Yes, a lot of people responded to the Department of Education’s online survey, but something about the reporting feels off — irresponsible even:
Nearly 82 percent of Rhode Islanders said the quality of public education is of the utmost importance to the state’s success, according to a recent survey of roughly 10,000 local residents.
It’s not correct to extrapolate the results of this survey as representative of “Rhode Islanders.” This wasn’t a random sampling; it was no better than an online poll that any news organization (or blog) might post. If anything, those surveys are probably more representative, given the narrow field of people likely to come across an online survey from a government education agency.
Providence Journal reporter Linda Borg goes so far as to play coy with the survey participants: “The majority of survey participants — more than 70 percent — said they were parents, guardians or educators.” Parents/guardians and educators are quite different groups, so lumping them together doesn’t tell the reader much.
Looking at the survey results, 35.34% (3,003) of respondents stated that, above whatever else they are, they are “educators.” Of course, some of the 40.01% (3,400) who said that they are “parents/guardians” may also be teachers, but consider their status as parents to be primary. It isn’t surprising what this group chose when given the opportunity to pick three “future priorities [that] will best ensure that PK-12 schools meet future student and state needs.”
Want to guess the number 1 choice, with 4,435 votes? You got it: “Adequate funding and resources.” Number 2, with 3,957 votes? “Training and supporting quality teachers.”
It feels almost like a scam that this survey would be considered a guide for the state’s strategic plan for education, but it’s somewhat worse to report the results as if they aren’t shaded by the input of people who stand to gain professionally from that plan.