US students give their schools an overall B- grade on average, according to a new report released Wednesday that asked fifth through twelfth graders to assess their school’s quality in multiple categories, including teaching, effectiveness in preparing them for the future and mental health support.
Two-thirds of students graded their school overall an A or a B, according to the report released by Gallup and the Walton Family Foundation. Nearly a quarter, 24%, gave their school a C and one-tenth gave either a D or F.
The average grades for each individual metric ranged from C+ to B.
“Whether because of the challenges schools faced during three years of dire disruption to learning during the pandemic or longer-term issues, there is clearly room for improvement,” the researchers wrote in the report.
The report is based on 2,062 responses from adolescents in fifth through twelfth grade at public, charter and private schools in the US. The students were surveyed between late April and early May.
Schools received the worst grades on metrics about student engagement and preparedness, according to the report. Students gave an average grade of a C+ for how well their schools teach about potential careers, foster excitement about learning, and teach in ways that adapt to unique learning needs. Students gave a B- for the quality of teaching, with only 23% giving an A.
Schools also earned an average grade of C+ for how well they support mental health, with less than a quarter, 22%, of students giving an A for the metric.
Schools received the best grades for safety and respect, receiving an average grade of a B for each category. According to the report, 48% of students gave their school an A for respecting who they are and 43% gave an A for keeping them physically safe.
However, the responses for these two metrics varied based on race, the report said. Only one-third of Black students gave their school an A for making them feel respected. That’s compared to half of White students and 53% of Hispanic students.
Meanwhile, 37% of Black students gave their school an A for safety, while 41% of Hispanic and 46% of White students did.
“These are the largest negative disparities observed among Black students across all metrics assessed,” the researchers wrote.
Student responses vary based on academic performance, grade level
Students’ ratings of their schools “closely align” with their academic performance, as higher-performing students are “much more likely” to give their schools higher grades than lower-performing students, the report said.
Six in 10 students who earned excellent or good grades gave their school an A or B for teaching them based on their unique learning needs, compared to only three in 10 of those who received fair or poor grades.
Among students at public schools, middle schoolers gave more positive grades across all metrics than high schoolers, according to the report. Nearly a quarter, 23%, of public middle school students gave their school an overall A grade, while only 17% of public high school students did.
“At a crucial moment in defining future pathways, high school students are less excited about learning and feel less prepared for the future than middle school students,” the researchers wrote.