Americans’ satisfaction with the quality of K-12 education in the U.S. has fallen six percentage points in the past year to match the record-low 36% reading on this measure, which Gallup has tracked for 24 years. In contrast, parents of K-12 students remain largely satisfied with the quality of the education their oldest child is receiving, as 76% say they are “completely” or “somewhat” satisfied, significantly higher than the 67% low on that measure from 2013.
Since 1999, when Gallup started asking these two questions every August, there has been a consistent, significant gap between parents’ satisfaction with their child’s education and Americans’ views of U.S. education in general, averaging 31 percentage points.
The latest readings, from an Aug. 1-23 poll, find that Americans’ overall satisfaction with the nation’s K-12 education quality is nine points below the 45% historical average for this metric. At the same time, parents’ satisfaction with the quality of their school-aged child’s education matches the historical average for the measure.
All told, 35% of parents of K-12 students are “completely satisfied” with their child’s education, 41% are “somewhat satisfied,” 12% are “somewhat dissatisfied” and 9% “completely dissatisfied.” Meanwhile, 8% of Americans are completely satisfied with K-12 education nationally, 28% are somewhat satisfied, 38% somewhat dissatisfied and 25% completely dissatisfied.
Parents’ more-positive views on education are reserved for their direct experience with their own children. They are only a bit more satisfied with education nationally (41%) than the public at large is (36%).
Parents of K-12 students are not just satisfied with the quality of the education their children are receiving but also with their children’s teachers. Nearly three-quarters of parents say the performance of their children’s teachers is “excellent” (36%) or “good” (37%), while 20% offer a “fair” and 7% a “poor” rating. These ratings, which are similar to the previous time the question was asked in 2018, may explain, at least in part, why parents rate their children’s education so positively.
Satisfaction With K-12 Education in Both Parties at or Near Record Lows
Lower satisfaction from Republicans and Republican-leaning independents since Joe Biden became president has driven the overall decline in ratings of the nation’s K-12 education quality. The 25% of Republicans who say they are at least somewhat satisfied with U.S. education is the lowest recorded for the group, five points below the previous low recorded last year and about half of what it was in 2019 and 2020.
While partisans on both sides of the aisle have not been overwhelmingly satisfied with education in the U.S. throughout the trend, Republicans’ latest satisfaction is 18 points below the 43% historical average for the group.
Meanwhile, the 44% of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents who are at least somewhat satisfied with the nation’s education is five points lower than the average since 2000.
The latest divergent readings among partisans are in stark contrast to 2000, the last time overall satisfaction among U.S. adults was at today’ level. At that time, there was little difference between partisans’ satisfaction levels.
The intensity of partisans’ satisfaction also differs, with more than three times as many Republicans (38%) as Democrats (12%) in 2023 saying they are completely dissatisfied. For their part, a 43% plurality of Democrats say they are somewhat dissatisfied.
~ Bottom Line ~
Americans’ satisfaction with the quality of K-12 education in the U.S. has fallen to a record low point as a new school year begins. Both party groups are at or near record-low satisfaction levels, but Republicans are significantly less likely to be satisfied than Democrats are.
Still, parents of elementary and secondary school students remain quite satisfied with the education their child is getting, and they offer mostly positive reviews of the performance of their children’s teachers. If parental satisfaction wanes, however, parents may choose to move their child to a different school.
Written by Megan Brenan for Gallup ~ August 31, 2023