By Mon, August 19, 2013
WASHINGTON (AP) — Minority and low-income parents are more likely to
see serious problems in their schools — from low expectations to
bullying to out-of-date technology and textbooks — than those who are
affluent or white, according to an Associated Press-NORC Center for
Public Affairs Research Poll.
Overall impressions of the nation's schools and teachers are
similarly positive among all groups of parents, but deep demographic
differences emerge in the details of how parents see teachers, schools
and even their own roles in their children's education.
The divisions fall along the familiar fault lines of income,
education and race that drive so much of American life. In many cases,
it's as though parents are looking at two very different sets of schools
in this country.
Most parents say the school their child attends is high-quality and
rate their children's teachers positively. White parents are only
slightly more likely than others to give their child's school high
marks, and parents of all races give their local schools similar ratings
for preparing students for college, the workforce, citizenship and life
as an adult.
A majority of parents say their children are receiving a better
education than the one they received, but blacks and Hispanics feel more
strongly than whites that this is the case. The poll also shows
minorities feel they have a greater influence over their children's
And the ways parents assess school quality and the problems they see
as most deeply affecting their child's school vary greatly by parents'
race, education and income level.
Sean Anderson, 30, whose children will be in the third and fifth
grades in Waxahachie, Texas, this fall, says their schools are probably
fine compared with others near him in Dallas, but he worries their
education isn't as good as it could be.
"I don't know. Compared to the kids in the U.K.? Probably not," Anderson said.
Among the findings of the AP-NORC poll:
—Parents from wealthier families were less likely than those from
less affluent ones to see bullying, low parental involvement, low test
scores, low expectations and out-of-date textbooks as serious problems.
—Parents with a college degree point to unequal school funding as the
top problem facing education, while parents without a college degree
point to low expectations for students as the biggest challenge.
—Black and Hispanic parents are more apt than white parents to see
per-student spending, the quality of school buildings and the
availability of support resources as important drivers of school
"Schools in many ways are being parents, role models, providing
after-school care. Especially middle schools; they're babysitting
because they're providing after-school care," said John Dalton, a
49-year-old father of two from Canandaigua, N.Y, who teaches high school
Dalton acknowledged his Finger Lakes-region town is affluent and said
money isn't determining whether the students succeed or fail. But he
said he would like his son Patrick's public Canandaigua Academy to spend
more time on rigorous studies.
"The focus isn't really on learning, it's on so many different
things, and the social aspect has taken over for so many of our
students," he said.
When asked about problems facing students, parents from households
earning less than $50,000 a year were more worried than parents making
more than $100,000. For example, among less affluent families, 52
percent said bullying was a problem and 47 percent worried about too
little parental involvement. Among wealthier parents, those numbers were
18 percent and 29 percent.
Responsibility falls to the parents because teachers aren't doing
their jobs, said John Barnum, a father of five who lives in Las Vegas.
"The educators are not there to participate. They're there to do a
j-o-b," Barnum said. "The teachers are sending kids home with so much
homework. They're being sent home with homework to have the parents
teach them or have to teach themselves."
Digging into these numbers reveals another wide gap based on race.
Fifty-four percent of Hispanic parents and 50 percent of black parents
think they have a great deal or a lot of influence over their child's
education. Only 34 percent of white parents share this view.
When asking about school funding, artistic programs and technology, racial identities divided perceptions.
Sixty-one percent of black parents saw inequality in school funding
as a problem, compared with 32 percent of white parents. Thirty-six
percent of black parents saw insufficient opportunities for musical or
artistic pursuits, but just 21 percent of white parents did. And 50
percent of Hispanic parents said a lack of computers and technology was a
problem, while 34 percent of black parents and just 16 percent of white
parents said the same.
Hispanic parents were significantly more likely than white parents to
see keeping good teachers as a problem, by a 67 percent to 24 percent
margin. Fighting, violence and gangs were a serious concern for 53
percent of Hispanic parents, but only 13 percent of white parents.
There also are clear socio-economic divides on what qualities parents
see in good teachers. Parents with less formal education or lower
incomes are more likely to emphasize teachers' academic credentials and
experience in the classroom, as are black and Hispanic parents.
The survey was sponsored by the Joyce Foundation, which works to
promote policies that improve the quality of teachers, including the
development of new teacher evaluation systems, enhance early reading
reforms and encourage innovation in public schools.
The AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research survey was conducted
June 21 through July 22, 2013. The nationally representative poll
involved landline and cellphone interviews in English or Spanish with
1,025 parents of children who completed grades K through 12 in the last
school year. Interviews were conducted by NORC at the University of
Chicago. Results for the full sample have a margin of sampling error of
plus or minus 4.1 percentage points; it is larger for subgroups.
Associated Press News Survey Specialist Dennis Junius and writer Stacy A. Anderson contributed to this report.
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AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research: http://www.apnorc.org