Survey: public schools have more detractors than promoters
A significant portion of Delaware’s $3.5 billion annual operating budget goes to education. So, if you asked 5,000 Delawareans what kind of job they think the state’s public schools are doing with the hundreds of millions spent annually on education, what would they say?
An organization called Project 5000 Opinions did just such a survey between July and November in 2013. As it turns out, 44 percent of the respondents feel public schools are doing well, giving them a grade of A or B. Those with children in the school system or those who work in the school system give the schools the highest grades, with 65 percent of them grading their schools as A or B.
While 31 percent of the respondents feel that the state’s public schools have improved over the past five years, 45 percent feel schools have stayed about the same or worsened.
Other key findings as presented in an executive summary of the report:
• Nearly 50 percent of respondents feel that charter schools have a positive impact on schools
• 38 percent of those surveyed believe the primary purpose of public schools is to prepare students for college
• Areas of citizen concern include: school safety, teacher and leader quality, parental involvement, student motivation, funding and resources, and class size.
University of Delaware’s Center for Applied Demography and Survey Research analyzed data from the survey. Analysts reviewed responses from six geographical areas of the state including Wilmington, northern and southern New Castle County, Kent County, and eastern and western Sussex. Of the 5,000 surveys collected, 1,068 came from Sussex with 375 on the eastern side and 693 on the western side.
Rod Ward, a member of the committee and vice chair of the East Side Charter School and Learning Center in New Castle County, said one of the greatest divergences in opinion came between eastern Sussex and western Sussex. When asked their primary expectation of public schools, the highest percentage on the east side - 31 percent - said preparation for college. On the west side of the county, the highest percentage - 51 percent - said preparing students to get a job was their primary expectation.
Gap: expectation vs. performance
The survey analysis also points out that while statewide, the largest number of respondents - 52 percent - believe that preparing students for college is their highest expectation, a 2013 research project showed that fewer than 20 percent of Delaware 11th-graders were ready for college based on SAT performance.
That fact, says the survey report, may be one reason why for every promoter of Delaware’s public schools, there are two detractors. But, as pointed out earlier, loyalty to Delaware’s public schools goes up significantly among those more familiar with the schools.
“A higher proportion of negative sentiment about Delaware public schools comes from respondents who are less familiar with the schools,” says the report.
To that end, the report recommends, among other things, that “policymakers need to better communicate the many successes and achievements that are being made across the state to those less familiar with the system.”
The full report and all of its conclusions, recommendations and committee members can be viewed by visiting www.P5KO.org.