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Americans Dissatisfied with U.S. Education in General, But Parents Satisfied with Their Kids' Schools

Americans Dissatisfied with U.S. Education in General, But Parents Satisfied with Their Kids' Schools

One-quarter of parents worry about their children's physical safety at school

by Chris Chambers

GALLUP NEWS SERVICE

PRINCETON, NJ -- A majority of Americans say they are dissatisfied with the quality of K-12 education in the United States in general, but the actual parents of school children reflect a totally opposite attitude -- saying that they are in fact satisfied with their children's education. At the same time, a new Gallup poll conducted August 24-27 shows that attitudes toward both the general state of education and parents' views of their children's schools have declined slightly since last year.

Only 36% of Americans say that they are satisfied with the quality of K-12 education in the United States today, while 61% say they are dissatisfied. This represents a nine percentage-point increase in dissatisfaction from one year ago, when 52% reported being dissatisfied with the quality of education in the United States. The drop in perceived satisfaction could be related to a focus on educational problems in the recent months of the presidential campaign. Americans have consistently ranked education as one of the top concerns in the election, and both Al Gore and George W. Bush have made extensive proposals in this area.

While Americans are not satisfied with the quality of education in the United States today on a general level, a strong majority of parents with school-age children express a different opinion when asked about the education their own children receive. Nearly four in five parents of school-age children -- 78% -- report being satisfied with the quality of education their children are receiving, while only 18% are dissatisfied.

The results of the 2000Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup Poll of the Public's Attitudes Toward the Public Schoolsreveal a similar pattern. When asked to grade the school that their child attends, 70% of parents gave the school an A or B, but when asked to grade public schools in their community, only 47% of Americans more generally gave As or Bs, and only 20% gave As or Bs to the national public school system.

School Taxes are About Right, But Most Would Pay More for Better Education
Most Americans -- 58% -- feel that the taxes they pay in their local school district are about right while about one-quarter feel they are too high. Nearly seven in ten Americans, however, indicate that they would be willing to pay higher taxes in order to improve the quality of education in their local school district.

Interestingly, there is little difference in terms of willingness to pay higher taxes among those who are satisfied (70%) and dissatisfied (67%) with the quality of the educational system in this country. Additionally, older Americans are somewhat, but not overwhelmingly, less likely to say that they would be willing to pay higher taxes than younger Americans. Seventy-seven percent of those 18-29 years of age (a group highly likely to either have children or anticipate having children) say they would pay higher taxes, compared to just 61% of those 65 year of age and older.

Nurture More Important than Nature in Education
What is most important in determining how well educated a student is when he or she graduates from high school? When given a choice among three alternatives, there is an essential tie between the percentage of Americans who say the school system per se is most important, and those who say that the family environment is most important:

  • Almost four in ten Americans -- 38% -- believe that family background and the environment in which a child is raised are the most important factors in determining how well-educated a student is when graduating from high school.
  • A comparable proportion -- 37% -- feel that the quality of teachers and schools in which the child receives his or her education is the most important factor.
  • Only 4% believe that a student's innate intelligence determines how well-educated they are when they graduate.

Parents and Students Less Worried About School Violence This Year
The anxiety and concern caused by the eruption of violence in schools over the past year appears to be waning. In the immediate aftermath of Columbine in April 1999, up to half of parents of K-12 children said they were concerned about their children's physical safety at school. Now that proportion is just 26% of parents. While still high, this decrease is substantial. Those living in suburban communities are more concerned about violence in schools than those living in urban or rural communities. Thirty-one percent of suburban parents expressed concern compared to 24% of urban parents and 18% of rural parents.

Eight percent of parents say that their school-aged children have expressed worry or concern about feeling unsafe at school this fall. When this question was asked one year ago, more than twice as many students had expressed concern --18%. Ten percent of urban students have expressed fear, compared to 7% of suburban students and 6% of rural students.

Survey Methods
The results below are based on telephone interviews with a randomly selected national sample of 1,019 adults, 18 years and older, conducted August 24-27, 2000. For results based on this sample, one can say with 95 percent confidence that the maximum error attributable to sampling and other random effects is plus or minus 3 percentage points. In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

Overall, how satisfied are you with the quality of education students receive in grades kindergarten through grade twelve in the U.S. today -- would you say completely satisfied, somewhat satisfied, somewhat dissatisfied or completely dissatisfied?

 

 

Completely satisfied

Somewhat satisfied

Somewhat dissatisfied

Completely dissatisfied

No
opinion

           

2000 Aug 24-27

7%

29

40

21

3

           

1999 Aug 24-26

8%

39

38

13

2



Just your opinion, are the taxes you pay in your local school district too high, too low, or about right?

 

Too high

Too low

About right

No opinion

2000 Aug 24-27

26%

9

58

7



Would you be willing to pay higher taxes in order to improve the quality of education in your local school district, or not?

 

Yes, willing

No, not willing

No opinion

2000 Aug 24-27

67%

31

2



Just your opinion, what is most important in determining how well-educated a student is when he or she graduates from high school -- [ROTATED]: the intelligence they were born with, the family background and environment in which the child is raised, (or) the quality of the teachers and schools in which the child receives his or her education?

 

 

Intelligence they were
born with

Family background/
environment

Quality of teachers/
schools


Mixed/Neither (VOL.)


No
opinion

           

2000 Aug 24-27

4%

38

37

20

1



Will that child attend public, private or parochial school?

BASED ON -- 282 -- K-12 PARENTS; ± 6 PCT PTS

 

 


Public


Private


Parochial

Home School (VOL.)

No
opinion

           

2000 Aug 24-27

86%

9

4

1

*

           

1999 Aug 24-26

86%

10

4

*

0



How satisfied are you with the quality of education your oldest child is receiving? Would you say completely satisfied, somewhat satisfied, somewhat dissatisfied or completely dissatisfied?

BASED ON -- 282 -- K-12 PARENTS; ± 6 PCT PTS

 

 


Completely satisfied


Somewhat satisfied


Somewhat dissatisfied


Completely dissatisfied

Just starting school (VOL.)


No
opinion

             

2000 Aug 24-27

31%

47

12

6

4

*

             

1999 Aug 24-26

37%

46

12

2

2

1



Thinking about your oldest child, when he or she is at school, do you fear for his or her physical safety?

BASED ON -- 282 -- K-12 PARENTS; ± 6 PCT PTS

 

Yes, fear

No, do not

No opinion

%

%

%

2000 Aug 24-27

26

74

0

2000 Apr 7-9

43

57

0

1999 Aug 24-26

47

53

*

1999 May 21-23

52

47

1

1999 Apr 26-27

49

51

*

1999 Apr 21

55

45

0

1998 Jun 5-7

37

62

1

1977^

24

70

6

^ Gallup for Kettering Foundation



Have any of your school-aged children expressed any worry or concern about feeling unsafe at their school when they go back to school this fall?

BASED ON -- 282 -- K-12 PARENTS; ± 6 PCT PTS

 

Yes

No

No opinion

2000 Aug 24-27

8

92

*

1999 Aug 24-26

18

82

*



*Less than 0.5%

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