Most students were satisfied with their school's academic standards. When asked if their schoolwork and tests were too difficult, just right or too easy, 78% of the 12- to 17-year-olds in the survey responded that their schoolwork was just right. Only 12% of these students felt their academic requirements were too hard, and 9% said too easy.

A smaller majority (61%) of their parents agreed with their children's assessment, but nearly a third (30%) responded that academic requirements placed on their children are too easy. Only 8% felt that their children's schoolwork was too hard.

A slim majority of parents and three out of five teachers feel that all students are treated equally in public schools. Kids perceive no difference in treatment.

Sixteen percent of parents and 20% of teachers named whites as the group treated preferentially over other students, 9% of parents and 6% of teachers cited Latinos, while 14% of parents and 6% of teachers weren't sure if one group was treated better than another. Virtually no one named blacks or Asians as recipients of preferential treatment.

Asian parents were the most likely at 61% to perceive racial equality in the classrooms, while black parents were the most likely to perceive favoritism toward whites (23%) and Latinos (13%), with only one in ten saying they weren't sure. Thirteen percent of white parents said white children receive preferential treatment, 10% named Latinos and 15% said they didn't know.

With the optimism of the young, four out of every five public school children (82%) perceived an equality of treatment among all racial and ethnic groups in their own schools. Eight percent of kids named whites and 4% named Latinos as the group treated best.

When the parents who responded that they believed one group gets preferential treatment (or weren't sure) were asked if any groups are treated worse than others, unsurprisingly, more than one out of every four parents named blacks (11%) or Latinos (15%) as the group receiving discriminatory treatment. One out of three teachers (35%) who felt that some students receive discriminatory treatment agreed with that assessment.

Just over half (53%) of black parents said their children do not receive enough attention from their teachers. This contrasts with the majorities of white, Latino and Asian parents who felt that their child receives enough attention from their teachers. Parents who felt their children are being slighted were twice as likely to give public school teachers in general below average ratings than their more satisfied counterparts.

Teenagers overall were content with the attention they received, 76% of middle school students and 68% of high schoolers said that they got enough personal attention from their teachers. One out of three parents (34%) and 27% of all kids said they did not get enough attention from their teachers. (Note that there were not enough children in the survey to break them out by race. If their parents are any indication, the response to this question might possibly vary among racial groups.)

Kids find classroom disruption and drug use on campus to be serious problems, but not overcrowding. Parents are not clued-in.

Fifty-eight percent of middle school students and nearly the same number of high school students reported their classroom was disrupted more than three times a week by students acting up or causing trouble. This includes a sizable number of students, close to two in five, who said their classrooms were upset every day.

Whatever their kids said, a majority of parents (58%) didn't feel disruption and acting up was a serious problem in their child's classroom. Nearly a quarter (24%) said disruptive students were a somewhat serious problem, and only 16% reported thinking this is a very serious problem.

More high school students felt that drug use on campus was a serious problem than did their parents. Forty-two percent of high-schoolers felt it was a serious problem vs. 52% who said not serious. Thirty-four percent of parents considered drugs a serious problem but three out of five (61%) reported feeling that drugs on campus were not a serious concern.

Real differences of opinion arose between children and their parents when asked about classroom overcrowding. A 58% majority of middle school parents felt overcrowding was a serious problem while 64% of the children of that age disagreed. This was most likely because parents recognize the ramifications of over-crowded classrooms, while adaptable children may not be as concerned about the issue or be as clear about the impact on their education. Older children were more cognizant of the problem; nearly two-thirds (73%) of high school parents considered classroom overcrowding a serious problem, and a smaller 56% majority of high schoolers agreed with their parent's assessment.

Concern over non-English speakers in the classrooms was higher among parents than among their children. Nearly three in four (73%) middle and two in three (65%) high schoolers didn't consider "too many kids who do not speak English fluently" to be a serious problem. A smaller majority of parents (59%) also did not consider this to be a problem.

Majorities of parents (60%) and students (58%) didn't consider out of date textbooks to be a problem in public school classrooms, although strong minorities (36% and 42% respectively) disagreed. Similar proportions of parents and students felt that technology and equipment are out of date.

How the Polls Were Conducted


The Times Poll contacted 1,091 teachers in California by telephone November 13-16, 1997. A random sample of teachers was proportionally drawn from the California Teachers Association (CTA) and the California Federation of Teachers (CFT) membership lists. Together, the two unions represent approximately 95% of California public school teachers. The margin of sampling error for all teachers is plus or minus 3 percentage points; for certain subgroups the error margin may be somewhat higher.

Adults, Parents & Children:

The Times Poll contacted 2,804 adults, including 1,281 parents of children between the ages of 5 and 17 living at home, by telephone Nov. 18 through Dec. 12, 1997. Five hundred forty-five (545) children between the ages of 12 and 17 were also interviewed. Telephone numbers were chosen from a list of all exchanges in the state. Random-digit dialing techniques were used so that listed and non-listed numbers could be contacted. The sample was weighted slightly to conform with census figures for sex, race, age, education and region. The margin of sampling error for all adults is plus or minus 3 percentage points; for certain subgroups the error margin may be somewhat higher.

To look at results of parents by their racial and ethnic group, the Times oversampled black parents and hired Interviewing Services of America to interview Asian parents in their own language (Tagalog, Korean, Vietnamese, Mandarin, Cantonese and Japanese). Asian respondents were chosen from a listed Asian surname sample. Interviews with non-Asian respondents were conducted in English and Spanish.

Poll results can also be affected by other factors such as question wording and the order in which questions are presented.