Odd interpretation of a poll result

This release left me scratching my head a bit:

Poll: Parents Say Too Much Focus on Standardized Tests

Opposition to Common Core Most Intense Among Parents

WASHINGTON, D.C. (June 26, 2014) — Parents of school-age children are unhappy with the amount of time spent on standardized tests and have strong opinions on other controversial education policies, including Common Core and school vouchers, according to a new national poll released today.

The Schooling in America Survey, released annually by the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice and Braun Research, includes a statistically representative sample of school parents. It found 44 percent of those parents said children spend too much time preparing for and taking assessments; 22 percent said too low, 30 percent said the focus is about right, and 5 percent had no opinion.

So… 52 percent say kids spend about the right amount of time on standardized tests, or even not enough time, while 44 percent say they spend too much time on them.

What sort of group would look at those figures and come away with the headline, “Poll: Parents Say Too Much Focus on Standardized Tests,” which is only accurate in the sense that some parents (a minority) say that?

Oh. The Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice. OK. Yeah…

Mind you, I’m not sticking up for standardized tests here. I probably would have been in the 44 percent saying too much time is spent on them, although I’m far from passionate on the subject.

But what a screwy interpretation…

5 thoughts on “Odd interpretation of a poll result

      1. Kathryn Braun Fenner

        The quoted material refers to “Braun” Research. While I have done this, or more accurately, my cousin the amateur genealogist did, I doubt that’s what they meant.

  1. Norm Ivey

    44% is a plurality of those surveyed (they seem to like to accentuate pluralities in their findings), but 42% think schools spend 16 days or more every year in standardized testing. If I thought the schools were spending 16 days (or more) in standardized testing, I’d say it was too much as well. In South Carolina, it’s less than 8, and none of those are full days of testing for the students. (Staff may be involved in testing for a full day in some cases.)

    It wouldn’t take a respondent long to realize the pollsters had an agenda when you look at the questions.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      That’s reminiscent of what Michael Kinsley reported on back in 1995:

      “Tells about a poll released last week by the Program on International Policy Attitudes at the University of Maryland which stated that 75% of Americans believes that the US spends “too much” on foreign aid, and 64% want foreign aid spending cut. Apparently a cavalier 11% of Americans think it’s fine to spend “too much” on foreign aid. Respondents were also asked, though, how big a share of the federal budget goes to foreign aid. The median answer was 15%; the average answer was 18% the correct answer is less than 1%. A question about how much would be “too little” produced a median answer of 3%–more than three times the current level of foreign aid spending.

      In other words, many of the people who are SURE we spend too much on foreign aid would themselves spend three times as much as we actually spend…

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