WASHINGTON - Often criticized as too prescriptive and all-consuming, standardized tests have support among parents, who view them as a useful way to measure both students' and schools' performances, according to an Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll.
Most parents also say their own children are given about the right number of standardized tests, according to the AP-NORC poll. They'd like to see student performance on statewide exams used in evaluating teachers, and almost three-quarters said they favored changes that would make it easier for schools to fire poorly performing teachers.
"The tests are good because they show us where students are at, if they need help with anything," said Vicky Nevarez, whose son just graduated from high school in Murrieta, Calif.
The polling results are good news for states looking to implement accountability standards. Teachers unions have objected to linking educators' evaluations to student performance.
What it found
The AP-NORC Center surveyed parents of students at all grade levels and found:
• Sixty-one percent of parents think their children take an appropriate number of standardized tests, and 26 percent think their children take too many tests.
• Teachers' fates shouldn't rest solely on test results, according to a majority of parents.
• Despite many Republicans' unrelenting criticism of the Common Core State Standards, 52 percent of parents have heard little or nothing about the academic benchmarks. Still, when given a brief description of what the standards do, about half of parents say educational quality will improve once the standards are implemented.
• Seventy-five percent of parents say standardized tests are a solid measure of their children's abilities, and 69 percent say such exams are a good measure of the schools' quality.
How to use results
Education union leaders have opposed linking teacher evaluations with these tests, arguing it is unfair to punish teachers for students' shortcomings. They also say teachers have not had sufficient time to rewrite their lessons to reflect new academic benchmarks.
Then, what to do with those test results?
A full 93 percent of parents say standardized tests should be used to identify areas where students need extra help. Smaller majorities think such tests should be used to measure school quality or evaluate teachers.