Published Online: February 12, 1997

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Survey Reveals Teens Yearn for High Standards

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Students were asked the following questions: Would [insert item] lead you to learn a lot more, a little more, or would it make no difference? And about how many of your teachers are like that now? Would you say most, some, or very few?

Bold type--Percent responding item would lead them to learn "a lot more"
Regular type--Percent responding "most" of their teachers are like item now

High School Students
A teacher who... General Whites African-
Americans
Hispanics Private School
tries to make lessons fun and interesting 78 24 79 25 76 25 78 23 84 39
is enthusiastic and excited about the subject they teach 71 29 71 28 72 32 71 32 74 43
knows a lot about the subject they teach 71 46 70 47 74 49 72 47 77 63
treats their students with respect 69 41 68 42 75 37 68 50 73 63
gives students a lot of individual help with their work 69 31 67 33 76 31 69 31 78 51
uses hands-on projects and class discussion 67 22 68 23 67 31 68 19 70 33
explains lessons very carefully 66 33 64 33 72 38 72 35 71 48
challenges students to constantly do better and learn more 66 33 63 33 79 42 69 36 74 51
personally cares about his students as people 64 30 62 30 68 31 66 31 71 58
knows how to handle disruptive students 46 29 45 28 52 35 44 35 52 44
teaches by lecturing 14 23 11 22 21 27 21 23 15 24

Suppose your school required students to learn more and tested them before they were allowed to graduate:1

High School Students (Percent responding yes) Adults Teachers
General Whites African-
Americans
Hispanics Private
School
Do you think that most kids would pay more attention to their school work and study harder, or not? 75 74 80 82 84 71 75
Do you think that most kids would actually learn more, or not? 73 72 79 75 75 72 75
Do you think that more kids will drop out, or not? 55 54 55 53 45 45 49
Do you think that more kids will dislike education and resist learning, or not? 53 51 55 56 56 38 27
Do you think: Schools should expect inner-city kids to learn as much and achieve the same standards as kids from middle-class backgrounds? 84 86 84 78 89 60 73
or Should schools make things easier for inner-city kids because they come from poor backgrounds? 2 12 10 13 19 8 32 22

1 Data for adults and teachers taken from the Assignment Incomplete survey (1995). Question wording for adults and teachers: "Suppose public schools set higher academic standards and they also require kids to show they achieve those standards before they graduate."
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2Data for adults taken from the Assignment Incomplete survey (1995). Data for teachers taken from the Given the Circumstances survey (1996). Question wording for adults and teachers: "Should public schools expect inner-city kids to achieve academic standards that are as high as standards for kids from affluent backgrounds, or should they make some allowances because inner-city kids come from disadvantaged backgrounds?" Results do not add up to 100% because answers of "not sure" are not shown.
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Copies of "Getting By: What American Teenagers Really Think About Their Schools" are available for $10, plus shipping and handling, from Public Agenda, 6 E. 39th St., New York, N.Y. 10016-0112 or by calling (212) 686-6610.

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