Here is what you said about education A CALL FOR HIGHER STANDARDS AND STRICTER DISCIPLINE IN SCHOOLS
(MONEY Magazine) – More discipline and higher standards. It sounds like a recipe for military reform, but respondents to MONEY's March Readers' Poll believe it is also the answer to the question we posed: How would you get our schools back on track? A full 75% of the 3,000 readers participating in the poll said they were concerned most about the low educational standards in America's public school system. And a significant one out of three cast write-in votes to express their anguish at a breakdown of discipline. ''My wife is a substitute teacher in the public schools,'' wrote one reader, who asked to remain anonymous, ''and what she sees is unbelievable. The kids run the schools.'' To achieve higher standards, roughly four out of five would require students to pass standardized national tests before moving to a higher grade and would make it compulsory for teachers to pass national competency tests every five years. Again and again, readers asserted that more money is not the answer. ''My mother went to a one-room schoolhouse in rural Minnesota,'' wrote Sandra Grandin of Durango, Colo. ''I attended public school in Los Angeles. More money is obviously not the answer, because how come my mother learned to spell and I didn't?'' Many readers admonished parents for not showing adequate interest in their children's education. ''I am amazed,'' wrote Carolyn Force of Tualatin, Ore., ''at how few parents even know what their children are studying.'' The poll results, enumerated in detail below, were taken from a valid representative sampling of the total response. All questions applied to education below the college level.
GRADING YOUR CHILD'S SCHOOL Among our respondents, 62% have children in public school, 18% in private and 10% in parochial school. The parents of students in private or parochial schools were much happier with the education than those with children in public schools. Only 20% of public school parents rated the education excellent, while 12% called it poor; 34% said it was good, 34% fair. In contrast, 77% of parents with children in private or parochial schools considered the education good to excellent -- and none called it poor.
PROBLEMS AND SOLUTIONS What concerns you most about public schools? The total answers add up to more than 100% because respondents were not limited to one choice. The No. 1 concern was low educational standards (75%), followed by parents' lack of interest (51%), mismanagement of school funds (47%), badly trained teachers (46%), physical safety of students (43%), overcrowding (30%), low teacher pay (25%), high teacher pay (16%), busing (16%), shortage of teachers (8%) and, finally, ethnic balance (6%). Lack of discipline was not among the options we presented, but a significant minority (33% of all respondents) felt strongly enough about it to write it on their ballots. Expressing the views of many, Jean Veto of Cos Cob, Conn. wrote: ''To improve education, we need to teach fundamentals like multiplication, grammar, spelling and discipline. The teachers need to demand accuracy -- not say things like 'I don't want to stifle his creativity by correcting a misspelled word.' ''
FUNDS FOR EDUCATION You split pretty evenly on the question ''Should parents get vouchers equal to the amount of money their local public school district spends on each child and be able to use the vouchers either for public school or to pay part of the cost of private or parochial school?'' The response was 51% yes and 47% no. Gordon Strawn of Las Cruces, N.M. wants a competition-based school system using vouchers and would like ''more local corporate funding or adoption of schools by businesses.'' Gary Morris of Scottsdale, Ariz. warned that funding parochial schools with federal dollars might violate the principle of separation of church and state. In another close vote, 50% called for states to ensure that the education budget per pupil in all districts equals the wealthiest district -- but 46% opposed that idea. Asked whether federal funding of public schools should be changed, 46% wanted more money from Washington, D.C., while 33% wanted less.
TESTING TEACHERS AND STUDENTS The results here were overwhelming, with 78% saying that teachers should be required to pass national competency tests every five years and 79% in favor of standardized national tests to determine whether a student could move to a higher grade. Additionally, many respondents called for more vocational training so that graduating high schoolers would be ready for work.