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  • Oct 06 2016

2016 Schooling in America Survey

By Paul DiPerna, Drew Catt

This annual survey—developed and reported by EdChoice and our partner, Braun Research, Inc.—measures public opinion and awareness on a range of K–12 education topics and policies, such as the performance and direction of education, school performance and preferences, educational choice reforms and more. We report response levels, differences (“margins”) and intensities for the country and a range of demographic groups. And this year, our survey researchers asked brand new questions to determine the reasons parents have switched their children’s schools and the lengths to which they’ve gone for their children’s education.

What Will I Learn? Download Report

Breaking Down EdChoice’s 2016 National “Schooling in America” Survey


In this report, you will learn:

  • 1

    Most Americans—and nearly every subgroup—think K–12 education is on the “wrong track.”

    The majority of Americans (62 percent) think K–12 education is on the “wrong track.” Only 24 percent said they think education is headed in the “right direction.” Negative sentiment has increased since last year’s survey (2015: 60% wrong track vs. 32% right direction). Rural residents and Republicans are more likely than other demographics to say “wrong track.” Asians are the only demographic that is more likely to say “right direction.” Despite overall negative results on this question, Democrats, Black/African Americans and Latinos are relatively more positive than the national average by being less likely to say “wrong track.”
  • 2

    Most American school parents are not accessing the educational options they say they prefer for their children.

    About 53 percent of American school parents give their district schools a rating of C, D or F. When asked their preferred school type for their kids, they collectively indicate a desire for diversity in education: 42 percent of school parents prefer a private school; 28 percent, a public district school; 11 percent, a charter school; 10 percent, home school. Parents’ schooling preferences are not reflected in today’s current enrollments, where 83 percent of students attend public district schools and only 17 percent attend other types of schools. Additionally, 86 percent of all parents we surveyed have sent at least one child to public district schools.
  • 3

    Americans are more likely to favor education savings accounts (ESAs) than oppose them.

    Education savings accounts are the newest, most flexible and fastest-growing type of educational choice program, but we estimate that 22 percent of Americans probably don’t know what they are, let alone how they feel about them as a policy. Americans are nearly twice as likely to be supportive of ESAs than oppose them (49% favor vs. 27% oppose). When considering only those respondents who had an opinion on this question, almost two-thirds favored ESAs (65% favor vs. 35% oppose).
  • 4

    American parents often take inconvenient, often life-altering, steps to secure the best education for their children’s needs.

    Nearly two-fifths of American parents have changed their children’s school over the summer or during the school year, and the majority (85 percent) made the choice to change schools for reasons other than their children transitioning from elementary to middle or middle to high school. The most popular reasons for changing their children’s schools were because they moved residences (36 percent), they needed better education and opportunities (20 percent), they didn’t like their previous schools’ teachers/staff/curriculum (14 percent), they preferred another school type or switched out of public schools (11 percent), and they needed more one-on-one personalized education for their children (9 percent). We also asked parents a number of questions about what they’ve done for their children’s education. Fourteen percent have changed jobs, 21 percent have taken on another job, 11 percent have taken out a loan, 74 percent have transported their children to or from school (47 percent have relied on family or friends to do so), 22 percent have paid out-of-pocket for tutoring, and 35 percent have paid for before or after care services for their children.

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