotional development, and social development. And we broke it down all school parents in general, but also homeschool, private school and district school parents. When you look at those numbers, what do you see?

John Kristof: Well, the first thing that I noticed with these numbers is that they’re much higher this month than we’ve been used to seeing. So it’s a question that we’ve asked a number of times since we began the monthly opinion tracker. And the percentage of parents who feel like their children are progressing very well, academically, emotionally, and socially, have tended to hover in the 20s to 30s, as far as percentages go. And this month, the school year’s pretty much over at the time that this survey was in the field, or certainly in its final days. And this is the first time that we have seen in any of these categories a majority of parents saying that their children have been progressing very well academically. It’s 51% of school parents. As a reference point, in the month prior, so when we ran the survey earlier in May, that number was 38%. So that’s a 13 point jump from toward the end of the school year to at the end of the school year, which is really important to like pay attention to. And this is something that we’re going to have to watch again in the future, emotional development saw a 12 point jump, social development saw a 12 point jump, which is very sizable compared to all other changes that we have seen in this question over time. So I don’t know if it’s at the end of the year and parents feel that their children are just where they need to be at, and they’re less concerned about progress or there’s some level of school exhaustion and ready for summer and just kind of taking what is, and being satisfied with that. We have seen jumps from May to June before, nothing like this, but we have seen a jump before. It could be just more extreme this year, maybe with current events going on that increased the odds of parents saying, “Hey, my kid is safe,” and just kind being okay with that. It’s something that we’re definitely have to pay attention to going forward because double digit jumps in feeling that your children are progressing very well academically, emotionally, and socially as a pretty big development.

Mike McShane: Yeah. It’s almost, again, I think you’re right to caution if these numbers hold, will continue. Sometimes when you do enough of these polls, sometimes a month is an outlier, something that happens. If it’s true that these numbers are where they are, I almost interpret it as just like a massive sigh of relief of American school parents, right? Where clearly they’ve been on tender hooks for years now, even after the coronavirus wasn’t as salient, but schools were still closing temporarily, kids were having to isolate, kids were testing. I mean, there was all of that stuff. And so I could imagine parents just being at any moment, their kid could be taken out of school, their teacher could be gone, or something would be canceled. And so by the time the school year actually finishes and they can take that step back and take that break and look back on it, say, “Oh, maybe it wasn’t as bad as we thought it was going to be,” or, “It was bad, but it’s over,” any of those sorts of things. But maybe this is a collective sigh of relief. But I think you’re wise to say, we’ll look to next month. But Colyn, what’s interesting, we did some of these breakdowns here and the pattern stuck to what we’ve seen before. Around academic learning, homeschool families thought, I think 65% of them said that in the past school year, it had gone very well, while only 46% of district school students, that was academic learning. For emotional development, private schools led the way at 59%. Under social development, homeschool and private school led at 54% and 53% respectively. But we also asked this question, to what extent are you satisfied or dissatisfied with your child or children’s experiences in the following types of schooling? So this is a question of school parents, private school, homeschool, public charter school and district school. And one of the things that we see, and so this is a global question, this wasn’t about the past year, but in general, but we see pretty high levels of satisfaction across all of those areas. So maybe it does make sense, maybe folks, they’re positive about what’s going on. They think academic learning, emotional development, and social development’s happening, and that’s why they’re satisfied with their schools. But when you look at those satisfaction numbers, what do you see?

Colyn Ritter: Yeah. Thanks, Mike. I agree with you. I think these two questions, they’re woven together very well. One note on the prior slide about children progressing, the biggest knock on homeschooling typically is the lack of social development for the child. And to see homeschooling parents lead the way with 54% saying they feel their child is progressed very well socially, I think that’s good to see. But to what you’re talking about with the satisfied/dissatisfied with their type of school, it makes sense that the past slide, the progression has increased because we’re seeing levels, private school parents are 95% satisfied, homeschool, charter school parents 92%. And even district school, which typically lags behind the prior three is even at four and five parents, 80% of parents say that they’re satisfied with their school. So it is good. I guess the only thing you can really… I mean, private school is at 95%. So like how much further could it go? The thing that I like to look at is the very satisfied measure. So they’re somewhat and very satisfied and we total that. That’s where we get the 95% satisfied with private school parents, but 65%, nearly two-thirds of private school parents are very satisfied. Homeschooling is nearly at 60%. The one surprising one is district school parents is lagging behind in terms of being very satisfied. Only 40% of parents are very satisfied. That’s the really only distinction you can make between total satisfaction and being very satisfied, but it’s good to see, and it’s good to see that is being applied in the progression of their child as well. If the parent is very satisfied with their school, you would think that would apply to the progression of the child as well. So if I had to guess, I would think that the levels that we’re seeing in terms of child progression would stay relatively high, or at least similar to what we’re seeing this month. But yeah, it’s always good to see the least satisfied parent group is still 80% satisfied.

Mike McShane: Yeah, no for sure. And I’m glad you brought up the kind of intensity gap because that’s where it sort of shows up, that percentage of very satisfied versus others, which I think is true. But I also think just sort of as you were talking there and I had a second to sort of think about it, another thing it could be is whenever you ask these questions about how satisfied someone is or if you think about progression, ultimately a lot of these kind of come down to like, well, compared to what question, right? So it could be maybe when we think about how did your student progress this academic year, they’re comparing it to the year before, the year before.

Colyn Ritter: Absolutely.

Mike McShane: Where it was like, “Hey, two years ago was miserable and this year was better, so I’m more satisfied.” So where that baseline comes from could actually matter and change what people are thinking about it.

Colyn Ritter: Yeah. That’s a really good point.

John Kristof: Makes sense to me.

Colyn Ritter: Yeah. Because we’re not asking how parents were satisfied with their school this year. This is like you said, it’s a global thing, so that’s a good point to make.

Mike McShane: Yeah. Speaking of the sort of trajectory, we also ask a question of parents to look forward. We ask, do you feel things in K12 education are generally going in the right direction, or do you feel things have gotten off the wrong track? So right track, wrong track, classic survey question. John, so if we look at all school parents, 55% think that their local district is headed in the right direction, 46% think their state is headed in the right direction, and 38% think it’s happening nationwide. There’s a pretty serious gap between parents and non-parents. So if we think in the local school district, total school parents, 55% think it’s in the right direction, only 29% of non-parents think it’s headed that way. When you look at these numbers, what do you see?

John Kristof: You pointed out the number that jumps out to me the most, which is the gap between parents and non-parents, and that gap is always there. A way that I’ve explained it before is we tend to see that you are more positive about K-12 education the closer you are to it. So that goes for if you are a parent with kids in school, you tend to be more positive about K-12 education. If you’re talking about something at the local level, you tend to be more positive about it than at the state or national level. It’s kind of the classic thing in political science and polling that people say where you hate Congress, but you like your congressman. You can be pessimistic about schooling and where it’s going in the country, but you can kind of like your local area. So it’s a general trend that kind of exists in how people perceive K-12 education. But the gap this month was just particularly strong. There’s a 24 point gap between parents and non-parents. And I haven’t done my homework to see how that ranks among gaps that we’ve seen before, but it’s certainly particularly sizable. But also along those lines of being more positive about your local area versus in other areas, it’s important to note that when it comes to the local school district, there actually was an increase in parents who feel like K12 education is going in the right direction, but holding or slightly declining.

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John Kristof: … but holding or slightly declining state and national level. So that can again speak to maybe two things at once. One, if we’re using Mike’s metaphor of parents breathing a sigh of relief that we have completed a year of education with slightly less chaos than the last couple years being positive about education in the local area and feeling like it’s doing well, but as education also takes a spotlight in some very divisive political areas on broader levels, entering a national conversation, maybe taking part in state primary elections and talks and things like that. Maybe if there’s more negativity about K12 education, more as like a political talking point just because of the spotlight that it’s been having now. So that’s an important thing to keep in mind when you’re thinking about education and parents and education is we can view a service like this in a couple different lights, both how it impacts us, but then also how we think it’s impacting our broader communities as well.

Mike McShane: For sure. So Colin, another one of these numbers that we’ve been tracking for a very long time since the very beginning of the pandemic is about homeschooling. I think this has consistently been one of these things that has been surprising to all of us or at least surprises at the beginning, and then all these months later, we understand it’s par for the course, but we saw this uptick this month. So we asked a question, how have your opinions on homeschooling changed as a result of the coronavirus? Things had roughly leveled out till this last month we saw this uptick. We were talking earlier about intensity, but folks saying they were much more favorable. We saw one of the biggest jumps that we’ve seen in a while. I think five percentage points went from 26% to 31%. We saw a little uptick from those saying they’re somewhat more favorable and actually a little bit of an uptick from folks saying that they were less favorable as well. I don’t know whether people are polarizing in their opinions, but in total, the total more favorable in June of 2022, total more favorable 64% are more favorable to homeschool results of the pandemic, only 26% are less favorable. You would think at the end of the school year, the homeschooling number wouldn’t necessarily go up, but it did. I don’t know. What do you make of that?

Colyn Ritter: It’s interesting. We saw from April to May a decent drop from the intensity of like we talked about in terms of strong favorability and then somewhat more favorable. We saw a drop from April to May, so I was really curious what would happen May to June and we got that jump back up. So to your point, Mike, it might be leveling out a certain extent. It’s not going to hit the 43% strong favorability that we saw in 2020. That was pretty crazy, I think it speaks what we talked about earlier with the children, how they’re progressing and granted, like we talked about, it could just be from a COVID year to a less COVID year, but academic learning is the biggest pro in terms of what parents speak to for homeschooling and that jumped big time, social development even hung in there and that was the majority that hit over 50%. Homeschooling parents are speaking well about it. Homeschooling numbers are continuing to rise back up to around two thirds of parents are favorable compared to less favorable. I hope it isn’t getting polarized. Like you said, it’s the jump from people are much less favorable. There was a little bit of a jump there, but I think it’ll continue to level out and we’ll see in terms of when we get closer to the actual school year where these numbers go, but it was nice absolutely to see that increase of strong capability because I’m a big fan of homeschooling, I think it absolutely can fit more families than what they would expect and they might have gotten a glimpse of it during COVID, but we’ll see where it goes in terms of August, September time.

Mike McShane: Sure.

Colyn Ritter: But it’s good to see that jump back up.

Mike McShane: No, absolutely. I think your point that this all could just be reverting to the mean is also valid one. I’m glad you brought that up because speaking of reverting to the mean, or perhaps never really deviating from the mean, in some ways I would ask John or Colin to talk about the next topic, but I may just do it very quickly because we’ve been asking these questions every month about a variety of school choice policies. Education savings accounts, school vouchers, charter schools. We’ve been asking these questions since the beginning, and more recently we added open enrollment and I can tell you, the numbers are pretty stable. We really don’t see from month to month, more than a point or two in any direction, and the changes from May to June were basically the same. Education savings accounts, when you give folks a description of what it is, 69% of people support it. It’s a two point difference from May, but I think if we go back far enough, you’re up two, you’re down two, you’re up two, you’re down two, this is basically the number that we’ve settled on. School vouchers, there was no change from May, 62% support. Charter schools, one point change from May, it’s up one point, 64% open enrollment, no change from may 67%. So as much as I would like to watch John twist to try and have some explanation of why there was two points for ESAs but zero points for others, I think the answer to this is that we’ve basically after asking this question long enough, we’ve come to what the numbers are and barring something big happening in any of these areas, this is what people think about them. So as steady as that has been, we have to pivot here to think about, as I mentioned to the beginning, we’ve had this opportunity to add new questions as we’ve rolled off coronavirus questions, we can roll on new questions about things that are happening in schools, and just to reiterate, it’s terrible that what was probably most salient in education for this month was the horrific school shooting in Uvalde. It’s always a weird thing to be in the polling business. That we ask topics about what’s going on in the world even when what’s going on in the world is terrible. It would be much if the questions that we got to ask were about all of the wonderful things that are happening, but unfortunately, horrific things like this happen, and I think everyone can feel powerless or feel distraught when things like this happen. What we at EdChoice have always thought about across all of the work that we do is we think that the work that we are doing, whether it’s the advocacy work that we’re doing, whether it’s the research that we’re doing is trying to shine some light in a world that can be quite dark at times. So what we want to do with these polling questions was just understand what was going on, understand how parents felt, understand how teachers felt, understand how the broader population felt about these issues. Obviously, we are A, a school choice organization and B an educational organization. So we take no stand on any of the stuff that we’re about to talk to you about. I’d imagine John and Colin and I all potentially have opinions about what should be done about these things, that’s not what we’re talking about. The point of what we’re trying to do here is just understand what people think about these various policies, understand what’s going on in schools and what people feel about it. So that’s what we’re going to do, and it’s terrible, and I wish we didn’t have to do it, but we are going to press on and we’re going to try and give some information that I hope will be useful. It might be useful for people that are in school districts, trying to understand what policies to use. It might be useful to state or federal policy makers or others at least understand how people feel, what people think about these various things. But all of that having been said, one of the first questions we asked and we asked this of school parents as well as teachers. So the sample for this was a little bit different than some of the questions that we’ve done earlier. The parents were surveyed from June 15th to June 21st, so I think we’re looking about three weeks, four weeks after the shooting and the teachers were polled between June 15th and June 25th. So we went a little bit further after that, but roughly in the same timeframe that we’re talking about. We asked parents how do you feel your child’s school addresses the following amongst its students? We asked teachers, how do you feel, or how well do you feel your school addresses the following amongst its students? So we brought up mental health. We asked guns, we asked bullying and we asked generally violent behaviors. The numbers that we have on the slideshow to present was the folks who said that this is handled well. This is the combination of the numbers of folks who said that the school handles this extremely well or very well. For mental health issues 51% of school parents said that their school handles it well, 33% of teachers did. With respect to guns 48% of school parents said they handled it well, 36% of teachers did. With respect to bullying 48% of parents said that they handled it well, 34% of teachers did. With violent behaviors, 47% of parents said that they were handled well, 32% of teachers did. John, when you look at those numbers, obviously I think the discrepancy starts to stand out. But when you look at them, what do you see?

John Kristof: Well, obviously the thing that jumps out the most is the disparity between parents and teachers. When we’re surveying both parents and teachers on this question and on a question of how safe are schools for the kids and then also teachers, you have to wonder whether there are patterns or discrepancies, some disconnect between what parents are perceiving and what teachers are perceiving. On this question, it appears to be that there is some disconnect. It’s about 50/50, whether parents feel like their schools are handling these things well, but only about a third of teachers feel the same. The fact that these numbers are pretty consistent across the board, I think is also pretty interesting. It’s not necessarily readily apparent how school’s investment services for kids may also reflect what schools say or how seriously they take the threat of a gun being in their school, being because mental health may require certain types of professionalism and a certain type of activity and keeping weapons out of the school may require something else. But there seems to be some pattern where if a parent or a teacher feels like their school’s handling one thing, well, they’re probably handling other things well. So that might be worth diving into a little bit more. I think that’s interesting. I’m not quite sure what’s going on there. I guess what I’m getting at is, I think it’s a law that in most, if not all places, I’m not super familiar with that, that guns should not be on school property. So the question is how well is that taken care of and enforced? Whereas there’s relatively limited law in what you need to provide as far as mental health goes. But the fact that schools are perceived to be handling one or the other to the same degree, more pessimistic among teachers than parents I just think is an interesting trend. One thing that’s important to realize too, after diving into similarities there is noting discrepancies among the demographics that you can see if you look into the cross tabs on our website, edchoice.morningconsultintelligence.com. Maybe few people would be surprised that private school parents tend to be the most positive about their school’s handling on each of these issues, closer to like three fifth, two thirds of parents feel like their schools are handling mental health, guns, bullying, violent behaviors well. Additionally, fathers responding to the survey and Republicans tend to feel like their schools are handling guns, bullying, and violent behaviors well. Urban Democrats also fathers feel like their schools are handling mental health well. So there may be a partisan divide there a little bit, and I don’t know if that’s a little bit of a projection of what different kinds of people want to see from their schools and so…

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John Kristof: … of what different kinds of people want to see from their schools. And so they pay more attention to what’s there, or have bigger thoughts on what they want to see from their schools there. But the cross tabs and [inaudible 00:24:11] here, I think, is super important. The fact that 68% of private school parents feel like mental health is being handled well, compared to just 22% of special education parents, I think is worth diving into. So the gaps are massive depending on who exactly you ask. And depending on who you particularly want to listen to, I think can definitely affect what we should do with these numbers. If mental health in these very extreme cases, maybe listening to voices of special education parents, who are most pessimistic about their schools handling mental health issues. Well, maybe paying extra attention to their voices and listening what you can provide for special education kids, maybe that can be an investment for the wellbeing of all kids. Obviously special education kids are a diverse set unto themselves. But there’s a lot of food for thought when you-

Mike McShane: Sure.

John Kristof: Cross tabs and see the discrepancies just even among different kinds of parents and teachers.

Mike McShane: Well, and there’s this interesting one because in the next question too. So this was this question where we asked these general things, mental health, guns, bullying, violent behavior, how well schools handle it. And as John said, there’s this big discrepancy between parents and teachers. And teachers were much more pessimistic about how their schools handled stuff. But then we asked a question, “based on your observations, how likely is it that there could be gun violence at a local school in your community in the next year?” And interestingly, we almost saw, well, I mean we did, we see a kind of flip. Where we asked all adults, we asked school parents and we asked teachers. And we said, “you could go anywhere from extremely likely to very likely to somewhat likely, not that likely and not at all likely.” And if you just take the extremely’s and very’s and put them together on the likeliness, adults are the most pessimistic on this, 26% of adults think that it’s either extremely or very likely that there will be gun violence at a school in their community. School parents, it’s only 23% and teachers it’s only 16%. So that’s the thing I’m trying to kind of square in my mind. And Colin, I don’t know if you can help me on that or if you looked into the cross tabs or any of this sort of stuff. Where, in the previous sort of survey question, teachers are much more pessimistic. They’re worried about guns. They’re worried about mental health. They’re worried about bullying. They’re worried about violence. But when the sort of rubber meets the road and you ask the question, “do you think something is going to happen?” Teachers were the least likely to say that. Which doesn’t really make sense to me. I don’t know how to make sense of that. I don’t know if they make sense to you. I guess all I can say is, they don’t make sense to me.

Colyn Ritter: Yeah. I mean, first off I want to say, Mike, the way you painted this discussion was really well put. We at [inaudible 00:26:56] pride [inaudible 00:26:57] being light and not engaging in partisan language, or we don’t take sides. And this is such a tragic event that when stuff like this happens, people are very upset, rightfully so. And there’s a lot of tension in the air and there’s a lot of solutions thrown about. And it’s just a very terrible discussion to have to have. But it is nice to be able to talk about it in a objective way. And we get to hear from the people on the ground, the teachers, the parents, and then just the general population as well. So if we are to have a discussion like this, this is the preferred way. And so I appreciate the way you set this up. But to your question about this particular question about, if there could be gun violence at a local school in your community in the next school year, it doesn’t make sense to me. A couple things that jumped off the page. If you had told me that one in six teachers thought that it was likely that there would be gun violence at their school, I mean, that’s just horrible.

Mike McShane: That’s a very good point. I mean, that’s a lot. If we think there’s-

Colyn Ritter: It’s a lot.

Mike McShane: 3.4 million teachers in America, that’s a lot.

Colyn Ritter: Yeah. That’s unbelievable. So I mean, that in and of itself is terrible. One in four school parents think it’s likely. Adults, nearly three in 10. It’s very morbid. Hopefully, like you said, we’ve talked about it today. The further you are from education, from the schools and everything, the less informed you are. So hopefully this is correct and that teacher are the least likely of the three to think that gun violence is likely. Granted, it’s still a lot of teachers. It’s a lot. And John and I talked about this yesterday and this might be something that we can think about. But I wonder if the numbers would be different if you change the wording to mass shooter versus gun violence, because there is a distinction to be made. I would be shocked if one in four parents thought there’s a potential of a mass shooter at their school in the next year. Gun violence is a little bit different. It’s a little bit more broad. And now we’re just nitpicking. But that’s what I thought. Because I don’t really understand these numbers, like you said, Mike. But that’s one distinction I’m curious about, if we were to change the [inaudible 00:28:58] mass shooter, would the numbers drop? Hopefully. I don’t know. It’s [inaudible 00:29:01].

Mike McShane: Yeah, no, that’s a good one. Well, because it’s actually, I’m glad you brought that up, because we did sort of do a version of that. We asked this question, it’s interesting because we poll so many people [inaudible 00:29:11]. Sorry for folks if we’re doing a little bit of polling inside baseball here. But because our sample is so large, we can actually do some experiments where we give half of our sample questions worded one way… About the same topic, we’ll word one question slightly differently to try and think if the wording of the question itself might have altered the outcome. It helps us sort of optimize our questions and understand what’s going on there. So we did ask this question, and it was phrased in two different ways. So the basic question was, “how concerned are you about a violent intruder, like a mass shooter, entering your child’s school?” We also asked a version of the question where we asked parents to think from their child’s perspective. So, “how concerned is your child about a violent intruder?” To try and see if there was a difference between children and parents. And then we phrased the question slightly differently, naming Uvalde. So we said, “As a result of the recent mass shootings that occurred at a school in Uvalde, Texas, how concerned are you about a violent intruder, mass shooter entering your child’s school?” And in this case, at least when we asked parents without mentioning Uvalde, 42% said that they were worried. Now, again, it’s different than the previous question. That we didn’t say, “do we think it’s likely.” Sort of, as Colin said. I would certainly hope that 42% of parents don’t think that such a thing is likely. But they said, whether they’re extremely or very concerned, 42% of parents in the question that doesn’t mention Uvalde, said that they are concerned about a mass shooter entering their child’s school. When Uvalde was mentioned, it jumped up to 50%. So half of parents were concerned about a mass shooter. So John, I mean, I don’t know exactly what to do with these numbers. I mean, if people feel that about that, you can’t tell them not to. I mean, we can be very, very thankful that 50% of American schools have not seen a mass shooting and that these mass shootings are actually, blessedly, very, very, very rare when you think that there’s a hundred thousand public schools in America and 55 million school children and 3.4 million teachers, and we get our arms around the kind of scale and scope of the American education system. But it’s wild to see how even very rare events, when they are so horrific, can capture people’s minds like this. 50% of parents when Uvalde mentioned are concerned that it could happen in their child’s school. Even when you don’t mention it, 42% feel that way. I mean, what do we do with that, John? Like, when you look at that, I mean, I just think of it from the perspective, if you’re a teacher, if you’re a school administrator, if you’re those and that is the mood of the parents in your school community, it’s rough. I mean, that’s terrible. It’s a terrifying thing to be concerned about. And lots and lots of people are concerned about it.

John Kristof: I mean, it definitely is. And I don’t envy the responsibility and decisions that school administrators are facing in this era, post-Uvalde. Mentioning Uvalde, I guess it shouldn’t be too surprising that it increases the chances that parents are concerned, because it’s just another reminder of just a very concrete example that shows you, even if it’s rare, it is possible. And I think there is something to the helplessness that you feel as a parent. And I say this as a non-parent, so caveat, but I read testimonies of parents of children at Robb Elementary School when they learned that there was an active shooter situation. I read about the mother who left work, drove 40 minutes to come to the school and then herself kind of got her kids. And all the other parents who had to go through that experience, the sense of helplessness that you feel to help and protect your own child. There’s a sense of, “I entrusted the safety of my children to this institution and this institution was not a safe place for my child.” And you’re kind of leaving it up to fate as to whether your child’s going to leave that situation alive or not. I think, I don’t want to say that these are the same thing, because they’re not. But famously, flying is one of the safest ways to travel. And yet, fear of death from a plane crash is like really high up the charts of things that people fear. And I’ve always interpreted that as, it’s the particular type of threat that a plane crash has when it does happen. And you don’t need a lot of examples in your life to tell you that a threat is technically possible and the consequences are outside of your control and very tragic. And I think that’s the kind of scar that Uvalde’s going to leave, is just a very tragic, real picture that this stuff is possible. And I think it is going to take a lot of humility and sensitivity from school leaders and political leaders from across the country to recognize that taking responsibility for someone else’s kids is a really big deal. And I don’t have the answers. I know a lot of us don’t have the answers, and that’s why this conversation is so hard and ongoing and why these things still happen. But yeah, the fact that it is concrete and it can happen-

Mike McShane: Yeah.

John Kristof: Itself.

Mike McShane: For sure.

John Kristof: Is cause for major concern.

Colyn Ritter: Can I say something, Mike?

Mike McShane: Yeah, for sure.

Colyn Ritter: I’m a bit surprised, honestly, that from the parent point of view, that the concern isn’t higher. I mean, like we measured likeliness in the previous question. Now we’re talking concern. Especially with the way, just the sad reality, the frequency at which this is happening. I mean, it shouldn’t happen ever, but the fact that it is happening and to the frequency it is happening. I’m just a bit surprised that the concern isn’t a little higher from parents. Because concern can mean anything, and asking likeliness, that’s getting a little bit more into specific [inaudible 00:35:03].

Mike McShane: Yeah. Concern is almost like a no cost.

Colyn Ritter: Yeah.

Mike McShane: Like, “are you concerned?” Whereas likely, you’re putting a chip down to say whether something’s going to happen.

Colyn Ritter: Exactly. I’d love to [inaudible 00:35:13] to the people who aren’t concerned and hear why. And maybe they can convert me. But if I were a parent, I would be one of the 50, I would be on that side for sure.

Mike McShane: Sure. So now, John, we mentioned, we talked about people feeling powerless and what to do. Again, this really isn’t our lane, of solving gun violence in schools. But what we tried to do was put together what we saw as, at least in the kind of immediate aftermath. And again, we had to write these questions in the week or two after the event, in order to get them tested and in the field and time and everything. So at least at that time, what we tried to do was look at what folks, and again, this is sort of at the state level, federal level, across the political spectrum. What folks were saying should be done as a result of these events, and then just asking people what they think about them. So we asked this question, “which of the following policies would you support to try…”

PART 3 OF 4 ENDS [00:36:04]

Mike McShane: This question, which of the following policies would you support to try and reduce the possibility of school shootings? And again, we asked this of school parents, of teachers, and of non-parents. So we asked things like investing in mental health programs for teenagers, raising the age to purchase guns to 21, banning assault weapons, passing laws that allow the police to take guns from those exhibiting troubling behavior, stationing armed security guards at every school, redesigning schools to only have one entry and one exit point. And interestingly, Colin, I’m interested in your thoughts here, it seems like in almost all of these cases, teachers were more likely to advocate for these solutions. But interestingly, in almost all of the cases, parents, well, it depended on what they were, but it seemed like parents were less likely to advocate for them, versus the general public. So while, just as an example of passing laws that allow the police to take guns from those exhibiting troubling behavior, 61% of teachers supported that, 48% of all adults, 49% of non-parents, but only 46% of parents did. And that’s the same in banning assault weapons, 58% of teachers, 52% of non-parents, but only 44% of school parents. Again, maybe these are just my assumptions. I had certain assumptions that school parents, given what we had just seen about concern and others, that school parents, if they’re concerned about these things happening, they would be more interested in these various measures, but that doesn’t necessarily appear to be the case. Have you dug into these? What do you see in here?

Colyn Ritter: Yeah, there’s a ton to unpack. First, I feel for any firefighter listening, who heard redesigning schools to have one entry and one exit point. I’m with you there. I’m glad that’s not one of the highest selected ones, because I know we’re not really throwing a ton of opinions in there, but I will throw this one, I think that’s a terrible idea. But it’s good to see teachers, who are the closest to this, even closer than parents, one could argue that they’re the most willing to throw out their opinion on this. It is also good to see that there’s high level support, mostly across the board, when looking at some sort of gun control legislation or just some sort of measure to increase gun control, like raising the age of purchasing guns to 21, banning assault, weapons. Those all have more than 50% support from teachers. Investing in mental health programs for teenagers. Obviously, more than 80% of teachers agree with that. And that is the most popular among the general population, as well as non-parents, and actually, school parents. That’s the most popular one, by far. I think that’s the bare minimum, but there’s a lot going on. We did do this the week of, so it’s not like these are perfect. Nothing’s a perfect solution, obviously. But I’m curious at why parents are a little bit more non-committal when asked, compared to teachers. You would think that there would be less of a gap. But that’s probably one of my biggest takeaways from this, other than the fact that we’re seeing a good amount of support from teachers towards gun control measures. Because I think ultimately, teachers are going to be the profession that… A lot of solutions involve teachers in some way or another. And I’m worried about the profession as a whole, because of this, because of these events. And it’s good to see that they are unafraid to share their opinion on this.

Mike McShane: Well, speaking of teachers and guns, we asked a question. Do you support or oppose your school district allowing teachers or administrators to carry a firearm or a gun in school? And because we were also polling teachers, we had the opportunity to ask the flip side of the question, which is of teachers. If your school district allowed you to carry a firearm, would you? I have to say I was absolutely fascinated by the answers to this question. If you ask all adults, and we put that together, where we say strongly support or somewhat support as the support thing, 45% of all adults say that teachers should be able to carry guns in school, 45%. When it goes to school parents, it jumps up to 60%. 60% of school parents said that they support that. When you ask teachers though, would you want to do this? 21% of teachers say that they actually would. So John, I’ll put my cards on the table. I was really surprised by that. I thought that adults would be more likely than parents would on that one. I thought parents, the number would be lower. So that’s the first thing. In the second one, I had no idea what to think about the percentage of teachers that thought this. So I actually don’t know. I came in as a blank slate, and I don’t know if 21% is low or high, based on what the other numbers that we’ve seen here. So, John, when you look at this, well obviously, there’s a disconnect, where it seems like a lot more people want teachers to carry guns than there are teachers who want to carry guns. But even all of these spreads in different numbers, what do you see?

John Kristof: The discrepancy here is particularly notable. If you want to include this question among all of the questions that we ask to parents about policies they would support or not, this idea of allowing teachers and administrators to carry firearms in school is school parents’ favorite policy idea of the 10 that we’ve asked, the nine that we’ve asked, with the second most favorite being investing further in mental health programs, at 54%. So it’s parent’s favorite idea by a not insignificant margin, which is just interesting to note. I feel like it’s also important to remember that, going back to the conversation a few minutes ago, parents were more likely than teachers to feel that their schools were investing in things like mental health sufficiently, well or very well. So maybe for a lot of parents, something like, if we put more resources into it, then it’ll be better. And parents, maybe not in the classroom, not in the schools, need some convincing as to what further investment in the same thing would do to prevent these kinds of things from happening again. Whereas a policy idea, like your child’s teachers carrying a firearm in the classroom, is a very concrete idea. And pros and cons altogether probably would change some outcomes in some areas, and both in an active shooter situation and possibly elsewhere. And the active shooter possibility is very present on a lot of parents’ minds right now. This is another one of those questions, a long standing question in polling is, how long does a sentiment last after a tragedy? 21% of teachers saying that they would carry a firearm, I don’t know if that’s low or high. As you might expect, if you go into the demographic breakouts, you look at cross tabs, the teachers who are most likely to say, “yes,” within the top five are male, not surprising, just given public opinion about gun policy, in general, private school teachers, and Republicans was the number two indicator of carrying a firearm, if allowed. But even that was just 33%. So if I should back up here, my first thought was we have a lot of indicators from our surveys of teachers before, and there’s been some other polling work on this, that teachers can be more likely to identify as Democrat than the general population. And within a basket of policies, you may be, therefore, more likely to have certain opinions on gun control measures. Even if a teacher identifies as Republican, only 33% of that group said that they would carry a firearm, if allowed. And I think that’s important to recognize for parents who identify as Republicans, because again, also, as you might expect, Republican parents were more likely than a lot of other breakouts of parents to support these kinds of measures, depending on how you slice it. 75% of parents indicated that they would support this policy, if they were Republican. So if you imagine yourself in a red area, where people identify as Republican, you have parents very strongly advocating this one policy and feeling like this is the best solution. Whereas the teachers who align with the same political beliefs don’t feel like it’s a great solution. And these dialogues are happening in the political space, in the political sphere, where things can get lost in translation. So I feel like there’s something worth noting here, that if you are a policy maker, if you are administrator in these situations, who tend to agree on things, have some disagreement here, between the parents who have expectations for what the schools can provide, and what the education providers themselves, the teachers, feel like is actually going to work. And I feel like there’s a dialogue that can happen here locally, that can be much more sensitive than maybe on what happens through the TV screen and on the internet. And we could spend a lot of time just on this question alone, but those were some trends that I saw.

Mike McShane: Yes. But I think we’re going to call it there, gents. Again, difficult stuff to talk about. There’s no easy way to do it. And I think at least a couple of these questions, we are going to keep in, when discussions about this… Right now, we’re recording at the beginning of July here. We’re probably not going to keep all of them, but definitely some of these that we’re interested in the trends. So we will continue to report on those, continue to talk about them. But John, Colin, as always, it was great to talk with you about these things, and try and parse these numbers, and figure out what’s going on. I look forward to chatting with both of you again next month. And to our dear listeners, I look forward to chatting with you next month, and any other podcast in between. Thanks so much for listening. Thank you to Jacob Vincent, who is going to edit this, and try and make us make sense. We had to do some stopping and starting on this one, but thank you to Jason for all of your great work. And please remember to subscribe to this podcast. You can find it on iTunes. You can find it on Spotify. You can find it all over the place. So subscribe. And I’m going to do a shout out to our website, www.edchoice.org. Check it out. Lots of great stuff on there. I have a recent study that just came out, about how teachers use their time, and I’m going to shamelessly plug it right here. Check it out. Check out our website. Subscribe to the podcast. And I look forward to talking with all of you again, on the next edition of EdChoice Chats.