On race and schools, here’s what Americans agree and disagree on

Recently in Chalkbeat, Matt Barnum reviewed 20 recent polls taken in the past year to determine where Americans stand on race and schools. Excerpts of the piece appear below:  

There are real divides in this country on how to teach about race and racism, particularly on whether to teach about racism as a present-day phenomenon. Parents are also divided about whether schools pay too much or too little attention to race and racism.

But most parents surveyed also say their child’s school does a good job keeping them apprised of what’s taught in class. More broadly, most Americans agree on certain issues: that schools should teach about the history of slavery and racism, that books shouldn’t be banned for political reasons, and that schools shouldn’t divide students by race for class discussions.

Here are several important takeaways from these surveys, focusing specifically on efforts to achieve racial equity.

One poll found that 51% of adults favored tracking students by ability level, even though the question said that some fear that this will exacerbate racial inequities. Only 19% opposed tracking.

Another survey asked about grouping students by race “to encourage students to discuss their experiences with others who share their racial or ethnic background.” 76% of voters described this practice as harmful.

Most Americans of all races also favored using standardized test scores as a part of college admissions, despite recent pushback that these tests discriminate against Black and Hispanic students. And most also opposed race-based preferences in college admissions.

But polls show significant support for ideas like having students read a racially diverse set of authors or learn more about Black history. In one survey, 60% of public school parents said students should be encouraged to “read books by authors from a variety of different racial and ethnic backgrounds.”

For more, see https://www.chalkbeat.org/2022/5/3/23055884/critical-race-theory-schools-polling