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How Well Are Schools Peforming? Educators, Executives Don't Agree

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Washington--School administrators and business executives diverge sharply in their assessments of the performance of American schools, a comparison of two surveys suggests.

More than 80 percent of the administrators who responded to a new survey said the schools were doing a "good" or "very good" job of educating students, according to findings released here last week. In contrast, 77 percent of business executives responding to a 1989 survey said schools were doing only a "fair" or "poor" job.

The survey of school administrators was conducted by the Allstate Insurance Company and the American Association of School Administrators. The results were released at a conference sponsored by Allstate to examine promising business partnerships with education.

The opinions of the 385 administrators were contrasted with those of 404 business executives surveyed last year by Allstate and Fortune magazine. (See Education Week, April 26, 1989.)

The two polls also found a wide divergence of opinion on whether public education is improving. Seventy-three percent of the school administrators responding said the quality of education is better now than it was 10 years ago, while 64 percent of the executives said it was worse.

"Executives and educators still of4ten see the world in different ways," said Wayne E. Hedien, chairman and chief executive officer of Allstate. "It's hampering our efforts to get America's learning curve pointed in the right direction once again."

Expectations for improvement also differ sharply, with 75 percent of school leaders saying education will improve in the foreseeable future, compared with 43 percent of the executives.

When asked about the factors contributing to poor student achievement, the educators cited changes in the family structure, low student and teacher motivation, and cuts in state and local budgets.

Business leaders named a lack of emphasis on teaching basic skills, undermotivated or poorly trained teachers, and low academic standards.

When asked what kinds of help from business would most benefit schools, 78 percent of the administrators cited support for tax increases to fund school improvements; 41 percent of the executives shared that view.

The educators also cited contributions of materials and equipment and offers of summer jobs for students.

While the majority of the chief executive officers who responded to the 1989 survey worked in cities with 1 million or more residents, 86 percent of the school administrators surveyed were from cities with fewer than 500,000 residents.--ab

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