For nearly 50 years, Phi Delta Kappa International has released an annual survey titled, Poll of the Public’s Attitudes Toward the Public Schools. The poll, conducted earlier this year, covers a wide range of education issues by surveying more than 1,500 people in all 50 states. This year, the poll built on last year’s findings, which we wrote about at the time, to demonstrate the public’s strong support for CTE classes and credentialing programs.

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The poll found that the vast majority of the public, 82 percent, believe that public high schools* should offer job or career skills, even if this could detract from some of students’ time in traditional academic classes. Similarly, 86 percent of those surveyed believe schools should “offer classes that award certificates or licenses to qualifying students for employment in specific fields…” What’s more, not only did the public support offering CTE classes, but more than half believe their local schools should offer additional CTE classes, while only 4 percent believe their local schools should offer fewer.  In another area of the survey, parents were asked about items that were important to school quality. While CTE was not on the list broadly, technology and engineering classes were an option, and 97 percent of respondents believe such classes are at least somewhat important to school quality.

Many of those surveyed were the parents of public school students. Of these parents, 61 percent expected their child to attend full-time college after graduation, 22 percent expected their child to mix part-time work and study, and 7 percent expected their child to pursue a full-time job. Appropriately, “full-time college” was used to describe various postsecondary studies. Of those parents expecting their child to attend postsecondary education full-time, 11 percent believed their child would pursue a 2-year degree full-time, while 7 percent of parents believed their child would pursue vocational-technical** studies full-time. Of parents who responded that their child would both work and attend college part-time, one-third said college would be in pursuit of a two-year degree and 14 percent said in pursuit of a vocational-technical degree.

The poll also asked about another type of career skill: interpersonal skills. The poll specifically named cooperation, respect, and persistence as interpersonal skills – all skills that are important for career success. Eighty percent of respondents identify these skills as extremely or very important to a school’s quality. Further, while Americans overall lack strong confidence in the ability for standardized tests to measure a student’s interpersonal skills, a strong majority believe testing should be conducted.  A slimmer majority believe such results should be used to hold schools accountable.

The poll results confirm that a growing majority of Americans side with what CTE advocates and, increasingly, policymakers, believe. CTE is critical to preparing students for successful careers, and high-quality CTE should play an important role in the nation’s education system.

You can find the full results of the poll here. ACTE also issued a press release on the poll, available here.

*Hereinafter public high schools will simply be referred to as “schools.”
**“Vocational-technical” used to communicate the poll’s terminology.

Photo by Drew Coffman: