Late Friday afternoon we put up a survey on this blog that got nearly 1,000 responses (985 to be exact) in 72 hours. But before looking at numbers, some explanation is warranted.
In the vernacular of polling, this is not a “scientific” survey where responses are carefully controlled to meet demographic and other parameters. For instance, 76 percent of respondents were female and 94 percent were white. Obviously these are not representative of Alabama as a whole. Neither is the fact that 58 percent have either children or grandchildren in school.
However, a sample this large (most polls are 400 respondents) definitely offers valuable insight as to the mood of the public. So let’s take a look.
Three of the candidates were local Alabama school superintendents, one was head of the State Early Childhood Education program and the other two candidates were with institutes or consultants in California and Massachusetts. After six votes were taken in which each of the candidates was nominated, the consultant from Massachusetts was selected on a 5-4 vote with the vote of the governor. The selection was controversial because lobbyists and the State Ethics Commission were involved in the process. In addition, the new Superintendent has never held an education administrative position, was rejected for the position in Alabama in 2011 and has been rejected for the position in seven other statres. The governor supported the candidate because of the quality of public schools in Massachusetts. Others supported the candidate becaue he opposed the Core Curriculum in Massachusetts. However, he supports it for Alabama.
Based on what you now know, how do you feel about the selection of the new Superintendent?
Respondents were overwhelmingly opposed to the selection by the state board. Some 82 percent were strongly opposed while 11 percent were somewhat opposed. On the other end of the spectrum, only 4 percent were either somewhat support or strongly support.
What grade would you give the Alabama School Board?
The state school board did not fare much better as 68 percent gave a grade of either D or F.
What grade would you give the Alabama Legislature?
Hardly a surprise that 87 percent gave either a D or F, with 64 percent handing out an F.
Do you believe a state superintendent should have previous experience in Alabama schools?
75 percent said somewhat or definitely.
Do you believe the Alabama State Superintendent should have experience as a superintendent?
Yes was the response of 83 percent.
The next two answers support the validity of this survey as results track those of other polls.
What grade would you give Alabama public schools?
A or B received only 23 percent.
What grade would you give your local community public schools?
This time, A or B got 62 percent.
Overall, do you believe Alabama public schools are on the: right track (40 percent), wrong track (48 percent).
These final two questions may be the most significant of all of them.
Do you believe there is a need for a strong advocacy group to support Alabama public schools?
79 percent said very much so.
Would you be interested in joining a public school advocacy group?
80 percent said definitely or maybe.
Summary: Alabamians are not pleased with the action of the state board of education. While several who supported Michael Sentence keep trying desperately put a positive spin on their action, they might as well be trying to tell us jalapeno peppers taste like vanilla ice cream. The public is just not buying it.
No one is upset with the gentleman from Massachusetts, they just see little in his background that says he can relate to our education challenges and they don’t think comparing Alabama to the Bay State makes any sense at all.
But they are VERY upset with the state school board and what they see as a decision that was all about politics and not about public school students from Headland to Henagar.