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Student Well-Being

Survey: Students Give Schools Middling Marks

October 16, 2002 2 min read

Most high school students do not believe their public schools are preparing them “extremely well” to know how to learn, get a good job, or go to college, according to an annual survey of teachers and students released last week.

Teacher confidence was not much higher. Fewer than one-fifth of the teachers surveyed gave the top rating to their schools in preparing students to learn.

The findings are part of the 19th annual survey of teachers and students conducted by Harris Interactive for the Metropolitan Life Insurance Co., a New York City-based insurance company. They were based on interviews earlier this year with a nationally representative sample of 2,049 public school 7th to 12th graders, 1,273 public school teachers of kindergarten through 12th grade, and 1,004 K-12 principals.

Read the “MetLife Survey of the American Teacher, 2002: Student Life— School, Home and Community” from the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company. Also, read results of Met Life surveys from previous years. (Require Adobe’s Acrobat Reader.)

Eight percent of students in grades 10-12 said schools were preparing them extremely well to get a good job; 13 percent said the same for college preparation; and 12 percent gave that highest rating for help in knowing “how to learn.” Students in grades 7-9 gave only slightly higher marks.

The survey found students’ giving their schools a C-plus—between “somewhat well” and “very well"—for preparing them. Teachers, meanwhile, gave their schools a B, or “very well” on preparation.

Twenty-nine percent of teachers said their schools were doing extremely well in preparing students to go to college; 18 percent, to get a good job; and 17 percent, “to know how to learn.” In schools serving largely low-income families, teachers were even less likely to give their schools high ratings in preparing students for later life.

No Need for College?

Michael Cohen, a senior fellow in the Washington office of the Aspen Institute, said these findings probably understate the problem. He said the grades students and teachers gave schools might be “inflated” when compared with compelling evidence that many students are ill-prepared for college.

Another area of particular concern to Mr. Cohen, one of several experts invited to a press conference in Washington last week to discuss the survey, were findings suggesting a gulf exists between students and teachers.

For example, only two in 10 teachers report that they very often talk one-on-one with students about their interests and talents. And just one-quarter of teachers strongly agree that they know what’s going on in their students’ lives outside of school.

Gerald M. Tirozzi, the executive director of the National Association of Secondary School Principals, which co- hosted an event with MetLife last week to unveil the report, also found some of the survey results deeply troubling.

Mr. Tirozzi, who was an assistant education secretary during the Clinton years, said he was especially puzzled by the finding that most teachers believe it is important for young people to get a high school diploma, but not necessarily to graduate from college.

“I really found that one hard to accept,” he said.

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