Oklahomans give public education a grade

By Wesley Burt, SoonerPoll

Published: 11-Dec-2010

Results from a recent SoonerPoll have found that most Oklahomans, 59.7 percent, believe Oklahoma public schools should receive no higher than a C if they were to be graded in the same way as their students.

The results of the poll form a bell curve where the C grade was the most common response with 41.7 percent. The grade of B was then next most popular response with 27.6 percent while the grade of D received only 14.3 percent.

Although only 5.2 percent of respondents said they thought that Oklahoma schools should receive an A, it was still slightly more than the 3.7 percent who thought the schools should receive an F.

Further analysis shows that by an almost 2 to 1 margin Democrats were more likely to give schools the grade of A than Republicans or Independents. Interestingly, no self-proclaimed liberals gave Oklahoma the A grade compared to 4.1 percent of self-proclaimed conservatives.

Liberals seemed all around more critical of schools than conservatives. The poll found that 64.8 percent of liberals felt that Oklahoma schools deserved no better than a C grade compared to only 59.2 percent of conservatives.

“A majority of the Oklahoma electorate, regardless of party of ideology, agrees that schools are just not performing well enough to deserve an A or B, but for a large variety of reasons,” Bill Shapard, CEO of SoonerPoll, said. “The blame, in their mind, extends not just to teachers, but to the parents and the students.”

Since the grade C was the most common response SoonerPoll decided to ask respondents who gave the grade of C to elaborate on their responses.

Ruth Cotton, a respondent from Bethany, said that she gave Oklahoma Public Schools a C grade because of the quality of teachers. “They can’t get rid of bad teachers,” Cotton said. “Most teachers get started teaching and join a union.”

Joyce Findley, a respondent from Edmond, gave schools a C, but says the students who don’t have the desire to learn are the problem not teachers. “I have a daughter that teaches in Oklahoma and I used to teach out of state,” Findley said. “The problem that no one addresses is that the students that don’t want to learn are the biggest problem for the students who do want to learn.”

Charles Sanford, a respondent from Valliant, also gave Oklahoma schools a C and like Findley thinks teachers are not the problem.  “Over a period of years they [schools] have made no significant gains,” Sanford explained. “I know a lot of teachers and I don’t think there is anything wrong with them, but parents need to be more involved with their kids’ education.”

“The results show us that the voters think our schools are systematically broken and need reform,” Shapard said. Shapard went on to point to the resounding defeat of State Question 744 which, he says, “shows that, perhaps, the voters need our elected officials to effectively communicate proposed reforms rather than just throw more money at the problem.”

Note: SoonerPoll.com, Oklahoma’s public opinion pollster, was commissioned for this poll by the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs.  SoonerPoll.com conducted the scientific study using live interviewers by telephone of 518 likely voters from Nov. 5 – 11. The study has a margin of error of ± 4.3 percent.