Diversity in Public Schools: What Parents Think
A recent study says most parents agree that diversity is important in schools, but are not willing to commute longer for it.
December 2017, Volume 41, Issue 4
While most parents agree that diversity is an important element for a positive student learning environment, a recent study has found that fewer are persuaded to take action to achieve it.
According to findings in the “2017 PDK Poll of the Public’s Attitudes Toward the Public Schools,” 7 in 10 parents say they would prefer that their child attend a school where the student body is racially diverse, with 49 percent feeling that way strongly. However, only one-quarter of parents say they’d accept a longer commute to do it.
Similarly, 61 percent of parents say they would rather their child attend a school where the student body is economically diverse, with 36 percent feeling that way strongly. But fewer than half (45 percent) consider this a “highly important” characteristic or think it improves the learning environment. In addition, only 20 percent both desire economic diversity and say they’d accept a longer commute for their child to obtain it.
The 2017 PDK poll results show a larger division in the perceived importance of racial/ethnic and economic diversity among distinct demographic groups, including race, political partisanship, and region. The report reveals that blacks, Democrats, and liberals value diversity most highly, as do those who also value economic diversity.
Seventy-two percent of black parents say that having a mix of students from different racial and ethnic backgrounds is extremely or very important, declining to 57 percent of Hispanics and 48 percent of whites. The gap increases when looking at political party identity, as 70 percent of Democrats and 38 percent of Republicans, with independents in between, are in agreement.
Southern parents are 16 percentage points more likely than those in the Northeast to rate racial and ethnic diversity in the schools as very or extremely important, and parents in the West are more apt than those in the Northeast or Midwest to find such diversity extremely important.
Overall, the poll results reveal a majority consensus that values racial/ ethnic and economic diversity across the board. While a longer commute impacts the perceived value of diversity, a majority believe that it positively impacts the student learning environment.
The 2017 PDK poll also sheds light on other topics of interest to school leaders, including using public money to support private schools, measuring school quality, and providing wraparound resources for students in need. For the full report, visit bit.ly/2yqXXM0.
Originally published in Principal magazine “Literacy Instruction: Chart A New Course,” November/December 2017.
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