Gallup surveyed residents of all fifty states about their perceptions of their state’s public education system. The research organization asked about the quality of education, and whether schools are adequately preparing students for the workforce.
North Dakota came out on top for each question, which is probably good news for state Superintendent Kirsten Baesler who is seeking re-election this year after getting elected to her first term in 2012. The office is officially non-partisan, but the political parties often endorse candidates anyway. Baesler received the Republican endorsement in 2012. This cycle Fort Totten teacher Joe Chiang is also seeking the office. He has reached out to both Republicans and Democrats for support.
The poll was “based on telephone interviews conducted March 30-Dec. 22, 2015, with random samples of approximately 500 adults, aged 18 and older, living in each of the 50 U.S. states,” which means that all respondents were answering these questions after a bruising fight over Common Core standards in the Legislature last year, and a somewhat disastrous roll out of Common Core-aligned testing last spring.
“North Dakota residents (89%) are more likely than those living in any other U.S. state to rate the K-12 education provided in their state as excellent or good, followed closely by those living in Minnesota and Nebraska,” Gallup reports. Here are the top and bottom lists for that question:
North Dakota’s positive views of its education system aren’t a recent development. In 2013 when Gallup asked this same question there were 87 percent of residents who had a good or excellent view of the quality of education in the state.
Back to the present, “About nine in 10 North Dakota residents report their public school system prepares students for success in the workplace,” Gallup reports, suggesting that the state’s strong economy has something to do with this.
“There is a moderate relationship between unemployment rates and residents’ perceptions that their public education system prepares students for workplace success,” the polling report states. “In December 2015, North Dakota, Nebraska and South Dakota — states with positive perceptions of public education — had the three lowest unemployment rates among all states and the District of Columbia, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Nevada and New Mexico — the two states with the least positive perceptions of schools — had significantly higher unemployment rates and ranked 46th and 48th in December 2015 among all 50 states and the District of Columbia.”
Of course, what this poll is measuring is perception, not necessarily academic outcomes. In October the Department of Public Instruction announced some depressing results from standardized testing last spring.
“Based on tests scored to date, about 46 percent of North Dakota students who sat for the exams are proficient in English,” the DPI said in a release. “About 40 percent are proficient in mathematics.”
I’m not sure I’d say that North Dakota’s schools are performing “excellent” or even “good” based on that.
Clearly, we have a lot of room for improvement.