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What Americans say about…

School grades: How would you grade the schools?

The public schools continue to suffer from an image deficit. Those who know them best give them A's and B's, but the broader public is less supportive.

The 2018 PDK poll repeated its long-standing practice of asking Americans to assign A-Fail grades to the public schools. As in past years, parents rate their own children’s schools quite highly — 70% give them an A or B grade. The public overall gives lower ratings to their local schools, 43% A’s or B’s, and the nation’s schools as a whole receive much lower ratings still, 19% A’s or B’s.

Even though ratings for one’s child’s school are high, there are large gaps among groups. Those living in higher-income areas, college graduates, and parents with higher incomes themselves are more likely than those living in lower-income areas, adults without a college degree, and those earning less than $100,000 to award A or B grades to their child’s school, by 27-, 20-, and 12-point margins.

Slightly fewer blacks (60%) than whites (73%) give an A or B to their oldest child’s school.

Pdkpoll K21A Grading Schools2018

Local schools are graded well by more than half of parents and those living in high- or upper-middle-income areas. By contrast, only about one-third of blacks, conservatives, and those making less than $50,000 say the same. Evaluations among parents are more positive, with the exception of black parents, but follow similar patterns.

While the nation’s public schools overall receive middling grades, Hispanics (36%) and blacks (23%) are significantly more likely than whites (14%) to give them an A or B. The same goes for urbanites (22%) and suburbanites (20%) vs. rural residents (11%). More parents of school-age children (27%) say schools nationally deserve higher grades than do other adults (17%).

The 2018 ratings for schools in the community and nationally may be influenced by a survey mode effect; the new study was conducted using a random-sample online panel rather than random-sample telephone calls, and research indicates that questions like these can produce more negative results when self-administered rather than when talking to a live interviewer. At the same time, both results have been this low or lower previously — most recently in 1996 for community schools and in 2014 for schools nationally. We asked respondents who didn’t give their community’s schools an A grade what it would take for those schools to earn an A. One in 5 said changing the curriculum would help, while other frequently cited issues included education standards, funding problems, and teacher quality.

The biggest problem

Since 1969, the poll’s first question has been about the biggest problem facing the local public schools. For 17 consecutive years, the lack of funding stands out as the most frequently cited issue, with 26% mentioning it this year. Problems with student behavior are the next most common, with 10% each mentioning general student discipline or bullying this year.

Pdkpoll K22B Biggest Problem

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