skip to main content
Gallup Blog
K-12 Schools Struggle to Prepare, Excite Gen Z About Learning
Gallup Blog

K-12 Schools Struggle to Prepare, Excite Gen Z About Learning

by Nicole Willcoxon and Stephanie Marken

As they conclude the 2022-2023 school year, U.S. students in grades 5-12 give their schools a B- grade, on average, according to a recent Gallup and Walton Family Foundation-State of American Youth Survey. Although 66% grade their school positively, with an “A” (22%) or a “B” (44%), 24% grade it a “C,” and 10% give it a “D” or “F," bringing down the average given by all students to a B-.

The average grades students give to different aspects of their school -- respect, safety, teaching quality and to individual needs, preparation for the future, inclusiveness, exposure to diverse views, mental health support, technology use, career exposure, and excitement about learning -- range from B to C+.

Students are least positive about how well their school fosters excitement about learning, serves different learning styles, teaches about potential careers and provides mental health support. They are most positive about their school’s safety and respect for individual differences.

Gallup-Walton Family Foundation Report Card on Schools

Table. Report on schools from U.S. students grades 5-12, April-May 2023 survey. Students gave their schools overall a B-minus grade, with 22% rating them excellent (A), 44% good (B), 24% satisfactory (C), 7% poor (D) and 3% fail (F). Students rated 11 aspects of their schools, with respecting who they are and keeping them safe coming in first (with B grades), followed by making you feel included, exposing you to ideas and opinions that are different from your own, using technology in new and exciting ways to help you learn, the quality of teaching, and preparing you for your future (all receiving a grade of B-minus); with the last four aspects (supporting your mental health, teaching you in ways that adapt to your own unique learning needs, teaching you about potential careers, and making you excited about learning) all receiving a grade of C-plus. The highest percentage excellent was for respecting who you are (48%) and keeping you safe (43%), while the lowest was for teaching you about potential careers (17%) and making you excited about learning (13%).

Among public school students, including those in public charter schools as well as traditional public schools, middle school students are more positive than their high school peers across all metrics assessed. Twenty-three percent of public middle school students give their school an overall rating of A, compared with 17% of public high school students. By contrast, there is no difference between private middle school and high school students in how they grade their school.

Results for the Gallup and Walton Family Foundation-State of American Youth Survey are based on web survey responses collected April 24 through May 8, 2023, from 3,114 people aged 12 to 25 via the Gallup Panel.

Fostering Excitement for Learning and Preparing for the Future Marked Lowest

Among all grade 5-12 students, students are particularly negative about their schools’ performance on measures of student engagement and preparedness.

  • On average, students give their school a C+ rating in making them feel excited about learning, with just 13% giving their school an A on this metric. A majority of middle school students (54%) give their school an A (15%) or B (39%) on feeling excited, compared with less than half (44%) of high school students (12% A, 32% B).
  • Perhaps relatedly, students give their school a C+ in teaching them in ways that adapt to their unique learning needs, with 19% grading their school an A.
  • Students are also negative about being exposed to different career opportunities -- on average, students provide a C+ rating on this important developmental experience. Seventeen percent give an A on this measure, with no difference between middle school and high school students.
  • Only slightly more, 20%, give an A to their school on preparing them for the future. High school students (17%) are less likely than middle school students (23%) to give an A on this measure.

Academic performance is related to students’ ratings of their schools across the metrics evaluated. Students’ ratings of their school closely align with their own academic performance, with highest-performing students much more likely than worse-performing students to give their school A’s and B’s in various domains.

For example, six in 10 students earning excellent or good grades, versus three in 10 of those earning fair or poor grades, give their school an A or a B for teaching them in ways that adapt to their unique learning needs.

Racial Disparities on Ratings of Respect and Physical Safety

Schools score best in measures of respect and perceptions of physical safety. Close to half of students (48%) give their school an A grade for respecting who they are regardless of their race/ethnicity, gender and identity, with an average grade of B for schools on this important metric.

Similarly, 43% of students give their school an A for keeping them physically safe, and schools earn an average grade of B on this measure.

While overall ratings for respect and physical safety are relatively good compared with all other metrics, ratings are far lower among Black students. Just 33% of Black students grade their school an A for making them feel respected, compared with 50% of White students and 53% of Hispanic students. Thirty-seven percent of Black students give their school an A for making them feel physically safe, compared with 46% of White and 41% of Hispanic students. These are the largest negative disparities observed among Black students across all metrics assessed.

Perceptions of respect are similar among female and male students.



As the 2022-2023 school year wraps, schools earn less-than-perfect grades on many important aspects of students’ educational experiences. While schools earn A and B grades from a majority of students on most dimensions, a sizable minority of students have had a worse experience.

At a crucial moment in defining future pathways, high school students are less excited about learning and feel less prepared for the future than middle school students. Whether because of the challenges schools faced during three years of dire disruption to learning during the pandemic or longer-term issues, there is clearly room for improvement.

Read the report.



Stephanie Marken is executive director of education research at Gallup.

Gallup World Headquarters, 901 F Street, Washington, D.C., 20001, U.S.A
+1 202.715.3030