Why We Fight

During World War II, the great filmmaker Frank Capra of “It’s a Wonderful Life” fame led a group of Hollywood directors in producing documentaries to support the war effort. The films, titled “Why We Fight,” reinforced the rationale for fighting World War II in the minds of our armed forces and the general public.

I was reminded of these films when I recently reviewed the results of two recent polls regarding Americans’ attitudes toward education policy. The polls buttress the case we make at Military Families for High Standards because they show broad public support for high, consistent educational standards.

The first survey came from Education Next, a leading academic education journal. Its annual public opinion survey confirmed that parents of all stripes – not just military ones – support high, comparable, college-ready standards and annual assessments.

The August 2017 poll found 61 percent of the public supports high standards that are consistent across states. That’s a five-percentage point increase in one year.

Moreover, this support cuts across political affiliation. When asked if they support high, consistent standards, 61 percent of Democrats and 64 percent of Republicans responded affirmatively.

The second survey was conducted by Phi Delta Kappa International (PDK). Its August poll reaffirmed the results of the Education Next survey. It showed that parents want their children to be college or career ready when they graduate high school.

For example, more than 80 percent of parents want their child’s school to offer classes in both the so-called STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and math) and career training offerings. This support was strong across all demographic groups.

In fact, 76 percent of respondents saw advanced academic classes, such as Advanced Placement courses, as highly important indicators of school quality.

The survey respondents also want their children to be well rounded. Almost as many said it is also important that schools offer extracurricular activities (70 percent) and art and music classes (71 percent).

Finally, the two polls also showed there was broad support for standardized testing to measure how well students are learning.

The Education Next survey found more than 60 percent of parents supported these assessments. Meanwhile the PDK survey found 77 percent of parents were confident in the quality of the tests being used today.

These results are very important. They show that the public supports high-quality, consistent educational opportunities. They also support assessments that show whether or not our kids are learning what they are supposed to know.

For those of us who advocate for military-connected students, it helps to know that the public supports the same things we do. It will help us make the case when someone asks us why we fight.

Christi Ham is chairwoman of Military Families for High Standards.

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