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Americans Give Public Schools Barely Passing Grades

September 14, 2012

Most Americans believe the nation does not receive a good return on its investment in schools, and nearly two-thirds give public schools a grade of C, D or F.  Those are some of the results from a new survey on attitudes toward education.

“When it comes to assigning public schools a grade, Americans are pretty harsh in their views,” says James Guthrie, Senior Fellow for Education Reform at the George W. Bush Institute, which sponsored the survey, conducted Feb. 27 to 29 among 1,111 randomly selected adults by Social Science Research Solutions. “Americans say public schools are barely doing enough to pass, and they believe that throwing money at the problem isn’t a good idea.”

The survey, filled with surprises, found that Americans are changing their views about education and that policy makers are out of sync with the public’s preferences. Complete results are available here.

Some 56 percent of respondents think “public schools waste a great deal of the money they receive,” and 74 percent want “every effort” to be made to make schools more efficient through such measures as greater competition from charter schools and the use of vouchers.

The survey of public opinion is part of an effort by the Bush Institute to develop education programs that dramatically increase the number of young people who graduate high school ready for college or a good career.

Major initiatives of the Institute include the Alliance to Reform Education Leadership, which seeks to improve the quality of America’s school principals; Middle School Matters, which aims to reduce the high school drop-out rate with early interventions; the Global Report Card, which informs Americans of how their schools stack up against international competitors; and the School Productivity Project, which helps school systems get higher student achievement without significant increases in tax dollars devoted to education.

The survey revealed that African Americans are slightly more critical than whites or Hispanics in their views of public schools, and residents of the Western states are less satisfied with schooling than the rest of the country. Asked to give U.S. public schooling a letter grade, 64 percent of survey respondents indicate that our schools deserve a “C” or lower. A full 20 percent give schools a “D” or an “F.”

“Americans believe that public schools are not making the grade, and this survey tells us that public opinion is at odds with the education policy system,” said Dr. Kerri Briggs, Director of Education Reform at the Bush Institute. “That’s why the Bush Institute continues challenging the status quo and working to improve student achievement.”

The survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.48 percent.