Oregonians’ Priorities for School Instruction and Activities

When it comes to schools, Oregonians choose supporting the basic academics as the number one priority. What else should schools be prioritizing?

a backpack with school supplies

From February 11th through 17th, 2021, the Oregon Values and Beliefs Center conducted a statewide survey of Oregonians’ values and beliefs, including their priorities for local public schools. This online survey consisted of 600 Oregon residents ages 18+ and took approximately 15 minutes to complete. Responses were analyzed and categorized to allow for a better understanding of trends in Oregonians’ values and beliefs. The survey’s margin of error, for the full sample, ranges from ±2.4% to ±4.0% depending on how the response category percentages split for any given question. Findings will include a citation of the relevant question, which can be referenced in the annotated questionnaire and tabs at the bottom of the page.

Number One Priority: Supporting the Basics

  • The highest priority for Oregonians when it comes to their local public schools is supporting the basics, like reading, math, and writing (45% urgent priority). This is the only program or activity that receives an urgent rating reaching 40% (Q42). These results are directly in line with a Chalkboard Project survey from 20041, in which 41% said supporting the basics should be an urgent priority – the highest score for that survey – indicating this approach has maintained its popularity over time.
  • Supporting the basics, like reading, math, and writing is a much more urgent priority for older Oregonians compared to their younger counterparts. Those ages 65+ cite this as an urgent priority at nearly twice the rate of those ages 18-29 (59% vs. 31%)(Q42).

Preparing Students for the Future

  • After the basics, the second tier of priorities consists of those programs and activities with urgent ratings over 30% and appears to be strongly tied to building skills that will aid students after graduating. This includes helping students develop good values and helping students develop a strong work ethic (both 35%). These priorities are followed closely by increasing vocational programs to enhance work related skills (34%)(Q48,Q52,Q54).
  • In another example of consistency with previous results, programs that develop good values, a strong work ethic, and vocational programs to enhance work related skills were also the second-, third-, and fourth-most-urgent priorities in 2004, in that order2.

Third Tier of Priorities: Broad and Varied

  • The third, and largest, group of priorities for Oregonians is made up of responses with urgent ratings over 20%. This third tier includes the following activities and programs (Q43,Q44,Q50,Q51,Q55,Q57):
Providing high level math and science programming: 27%; Wholesale reform of high schools to improve learning and graduation rates: 27%; Providing more arts and music, and physical education in every school: 26%; More instruction about the basics of citizenship and civic involvement: 26%; Helping teachers work together to improve curriculum and instruction: 25%; Making sure after school activities are available for all students: 23%
  • Urgent priority scores for providing more arts, music, and physical education in every school decline with age, from 30-31% among those ages 18-44 to 15% for those ages65+. This trend was also observed for making sure afterschool activities are available for all students (18-44: 26-27% vs. 65+: 11%)(Q43,Q57).
  • In another interesting demographic difference from this third tier, men are more likely than women to say providing high-level math and science programming is an urgent priority (33% vs. 21%)(Q50).

Demographic Trends

Identifying What Unites Us and Understanding What Divides Us

  • Oregonians of color and whites are largely in alignment in how they rate the urgency of these priorities. Both groups rate supporting the basics, like reading, math, and writing as their most urgent priority. However, there are some notable differences. For example, whites are more likely to rate increasing vocational programs to enhance work related skills as an urgent priority than Oregonians of color (36% vs. 20%). This was also true for helping students develop a strong work ethic (36% vs. 26%). These are the only activities or programs with urgency gaps of 10 points or more between these two groups (Q42,Q52,Q54).
  • Geographically speaking, urban and rural Oregonians are also largely in alignment in their priorities. Again, both groups rate supporting the basics, like reading, math, and writing as their most urgent priority. In one notable difference, rural Oregonians are more likely than their urban counterparts to say helping students develop a strong work ethic is an urgent priority (40% vs. 29%). This is the only activity or program with an urgency gap of 10 points or more between these two groups (Q42,Q54).

1Survey conducted by DHM Research in April 2004. Statewide sample, N=900.
2In 2004, vocational programs were tied with high-level math and science programming (both received 19% urgent scores).

The research was completed as a community service by the Oregon Values and Beliefs Center, an independent and non-partisan organization. OVBC is an Oregon charitable nonprofit corporation (www.oregonvbc.org).

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