School & District Management

How Well Are Schools Doing? Not Great, Say Most Adults and Teens

By Lauraine Langreo — February 07, 2024 4 min read
Blue concept showing back view of a female teacher giving a lecture at high school.
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Adults and adolescents in the United States say schools are not up to the task of preparing children for a successful future, concludes a new report from Common Sense Media, a nonprofit research and advocacy organization that studies the impact of technology on youth.

More than half of adults (58 percent) and adolescents (57 percent) said that K-12 public schools are doing a “poor” or “just fair” job of educating children, the report found.

The nationally representative survey of 2,000 likely voters and 1,227 kids ages 12-17 was conducted by Lake Research Partners and Echelon Insights in November and December on behalf of Common Sense Media.

The report comes as public schools are dealing with backlash from certain groups of parents, persistent staff shortages, troubling levels of student academic achievement and motivation, growing youth mental health challenges, and decreasing staff morale.

The adults and teens who took the survey understand that there are an array of problems that are creating challenges in public schools, according to the Common Sense Media report. For adults, these issues include: students not reading at grade level, teacher shortages due to burnout and low pay, bullying, and student mental health struggles.

Teens pointed to student mental health struggles as the top education challenge, along with bullying, low teacher pay, students falling behind academically, and book bans, the report found.

Shreeya Gogia, 18, a senior at Carroll Senior High School in Southlake, Texas, told Education Week she would be among those who rated public schools as doing a “just fair” job.

“A lot of students feel like we aren’t being prepared for the real world,” said Gogia, who is a member of the National Association of Secondary School Principals’ student mental health network. “There are a lot of classes that students are forced to take that don’t really give them any educational value, and there’s not enough support at school, whether it’s through mental health or via tutoring programs. A lot of students are left to fend for themselves.”

Shari Camhi, the superintendent for the Baldwin Union Free School District in New York and immediate past president of AASA, the School Superintendents Association, said schools are doing well considering the environment in which they’re operating.

“I think that we do an excellent job with the funding that we have and the resources that we have and the restrictions that we have,” Camhi said. “I think if we have the ability to change policy and increase funding, we would just do an even better job than we’re already doing.”

One-third of adults and one-fifth of kids put improving or reforming the education system at the top of their lists of most important recommendations that would improve the lives of children, according to the report.

Adults rate top priorities for addressing students’ needs

When given a list of solutions for schools to better address students’ needs, adults rated the following as the top five that would have the biggest impact: providing individualized learning plans based on each student’s needs; increasing teacher pay; providing additional counseling or social-emotional and mental health support; reducing class sizes; and improving teacher preparation.

More testing and setting higher standards for students to meet were at the bottom of the list, the report found.

Empowering students and teachers to speak up and share their ideas on how to improve their schools will be beneficial, too, Gogia said.

“Creating more of a culture where students and teachers feel like they can connect with the administration, I think, is a great way to increase the ratings [of public education],” she added.

While it would be impossible to provide individualized learning plans for every student, Camhi said, she agrees that “broadening the opportunities for students is not only possible but is exceptionally important.”

Many schools already have deployed some of the solutions that the survey respondents rated highly, Camhi said. For instance, in her district, high school students have the opportunity to take courses relevant to careers they’re interested in, which “fits under individualized learning,” she said. Her district also has a wellness center—which provides medical, mental and emotional health services, and health education—that’s open to all students and their families and is free of cost.

Regarding teacher pay and teacher shortages, Camhi said “beating up teachers constantly in the press” is not helpful in encouraging other people to go into the profession.

“We need to stop politicizing schools,” Camhi said. “We need to embrace the excellent work that schools are doing and put additional resources to support the work that’s going on in our schools.”

“I think we need to be more positive, more optimistic, if we want to solve some of the issues that are sitting in front of us,” she added.

Related Tags:


This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
School & District Management Webinar
Leadership in Education: Building Collaborative Teams and Driving Innovation
Learn strategies to build strong teams, foster innovation, & drive student success.
Content provided by Follett Learning
School & District Management K-12 Essentials Forum Principals, Lead Stronger in the New School Year
Join this free virtual event for a deep dive on the skills and motivation you need to put your best foot forward in the new year.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Privacy & Security Webinar
Navigating Modern Data Protection & Privacy in Education
Explore the modern landscape of data loss prevention in education and learn actionable strategies to protect sensitive data.
Content provided by  Symantec & Carahsoft

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

School & District Management Principals' Unions Are on the Rise. What Are Their Demands?
Across the country, principals are organizing for better working conditions.
8 min read
Illustration of hands shaking with smaller professional people standing on top, with hands in the air, celebrating.
School & District Management How Principals Are Outsourcing Their Busywork to AI
Principals are chipping away at their administrative to-do lists with a little help from AI.
6 min read
Education technology and AI Artificial Intelligence concept, Women use laptops, Learn lessons and online webinars successfully in modern digital learning,  Courses to develop new skills
School & District Management Opinion How to Let Your Values Guide You as a School Leader
Has your “why” become fuzzy? Here are four steps to keep principals motivated and moving forward.
Damia C. Thomas
4 min read
Silhouette of a figure inside of which is reflected public school life, Self-reflection of career in education
Vanessa Solis/Education Week via Canva
School & District Management ‘Be Vocal Without Being Vicious’: Superintendents on Fighting for More Funding
Two superintendents talk about stepping into the political realm to call for more public school funding.
5 min read
Photo of dollar bills frozen in ice.
iStock / Getty Images Plus