In U.S., Private Schools Get Top Marks for Educating Children
Politics

In U.S., Private Schools Get Top Marks for Educating Children

by Jeffrey M. Jones

Public schools score lowest in terms of perceived education quality

PRINCETON, NJ -- Seventy-eight percent of Americans say children educated in private schools receive an excellent or good education, more than say that about four other types of U.S. schooling. At least 6 in 10 say parochial schools or charter schools provide a quality education, while far fewer say that about home schooling or public schools.

Next I’m going to read a list of ways in which children are educated in the U.S. today. As I read each one, please indicate -- based on what you know or have read and heard -- how good an education each provides children – excellent, good, only fair, or poor. How about -- [RANDOM ORDER]? August 2012

These results are based on Gallup's annual Work and Education poll, conducted Aug. 9-12. For the first time Gallup asked Americans to rate -- based on what they have heard or their own experiences -- the quality of education U.S. children receive in various schooling situations.

Public schools get a relatively poor rating, even though the vast majority of American children are educated in public schools. The poll finds 83% of parents with children in grades kindergarten through 12 saying their oldest child attends public school, compared with 9% who say private school, 4% home school, and 2% parochial school. The poll did not assess the percentage of children attending charter schools, a relatively new type of school.

Parents of school-aged children generally rank the various school types in the same order, although they are somewhat more positive about the quality of public school education -- 47% say it is excellent or good -- than the broader adult population (37%).

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Democrats More Upbeat About Public Schools

There are political differences in how respondents rate the quality of certain types of schooling, with Republicans much more positive about home schooling and, to a lesser extent, parochial schools, than are Democrats. In turn, Democrats are more positive about public schools than are Republicans.

Ratings of U.S. School Quality, by Party Identification, August 2012

The net result of these differences is that Democrats are slightly more positive about the educational quality of public schools than of home schooling. However, Democrats still view private, parochial, and charter schools as providing better education than public schools.

Americans' Continue to Be Dissatisfied With K-12 Schooling in U.S.

The relatively low rating for public schools is likely an extension of Americans' broader dissatisfaction with kindergarten through grade 12 education in the United States. The Aug. 9-12 poll finds 44% of Americans saying they are satisfied with the quality of education U.S. students receive; 53% are dissatisfied. Only once in the 13-year history of this question, in 2004, have more Americans been satisfied than dissatisfied.

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

But American parents are always far more positive when asked to rate their own child's school -- with 75% this year saying they are satisfied. Seventy-five percent of public school parents are also satisfied with their child's schooling.

Trend: How satisfied are you with the quality of education your oldest child is receiving? Would you say you are completely satisfied, somewhat satisfied, somewhat dissatisfied or completely dissatisfied? Based on parents of children in grades kindergarten through 12

The percentage satisfied with their own child's education has never been lower than 68% since 1999, compared with a maximum satisfaction level of 53% for U.S. education more generally.

Implications

Americans are much more inclined to believe students in private, parochial, or charter schools receive a high-quality education than to say this about students in public schools and those who are home schooled. Americans in general are not highly satisfied with the state of public schooling in the United States, although that is probably not a commentary on their own child's school and schools in their local area because Americans have historically been quite satisfied with each of those. Rather, Americans may just have a general sense that U.S. public education is not where it needs to be, perhaps due to news media reports that American students lag behind students in other countries in basic academic skills.

Survey Methods

Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted Aug. 9-12, 2012, with a random sample of 1,012 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.

For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points.

For results based on the total sample of 236 parents with children in grades kindergarten through 12, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±8 percentage points.

Interviews are conducted with respondents on landline telephones and cellular phones, with interviews conducted in Spanish for respondents who are primarily Spanish-speaking. Each sample includes a minimum quota of 400 cell phone respondents and 600 landline respondents per 1,000 national adults, with additional minimum quotas among landline respondents by region. Landline telephone numbers are chosen at random among listed telephone numbers. Cell phone numbers are selected using random-digit-dial methods. Landline respondents are chosen at random within each household on the basis of which member had the most recent birthday.

Samples are weighted by gender, age, race, Hispanic ethnicity, education, region, adults in the household, and phone status (cell phone only/landline only/both, cell phone mostly, and having an unlisted landline number). Demographic weighting targets are based on the March 2011 Current Population Survey figures for the aged 18 and older non-institutionalized population living in U.S. telephone households. All reported margins of sampling error include the computed design effects for weighting and sample design.

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.

View methodology, full question results, and trend data.

For more details on Gallup's polling methodology, visit www.gallup.com.

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