What are the 4 things driving a decline in satisfaction with schools?

Concern about academic rigor was the top reason survey respondents gave for their dissatisfaction.

There is a drastic satisfaction gap between the opinions of education held by parents of K-12 students and their fellow Americans.

While 80% of parents reported feeling largely content with the education their children are receiving, only 42% of all the people surveyed said they were satisfied with K-12 schools, according to the latest Gallup poll. That latter satisfaction level is a drop from a record-high 51% in 2019 and the lowest the polling company has measured in two decades.

A lack of academic rigor in U.S. schools was the top concern respondents gave for their dissatisfaction, and that opinion was shared by both Democrats and Republicans. More than half of those surveyed cited a poor or outdated curriculum, a belief that U.S. education is outranked by other countries, and a failure to teach basic reading, writing and arithmetic, among other issues.

Here are the other top concerns that shaped respondents’ views of the U.S. education system:

  • Schools or students suffer from a lack of resources, including unequal access to education for low-income students and students of color, and insufficient funding and teacher pay.
  • Political agendas are present and being taught in schools: 4% cited transgender/sex education and 3% mentioned critical race theory.
  • Educational climates diminished by a lack of discipline and insufficient attention to students.

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Only 9% of the poll’s respondents said they are completely satisfied with K-12 education while 23% are completely dissatisfied. The poll’s authors say Republicans and Republican-leaning independents are driving the overall decline in satisfaction with education, which, they add, has spiked in the years since Donald Trump left office.

From 2017 to 2020, for instance, Democrats and Republicans expressed similar levels of contentment, 50% and 46% respectively. Satisfaction among Republicans plunged to 35% in 2021 and has fallen further to 30% this year.

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Democrats’ positive feelings have hovered in the 51% to 57% range. “Americans’ satisfaction with the quality of education provided to the nation’s K-12 students has declined, but only slightly within the narrow range recorded since 2001,” Gallup concluded. “And the decline has occurred exclusively among Republicans and Republican-leaning adults.”

Many more opinions on education

Bloomberg.com has compiled another batch of data and surveys that provide more details on the issues that are clouding Americans’ views on education. Enrollment in traditional public schools has declined over the past decade, with the steepest drops occurring in special education and alternative programs. At the same time, enrollment in charter schools has soared by 113% and non-sectarian private schools have grown by 17%.

The website also highlighted data showing a gradual decline in the number of Americans who believe elementary school teachers are ethical and honest. These numbers were far lower for Republicans. Over the last two years, there has also been a sharp and sudden increase in school board recall efforts and challenges to library books in both K-12 and higher education.


Matt Zalaznick
Matt Zalaznick
Matt Zalaznick is a life-long journalist. Prior to writing for District Administration he worked in daily news all over the country, from the NYC suburbs to the Rocky Mountains, Silicon Valley and the U.S. Virgin Islands. He's also in a band.

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