Public Schools

Questions and Answers About Public Schools

Tuesday, August 26, 2003

by Joseph Carroll

1. How Many Students Attend Public Schools?

The majority of parents with school-aged children send them to public schools. An Aug. 4-6 Gallup Poll finds that 85% of parents with children in grades K-12 say their oldest child will attend public school this year, while 6% say they will go to private school, 5% say they will be enrolled in a parochial school, and 3% say they will be home-schooled. The latest poll results show essentially no change since Gallup first started asking this question in August 1999.

2. How Are the Public Schools Rated?

The annual Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup Poll survey on the public schools asks Americans to grade the public schools in their communities on a scale of "A, B, C, D, or fail." The 2003 survey shows that 48% of Americans grade their local public schools with either an A or a B (11% give the schools an A, and 37% give them a B). Roughly 3 in 10 grade their local public schools with a C, and fewer than one in six Americans rate them with a D or fail them. The current results show essentially no change from last year in the grading of local public schools.

The Aug. 4-6 Gallup Poll asked parents with school-aged children about their satisfaction with the "education your oldest child is receiving." Results show that 38% of parents say they are "completely" satisfied with their eldest child's education. The current poll finds a nine-percentage-point increase on this measure since last August, but the percentage completely satisfied in 2003 is roughly the same as that found in August 1999.

3. How Do Public School Parents Rate the Schools?

Parents with children attending public schools are somewhat more likely to give the local public schools in their communities higher grades than all adults are. According to the 2003 PDK/Gallup Poll, 55% of public school parents give their public schools an A or a B. (This compares with 48% of all adults interviewed in the survey.) Interestingly, the percentage of parents with children enrolled in public schools who give local public schools an A or a B has dropped seven percentage points over the past two years.

In the Gallup Poll, only about a third of public school parents say they are completely satisfied with their eldest child's education.

4. Do Americans Differ in Ratings of All Public Schools Versus Local Schools?

Americans are much more critical of schools across the country than they are of their local schools. The PDK/Gallup study also asks Americans to grade public schools across the country on the A-to-fail scale. Only 26% of respondents grade the schools across the country with an A or a B (compared with 48% who give their local public schools an A or a B). The public's assessment of public schools across the nation has shown little change over the past three surveys.

The August Gallup Poll finds similar results when it asks respondents about their satisfaction with schools throughout the country in comparison with the education received by one's oldest child. Only 8% of those in the current poll say they are completely satisfied with the quality of education for children in kindergarten through 12th grade. (This compares with 38% who are completely satisfied with the education received by their oldest child.)


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