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Students Rate California's Schools

May 20, 1998|By SUSAN PINKUS | Times Poll Director

According to a Los Angeles Times poll on education taken a few months after the start of the 1997-98 school year, students between the ages of 12 and 17 said they are pretty satisfied with the public school education they are receiving and believe a good education is important. Most of the students rate the quality of their public school education as excellent or good, grade their school either an A or a B, and rate their teachers a solid A or B. A majority say it is extremely important to them to get a good education, vis a vis the only way to succeed is through a good education, and getting it is the means to finding a good job. College is also very important to them.

Quality of Education

At the time of the survey, three-quarters of the students believed the quality of education they receive is excellent or good, including 20% excellent and 56% good. About a fifth called it fair and just 3% said poor. This is opposite to what all Californian adults and parents thought when they were asked to rate the quality of education at the local public schools in their community. Teachers, on the other hand, have as high opinion of the quality of education as students.

Asked to give a report card grade to the school they are now attending, most students had a very favorable opinion of their school -- 37% gave it an A and 46% gave it a B. The average grade was a B. Younger kids (12-14 years old) gave their school a grade of A (41%) while a third of those 15-17 years old gave their school an A. Boys liked their school more than girls (boys: 41% an A, vs. girls: 33% an A). Virtually all students had a good opinion about their school (13% gave their school a C, only 2% gave a grade of D and just 1% gave an F).

Not only did they have a high regard for their school, most of the students also gave strong positive ratings to their teachers. About half of the kids gave their teachers a report card grade of A, and another 42% gave them a B. Virtually none of the students thought poorly of the teachers teaching them. The average grade for their teachers was a solid B. More than half (52%) of the younger students (12-14 years old) rated their teachers an A, while 44% of those 15-17 years old rated their teachers an A. Also more boys (52%) than girls (45%) gave their teachers an A.

Overall, students felt the most important problem facing their schools today is crime. Thirteen percent mentioned violence, 15% said drugs, 8% said gangs and 3% mentioned other crime factors. Hardly any other problem came up with more than 3% of mentions except for lack of discipline in the classrooms (7%) and classrooms being too large (6%). More than twice as many girls (10%) than boys (4%) said lack of discipline is a major problem.

In grading themselves on how well they were doing in school, 26% said they deserved an A, 56% thought they deserved a B, 17% a C, and just 1% said they are only worthy of a D. Virtually none of the students interviewed believed they were failing. This is in contrast to opinions from teacher results found in a separate poll where one-third of the teachers said they would have liked to have held back more than 15% of their students. Also only 54% of teachers said more than 50% of their students read on grade level.

Girls seemed to think they are doing better than boys -- a third of the girls said they would give themselves an A, while 19% of boys gave this response. Twenty percent of boys said they deserve a C, while 14% of girls felt that way. Students overall, however, gave themselves a solid B average.

Of those students who graded themselves a B or less (62%), the poll asked what would help them do better in school: 25% said better teachers and 11% thought if they studied more and tried harder their grades would improve. Boys and girls were no different on this question -- they both wanted better teachers who would improve their performance.

Standardized Testing

Nine out of ten students take standardized testing seriously, including 40% who take them very seriously, and 50% somewhat seriously. However, 12% of the students said they wouldn't work harder even if passing these standardized tests was required to advance to the next grade or to graduate. This may be accounted for by the students believing they are doing well in school and don't need to work harder. And about half (49%) said they would work much harder, while a third (35%) believed they would work somewhat harder if they knew passing a standardized test was required for promotion.

The younger cohort (12-14 years old) would work harder at passing these tests than their older counterparts (15-17 years old). Almost three times as many older teenagers (19%) as younger respondents (7%) said they wouldn't work harder if they knew they had to pass a standardized test in order to advance to the next grade.

Receiving a Good Education

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