Parents like their children’s schools, but unhappy with schools in general

by Grace

79% of parents think their children’s schools are doing a good job, but only 17% of adults  say the same thing about public schools as a whole.

Nearly eight in 10 Americans — 79% — give an “A or B” grade to the school their oldest child attends, according to findings released today by Phi Delta Kappa (PDK) International, an educators association. That’s up from 68% in 2001, and the highest percentage of favorable ratings since PDK began asking the question in 1985. That year, 71% of parents gave their kids’ school top grades.

But since 2001, Americans have soured on schools in general: When 1,002 adults were asked June 4-13 to give a letter grade to “public schools in the nation as a whole,” only 17% gave them an A or B, down from 23% in 2001, and 27% in 1985.

Guilt or cognitive dissonance?

Mike Petrilli of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a Washington, D.C., education think tank, says there’s evidence that many U.S. public schools are improving. But he says parents’ willingness to like their child’s school may stem from a kind of guilt — especially if parents can afford to pay for a private school or have moved to a neighborhood with higher-performing schools.

“Who’s going to give their kid’s school a low grade unless they’re poor and they’re trapped?” he says. “There’d just be too much cognitive dissonance to admit that your child’s school” isn’t up to par.

These findings are similar to poll results asking about Congress, with Americans typically liking their local representative better than lawmakers as a whole.  However, the latest poll on that topic shows we’re less pleased with everyone we’ve elected.

Poll: Parents give thumbs up to local schools – USA Today

More commentary on the poll results from Rick Hess

Highlights of the 2011 Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup Poll

2 Comments to “Parents like their children’s schools, but unhappy with schools in general”

  1. That has been true since I was in school, which is why school reform movements never get anywhere. Back in the era of A Nation At Risk, articles reported on this phenomenon.


  2. Yes, but apparently the view of public schools in general has gone down over the last ten years. Longer term, I don’t know.


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