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NEWS RELEASES 2001-02 :: NOVEMBER 1, 2001


This is the time of year when many schools are giving students report cards. Public schools also are getting a report card from citizens, and results show that the community's rating of schools is at an all-time high.

The fall Carolina Poll, conducted by the UNC-CH School of Journalism and Mass Communication, saw an increase in the percentage of citizens giving public schools a grade of A and B. A total of 58.7 percent of those polled gave their schools these grades. This figure is up over 6 percent since 2000. In 1993, 42 percent of North Carolinians gave their schools grades of A and B.

North Carolina's improvement in 2001 is similar to gains nationally in opinions about public schools. According to the 2001 Gallup Poll, 51 percent of citizens give their schools a grade of A and B, up about 4 percent since the 2000 poll.

State Superintendent Mike Ward called this another "validation" that North Carolinians are noticing the school improvements that have been touted as a model for the nation. "Two U.S. presidents, Education Week, the National Education Goals Panel and many others have highly rated our improvement efforts. But, what matters most is what our own citizens think about public schools. I'm so pleased to see that more and more parents and others give good grades to our schools. We want to continue to see progress in the perceptions of public schools."

The Carolina Poll also asked about higher standards. The percentage of citizens who think that achievement standards for students are "about right" increased from 1997, the last time this question was asked. In 1997, 44 percent of those polled said student achievement standards are about right, while 38 percent said they were too low. In 2001, these numbers changed to 52 percent who believe the standards are about right and 28 percent who still think the standards are too low.

Statewide student accountability standards, being implemented this year in grades 3 and 8 (joining grade 5 implemented last year), are more rigorous than ever before. North Carolinians recognize the fact that standards are higher and more of them appear to be satisfied with the higher standards. The percentage who said standards are about right jumped by 8 percent since 2000. In 1997, just 39 percent of North Carolinians polled were satisfied with the standards.

Another education question asked citizens if there is too much, not enough or about the right amount of emphasis on achievement testing in public schools. Thirty-four percent said it's about right, 19 percent said there's not enough emphasis and 35 percent said there's too much emphasis. These figures are similar to national comparisons. North Carolina has a lower percentage who think it's the right amount and a higher percentage who don't know. This is the first year this question has been asked in the Carolina Poll.

State Board of Education Chairman Phil Kirk said these numbers show that there is support for higher standards for students. "The ABCs results released a month ago show that students are learning at higher levels than ever before. Schools are overcoming tremendous challenges to ensure that all children achieve at their highest potential. The implementation of student standards in grades 3 and 8 this year raises the bar even more. We must have high expectations for our schools and our students. We also have to be willing to support these efforts with time and other resources."

The issue of schools resegregating is on the minds of many. The Carolina Poll asked citizens how important they think it is for education to prepare children to live and work with people from different backgrounds, even if it means they cannot attend a school in their neighborhood. Fifty-one percent said it is very important, while 28 percent said it is somewhat important and 16 percent said not too important or not at all important.

Results of the poll are based on telephone interviews with a representative sample of 650 adults in North Carolina between October 7 and 11. In 95 out of 100 surveys of this size, results are within 3 percent of results that would be obtained by interviewing all adults in the state, according to the UNC-CH School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

About the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction:
The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction provides leadership to 115 local public school districts and 126 charter schools serving over 1.5 million students in kindergarten through high school graduation. The agency is responsible for all aspects of the state's public school system and works under the direction of the North Carolina State Board of Education.

For more information:
NCDPI Communication and Information Division, 919.807.3450.