National education poll finds Americans wanting more job and career skills training in school

 (Heatray / BigStock)

(Heatray / BigStock)

What’s the point of public school? To foster academic and critical thinking skills? To prepare students for the workforce?

A long-running national poll says a large majority of Americans are willing to sacrifice the former for the latter.

Phi Delta Kappa, a professional association for educators, has been running polls about U.S. attitudes towards public education for almost 50 years. This year’s survey found that fewer than half of Americans think the main goal of public education should be to prepare students academically — with 82 percent supporting more job and career skills classes even if that means less time for traditional academics.

Parents also highly value extracurriculars, art and music offerings.

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“It clear to me that there’s something missing from the policy debate here in Washington, but also in the classroom. Parents want to see more from their schools than the simple things that can just be tested by standardized tests in English and Math. And our poll results reflect a desire for more,” said Joshua Starr, CEO of the nonprofit, and a former district superintendent in Connecticut and Maryland.

The poll had a few other interesting findings. The majority of those surveyed oppose using public funds to send students to private school, but support for that idea has grown.

Also: about half of Americans gave high marks to their local public school, and support was even higher among parents of school-aged children. But, in keeping with a trend, perception of the American school system in general was much lower, with only a quarter of those surveyed giving high ratings.

The poll was conducted based on a random, representative, 50-state sample of about 1,600 adults.

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