What Principals Need to Know About the 2016 PDK Poll

Majority of parents OK with how schools communicate, split on other issues.

September, 2016, Volume 40, Issue 1

The majority of American public school parents approve of how their children’s schools are communicating with them. But there’s more work to do, as always.

Sixty percent of parents surveyed in the 2016 Phi Delta Kappa Poll of the Public’s Attitudes Toward the Public Schools are “highly satisfied with their school’s efforts to keep them informed about how their child is doing in school,” the poll results say. Still, this means about 40 percent aren’t so satisfied.

About the same percentage of parents say their children’s school does not offer enough opportunities for them to “visit and see what’s going on.”

Parents gave higher ratings to child’s public schools if they felt schools communicate with them effectively and provide frequent opportunities to interact.


More important highlights from the poll that may interest principals and other school leaders:

  • Americans may be feeling better about their children’s public schools. Twenty-four percent of a broader set of Americans (not just parents) gave schools a grade of A or B—the highest percentage in many years. The most common grade that respondents gave schools was C, at 41 percent. But that’s the lowest percentage since 1986, and the rate of those giving A’s and B’s has steadily risen in recent years. As few as 17 percent had given schools an A or B since 2011—again, showing some improvement.
  • Parents gave their child’s schools higher grades if have ample opportunity to visit their child’s school and if they think the school is highly interested in their views. But fewer than half of parents, 46 percent, said schools gave them sufficient opportunities “opportunities to offer your input and opinions on how things are done there.” About half said they felt “extremely or very involved” in their child’s school.
  • About 56 percent say their child has “about the right amount” of homework. Twenty-three percent say students have too little homework, and 20 percent say they have too much.
  • Nearly two-thirds of parents say they review their children’s homework before it’s turned in. Nearly 80 percent say they review their children’s tests after they’re graded.
  • Sixty-one percent of parents say their child feels the right amount of pressure to do well in school. One-quarter of parents say the pressure is too high and 13 percent too low. Interestingly, about 40 percent of those parents say the pressure comes from the family or child—only 19 percent say it’s from teachers.
  • A majority of public school parents oppose the closing of “failing” schools and oppose allowing some students to opt out of standardized tests.
  • Parents are almost equally split on whether they like the new academic standards in many states.
  • Since 2000, those polled have consistently said “lack of money or financial support” is the top problem facing America’s public schools. This year, 19 percent listed lack of financial support as they key issues—in responses to an open-ended question.


The PDK poll has been conducted annually since 1969 and reveals “strategies for winning greater support for public education,” its executive summary says. Funding and parent engagement are key factors “to keep public education vital, effective and responsive to the concerns of parents and the public,” it continues.

There’s much more from the poll, which surveyed more than 1,200 Americans in all 50 states: pdkpoll2015.pdkintl.org.

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