New Gallup Poll: Americans give private schools top marks for educating children, low scores to public schools on “quality”


PRINCETON, NJ -- Seventy-eight percent of Americans say children educated in private schools receive an excellent or good education, more than say that about four other types of U.S. schooling. At least 6 in 10 say parochial schools or charter schools provide a quality education, while far fewer say that about home schooling or public schools.

These results are based on Gallup's annual Work and Education poll, conducted Aug. 9-12. For the first time Gallup asked Americans to rate -- based on what they have heard or their own experiences -- the quality of education U.S. children receive in various schooling situations.

Public schools get a relatively poor rating, even though the vast majority of American children are educated in public schools. The poll finds 83 percent of parents with children in grades kindergarten through 12 saying their oldest child attends public school, compared with 9 percent who say private school, 4 percent home school, and 2 percent parochial school. The poll did not assess the percentage of children attending charter schools, a relatively new type of school.

Parents of school-aged children generally rank the various school types in the same order, although they are somewhat more positive about the quality of public school education – 47 percent say it is excellent or good -- than the broader adult population (37 percent).

Democrats More Upbeat About Public Schools

There are political differences in how respondents rate the quality of certain types of schooling, with Republicans much more positive about home schooling and, to a lesser extent, parochial schools, than are Democrats. In turn, Democrats are more positive about public schools than are Republicans.

The net result of these differences is that Democrats are slightly more positive about the educational quality of public schools than of home schooling. However, Democrats still view private, parochial, and charter schools as providing better education than public schools.

Americans Continue to Be Dissatisfied With K-12 Schooling in U.S.

The relatively low rating for public schools is likely an extension of Americans' broader dissatisfaction with kindergarten through grade 12 education in the United States. The Aug. 9-12 poll finds 44 percent of Americans saying they are satisfied with the quality of education U.S. students receive; 53 percent are dissatisfied. Only once in the 13-year history of this question, in 2004, have more Americans been satisfied than dissatisfied.

But American parents are always far more positive when asked to rate their own child's school -- with 75 percent this year saying they are satisfied. Seventy-five percent of public school parents are also satisfied with their child's schooling.

The percentage satisfied with their own child's education has never been lower than 68 percent since 1999, compared with a maximum satisfaction level of 53 percent for U.S. education more generally.


Americans are much more inclined to believe students in private, parochial, or charter schools receive a high-quality education than to say this about students in public schools and those who are home schooled. Americans in general are not highly satisfied with the state of public schooling in the United States, although that is probably not a commentary on their own child's school and schools in their local area because Americans have historically been quite satisfied with each of those. Rather, Americans may just have a general sense that U.S. public education is not where it needs to be, perhaps due to news media reports that American students lag behind students in other countries in basic academic skills.

Click here to see the full Gallup Poll report and charts on public responses

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