- An educational poll of battleground states indicates that positions introduced and championed by Gov, Ron DeSantis are seeing higher favorability ratings
- Educator respondents show that a majority are more inclined to vote for lawmakers that believe schools should focus less on race teachings and sexual orientation
- Teachers are expressing concern over anticipated large drops in testing scores due to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic
- The elimination of standardized testing seen in Florida could be adopted in states nationwide
A battleground-state poll conducted by The American Federation of Teachers and first reported on by NBC News indicates that educational policies championed by Gov. Ron DeSantis hold strong in the nation’s most competitive election states.
While the poll doesn’t identify any single governor, it tasked respondents with expressing favorability — or unfavorability — of contentious topics DeSantis ushered into the national limelight such as Critical Race Theory-based curriculums and the inclusion of sexual or gender identity in classrooms.
According to one survey question, Americans are more inclined to vote for politicians who believe public schools should focus less on teaching race and more on fundamental courses by a 32-point margin. By a margin of 27 points, respondents believe that teaching sexual orientation and gender identity to children in kindergarten through third grade should be prohibited in schools. while a majority also believe transgender athletes should be barred from participating in women’s school athletic leagues.
“I think what you see now with the rise of this ‘woke’ ideology is an attempt to really delegitimize our history and delegitimize our institutions,” said DeSantis. “They want to tear the fabric of our society, and our culture, and a lot of things we’ve taken for granted, like the ability of parents to raise their children.”
The Florida governor, who raised an astounding $11.54 million last week for his political committee and campaign account, is experiencing a surge in recent support for his decision to keep schools open through the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. Though the decision was heavily maligned by media talking heads upon its administration, the poll finds that more than half of polled teachers claim that standardized testing results are expected to show a large drop in student performance compared to pre-pandemic outcomes, attributing the anticipated drop solely to pandemic effects.
DeSantis notably and controversially committed to keeping schools open following the first wave of pandemic shutdowns, much to the chagrin of a school district collective including some of Florida’s largest counties like Miami-Dade and Duval.
“There has now been in recent weeks, it seems, more of these blips talking about “Oh, the damage from school closures were way worse than anticipated.” No, it was fully anticipated what would happen,” remarked the governor. “In Florida, we understood. I was looking at these other states that never wanted the kids in school. Don’t tell me that remote education is a substitute.”
DeSantis also touts his elimination of Florida Standards Assessment (FSA) testing, a move that was celebrated by the overwhelming majority of teachers, students, and parents. The programs drew criticism after curriculums shifted to a focus on passing the end-of-year tests rather than thoroughly teaching the material. With the move away from standardized testing, Florida will become the first state in the nation to enact progress monitoring.
The elimination, or at minimum the reform, of standardized testing, has been a request made by teachers and parents nationwide that has gained momentum in recent years. Should Florida’s shift to progress monitoring prove successful, expect to see states around the country adopt similar systems.
The measure is expected to reduce testing time by more than 75 percent. The child-specific monitoring allows educators to track and receive real-time data reflecting the specific areas that a student may need remedial instruction on. The monitoring also allows students to receive feedback in the current school year, as opposed to the FSA method which oftentimes doesn’t provide testing results until the following summer break.
Beyond a culture war standpoint, the poll additionally shows a desire for schools to expand educational programs for struggling students, an introduction of vocational training pipelines, and a reduction of class size to better assist teachers grappling with an overabundance of students.