ISSUE NO. 2:HOW BLACK AND HISPANICFAMILIES RATE THEIR SCHOOLSA Report from Education Insights atPublic Agenda.Funding for this report was provided by:GE FoundationNellie Mae Education FoundationThe Wallace Foundation
This is the second in a series of reports from RealityCheck 2006, an ongoing set of tracking surveys oneducation issues. Reality Check surveys attitudes amongpublic school parents, students, teachers, principals andsuperintendents on a regular basis. The series alsoincludes periodic surveys of employers and collegeprofessors.Jean Johnson, Ana Maria Arumi and Amber Ottprepared this report.More information about the findings in this report, including fullquestion wording and results, can be found at:WWW.PUBLICAGENDA.ORGRegular updates and new reports will be available at thislocation throughout the year.
public schools. What are they seeing and hearing? academic issues, including low standards, highWhat’s going right and wrong based on their dropout rates and a shortage of resources.experiences? For example, twice as many black parents asSome reassuring results white parents (39% vs. 17%) give the localOn the one hand, the results provide reassurance superintendent fair or poor marks for ensuring thatthat American kids are American kids, regardless the district has high standards and students getof their race and ethnic background. About half of the support they need to reach them. Four in 10students from every walk of life say that they could black parents say that a diploma from a local highwork harder in school. Most students are confident school doesn’t guarantee a student has learnedthat they are learning a lot in both reading and basics, compared to just 26% of white parents.math – this despite serious questions being raisedon this score by international test comparisons Putting the results in perspectiveand the nation’s business and education leaders. Statistics such as “4 in 10 parents” or “3 in 10In one very nice finding, majorities of all students students” are sobering because they representreport that they have had a millions of individuals nationwideteacher who was able to get who believe they are Reality Check showsthem interested in a subject that underserved by local public repeated and significantthey hadn’t really liked before. schools. Still, it is important to disparities between the keep in mind that most parentsMost parents too, across racial educational experiences and students from alland ethnic groups, believe their of minority parents and backgrounds say their schoolschildren’s schools are better than students versus those of meet their expectations on mostthe ones they attended when most white families. measures. It is also worththey were young. Both parents remembering that serious socialand students, across racial and ethnic groups, and educational problems are not confined totend to give teachers good scores overall. minority students. Over one in four white students, for example, says profanity and disrespect forAnd some less reassuring ones teachers is a very serious problem at their school,Even so, “Reality Check” shows repeated and along with another 35% calling it “somewhat”significant disparities between the educational serious.” Nearly 1 in 5 white students say drug andexperiences of minority parents and students alcohol abuse is very serious, with another quarterversus those of most white families. And it’s not saying it is somewhat serious. Forty percent ofjust the social problems often associated with white students say that only some or a few of theirpoor, urban neighborhoods. Compared to whites, teachers take a personal interest in them.black and Hispanic students and parents are moreconcerned and dissatisfied about a whole range ofPage 2 REALITY CHECK 2006
FINDING ONE: A LOT IN COMMONIn many respects, Americans students bring common attitudes to school, regardless of their racial andethnic background, and they share at least some of the same experiences. About half of all students –black, white and Hispanic – admit that they could work harder in school, and most believe in the idea ofschools setting higher standards, even if it means students have to go to summer school. Most studentsfrom all groups are confident that they are learning, and surprisingly large numbers of all students saythey have had a teacher who was able to turn them on to a subject that they hadn’t enjoyed before.Most students, from all backgrounds, Most students support highersay they could work harder in standards even if it means summerschool* school*% who say that right now they could try a little % who thinks it is a good idea for school districtsharder in school: to require students to meet higher academic standards or go to summer school to catch up: 84% 84% 79% 58% 53% 46% Black Hispanic White Black Hispanic WhiteMost students, regardless of race or ethnic group, believe they are learning a lotin school* Learned a lot when it comes to reading, writing, spelling and vocabulary 65% Black 65% Hispanic White 69% Learned a lot when it comes to doing math 61% 68% 67%*Note: These differences are not statistically significantPage 4 REALITY CHECK 2006
FINDING TWO: LOW STANDARDS, UNSETTLED SCHOOLS“Reality Check’s” surveys of students show repeated and troubling differences between the way minorityyoungsters describe their experiences in schools compared to what white students report. Asked to ratetheir schools on a range of key academic and social dimensions, black and Hispanic students are morelikely to report “very serious” problems in nearly every category. Twenty-three percent of Hispanicstudents and 39% of black students say that kids dropping out is a very serious problem at their school,compared to 12% of whites. Likewise, 29% of Hispanics and 37% of blacks say truancy is a very seriousproblem, compared to 14% of whites. Just half of black students (49%) believe that they will have theskills to succeed in college by the time they get there. And while it may be an unfortunate fact of modernlife that youngsters across the board say problems like disrespect for teachers, profanity and drug andalcohol abuse are at least “somewhat serious” in their schools, these problems appear more prevalentand troubling for minority students. About 3 in 10 black students report very serious levels of unrest anddistraction in their schools.Minority students are more likely to Large numbers of minority studentsreport widespread academic say their schools aren’t gettingshortfalls enough money to do a good job A high school diploma is no guarantee % of students who say it’s a serious problem that a student has learned the basics of that schools are not getting enough money to do reading, writing and math a good job: 29% Black 17% Hispanic White Black 40% 23% 15% In their school, most students do the bare minimum to get by Hispanic 31% 23% Very Serious 30% Somewhat White 18% 31% Serious 26% 22% Many students at their school are struggling academically and are barely getting by 32% 28% 22%Page 6 REALITY CHECK 2006
Minority students are more likely to More minority students reportreport serious social and behavior teachers and schools struggling withproblems discipline issues Too many kids lack respect for teachers and use bad language Teachers spend more time trying to keep order in class than teaching Black 52% 23% Black 30% 27%Hispanic 35% 28% Hispanic 18% 29% Very close to Very serious describing school White 28% 35% Somewhat serious Somewhat close to White 14% 29% describing school Too many kids cut class or ditch school Their school is not consistent in its policies for enforcing rules on discipline and student behavior Black 37% 22% Black 33%Hispanic 29% 26% Hispanic 26% White 14% 26% White 19% There’s too much fighting, too many weapons on school grounds Black 32% 15%Hispanic 19% 19% White 12% 20% There’s too much drug and alcohol abuse Black 30% 19%Hispanic 27% 15% White 17% 25%Page 8 REALITY CHECK 2006
FINDING THREE: GOOD MARKS FOR TEACHERS, BUT TOO LITTLE EXTRA HELPOverall, black, white and Hispanic students give their teachers good ratings for knowing the subjects theyteach, making sure unruly students don’t take over classes, having high expectations and inspiring kids todo their best. But minority students are significantly more likely to report that “only some” or “a few” oftheir teachers give students extra help when they are falling behind. Black students are twice as likely aswhite or Hispanic students to say that “only some” or “a few” of their teachers treat them with respect.Most students give their teachers good ratings in most areas% of students who say “all” or “almost all” of their teachers: Have a real knack for inspiring and motivating kids to do their best 62% Black 68% Hispanic 66% White Have high academic expectations for all of the students they teach 70% 73% 78% Make sure disruptive students don’t take over the class 7 1% 7 1% 79% Know a lot about the subject they teach 83% 88% 88%Page 10 REALITY CHECK 2006
FINDING FOUR: MINORITY PARENTS LESS SATISFIED TOOWhether the issue is standards and curriculum, drug abuse and fighting or school funding and crowdedclassrooms, minority parents are more likely than white parents to be dissatisfied with local schools. Over4 in 10 black and Hispanic parents, for example, doubt whether students leaving middle school havelearned the basics, compared to 29% of white parents. Black and Hispanic parents are twice as likely aswhite parents to say school superintendents have not done a good job keeping schools safe and orderly.They are also twice as likely to report that fighting and weapons on school grounds are very seriousproblems in their schools. About half of black and Hispanic parents complain that local schools do not getenough money to do the job compared to a third of white parents.Minority parents are more concerned about school funding and classroomovercrowding% of parents who say it’s a problem that schools % of parents who say it’s a problem that classesare not getting enough money to do a good job: are too crowded: Black 49% 16% Black 31% 18% Hispanic 52% 17% Hispanic 36% 11% Very serious White 33% 29% Somewhat serious White 19% 23%Page 12 REALITY CHECK 2006
Minority parents are more worried about middle-school students’ preparation forhigh school% of parents who say there’s no guarantee that students leaving middle school have learned the reading,writing and math skills they need for high school: 42% 41% 29% Black Hispanic WhiteMinority parents are more likely to report very serious social problems in schools % of parents who say: Black Hispanic White Too many kids lack respect for teachers and use bad 43% 41% 29% language Local superintendents do a “fair” or “poor” job at making sure 31% 20% 13% district schools are safe and orderly Too much drug and alcohol abuse is a very serious problem in 25% 38% 20% schools Too much fighting and too many weapons on school grounds 27% 30% 13% is a very serious problemPage 14 REALITY CHECK 2006
Black parents are more doubtful Black parents are more likely to haveabout whether a diploma guarantees concerns about fairness in schoolbasic skills discipline% of parents who say that a high school diplomais no guarantee that a student has learned thebasics: Only some or a few teachers handle discipline problems quickly and fairly 40% 34% 26% 26% 29% 15% Black Hispanic White In the last couple of years, a teacher unfairly disciplined or punished their child 40% Black 31% Hispanic White 25%Page 16 REALITY CHECK 2006
FINDING SEVEN: FROM THE TEACHERS’ PERSPECTIVEIn addition to looking at the views of minority parents and students, “Reality Check” also exploresattitudes among teachers, comparing the views of teachers in mainly-minority schools to those ofteachers in mainly-white schools. Teachers share some common concerns regardless of where theyteach. For example, large majorities of all teachers everywhere say schools need more money to do agood job. However, several notable differences do leap out. Teachers in mainly minority schools are morelikely to say classes are crowded, and over a third say teacher morale is low. They are significantly moretroubled by parents who don’t hold their children accountable or control TV and video game time.Although the vast majority of teachers in mainly-minority schools say academic expectations are high attheir schools, they also report broad instances of students not learning even basic skills. Teachers inmainly minority schools are also significantly less likely to give administrators good ratings for selectingprincipals, getting money to the classroom and keeping schools safe and orderly.Teachers in mainly minority schools are more likely toreport low morale and poor working conditions* Teacher morale is low Teachers in mainly- 31% minority schools Teachers in mainly- 21% white schools Classes are too crowded 38% 25% It’s a very serious problem that there’s much profanity and disrespect for teachers 51% 26%* Mainly-minority schools are defined as those with more than 50% of students from minority backgrounds. Mainly-white schools are those with fewer than 25% minority students enrolled.Page 18 REALITY CHECK 2006
Teachers in mainly minority schools are less likely to give administrators goodmarks for choosing principles and keeping schools safe Teachers in Teachers in % of teachers who say their superintendent is doing a mainly- mainly-white good or excellent job: minority schools schools Recruiting and retaining great principals 48% 63% At making sure money gets to the classroom 52% 61% Making sure schools are safe and orderly 61% 81% Making sure low income/minority kids do as well as more 57% 69% affluent kidsPage 20 REALITY CHECK 2006
RELATED PUBLIC AGENDA PUBLICATIONSAll Public Agenda research reports are available for free download at publicagenda.org.Reality Check 2006: Issue No. 1: Are Parents and Students Ready for More Math and Science? Supported bythe GE Foundation, the Nellie Mae Education Foundation and The Wallace Foundation. 2006. 13 pgs. PrintEdition Price:$5.00. “Of course, just offering students more advanced math and science courses isn’tenough. We have to change the way our students look at these classes as well… A [Public Agenda study]found that 70 percent of high school parents say their children already get enough math and science inschool You and I know why this matters, and we must work together to make sure parents and students do,too.” – U.S. Department of Education Secretary Margaret SpellingsLife After High School: Young People Talk about Their Hopes and Prospects. Supported by The College Board,GE Foundation, The George Gund Foundation, W.K. Kellogg Foundation and KnowledgeWorks Foundation. 2005.Full Report: 42 pgs. Executive Summary: 10 pgs. Print Edition Price: $5.00. ISBN: 1-889483-86-9. “A new surveyof young adults on their plans after high school finds they understand the limitations of life without a college degree,but often lack the money, motivation or guidance to pursue higher education. The survey, conducted by thenonpartisan research group Public Agenda, also shows that most young people who forgo college find themselvesfalling into jobs by chance.” – Lou Dobbs on CNN’s Lou Dobbs TonightTeaching Interrupted: Do Discipline Policies in Today’s Public Schools Foster the Common Good?Supported by Common Good. 2004. 60 pgs. Print Edition Price: $5.00. ISBN No. 1-889483-84-2. “I was eager toread a major report on discipline in our schools being released today by…Public Agenda, one of the most interestingand useful chroniclers of opinion inside American classrooms. It is both an intriguing and a disturbing document.The vast majority of teachers surveyed say they are often treading water in a sea of adolescent misbehavior andparental mistrust.” – Jay Mathews, The Washington PostStand by Me: What Teachers Really Think about Unions, Merit Pay and Other Professional Matters. Supportedby The Broad Foundation, the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation, The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, and TheSidney J. Weinberg, Jr. Foundation. 2003. 64 pgs. Print Edition Price: $10.00. ISBN No. 1-889483-82-6. “Theresearch group Public Agenda consistently offers insightful studies of education, and its latest report is a winner.Stand by Me draws out teachers’ views of the policies that shape their professional lives – what they think aboutunions, merit pay, tenure, alternative certification, standardized testing and more.” – Scripps Howard News ServiceWhere We Are Now: 12 Things You Need to Know About Public Opinion and Public Schools. Supported byWashington Mutual. 2003. 35 pgs. Print Edition Price: $5. ISBN No. 1-89483-81-8. “Drawing on 10 years’ worth ofsurveys, focus groups and other analyses of public opinion, Public Agenda has developed a compelling analysis ofcurrent attitudes toward the nation’s schools. Although toughened standards and high-stakes tests have drawn thebulk of policymakers’ and press attention, Public Agenda’s findings demonstrate that education is influenced far moreby classroom-level conditions.” – Cleveland Plain DealerPublic Agenda Staff: Ruth A. Wooden, PresidentJoan Austin, Administrative Assistant Will Friedman, Director of Public Jonathan Rochkind, Research Engagement ManagerAna Maria Arumi, Director of John Immerwahr, Senior Research Ginger Skinner, Assistant EditorResearch FellowLara Birnback, Public Engagement Jean Johnson, Executive Vice Michael Hamill Remaley, Director ofProject Director President, Director of Programs CommunicationsScott Bittle, Executive Editor, Public Kathie Johnson, Director of Alex Trilling, Executive AssistantAgenda Online AdministrationSteve Farkas, Senior Research Alison Kadlec, Senior Research David White, Manager, TechnologyFellow Associate and ProgrammingClaudia Feurey, VP for Amber Ott, Research AssociateCommunications and ExternalRelations
About Public AgendaFounded in 1975 by social scientist and author DanielYankelovich, and former U.S. Secretary of State CyrusVance, Public Agenda works to help the nation’s leadersbetter understand the public’s point of view and to helpaverage citizens better understand critical policy issues.Our in-depth research on how citizens think about policyhas won praise for its credibility and fairness fromelected officials from both political parties and fromexperts and decision makers across the politicalspectrum. Our citizen education materials and award-winning web site www.publicagenda.org offer unbiasedinformation about the challenges the country faces.Recently recognized by Library Journal as one of theWeb’s best resources, Public Agenda Online providescomprehensive information on a wide range of policyissues.About Education InsightsEducation Insights is a multi-year initiative launched byPublic Agenda to expand community and parentengagement in public education. Building on ourextensive opinion research in education and seminalwork in developing practical public engagement projects,Education Insights addresses the miscommunicationand lack of consensus that sometimes hampers reform.The initiative reflects our belief that the drive to transformAmerican education is at a critical juncture. With astuteleadership and genuine community engagement, webelieve public education reform can attract broad andsustained support. But without a genuine effort to bring abroader group of Americans into the movement, we fearthat the momentum for change could weaken, leavingthe country with too many school systems beset withweaknesses and inequities.About Reality CheckReality Check is a set of public opinion tracking surveys onimportant issues in public education. From 1998 through 2002,Public Agenda conducted annual surveys of parents, teachers,students, employers and college professors covering primarilystandards, testing, and accountability issues. In 2005 and 2006,Public Agenda revised and updated these Reality Check surveysto cover a broader range of questions, including high schoolreform, school leadership, teacher preparation and quality,school funding and other key issues. The new Reality Checksurveys also include responses from public school principals andsuperintendents. The tracking surveys will be repeatedperiodically as a service of Education Insights. The 2005-2006Reality Check research is supported by the GE Foundation, theNellie Mae Education Foundation and The Wallace Foundation.
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