Auburn’s Ask Alabama poll shows Alabama residents give high marks to their local schools

AUBURN – As local schools prepared to reopen across Alabama, Auburn University pollsters found a high degree of satisfaction with their recent performance. When asked to grade local schools in their community, the majority of a statewide sample of 639 residents interviewed by telephone in July assigned high marks: 25 percent gave their local schools a grade of A; and 36 percent gave them a B.

“These grades are extraordinary,” said Don-Terry Veal, director of the Center for Governmental Services that conducted the poll. “When the Gallup organization last asked this same question to a nationwide sample, only 46 percent of Americans gave their local schools a grade of A or B. That 61percent of Alabama residents do so now is a credit to the recent performance of local schools.”

The positive poll report comes on the heels of an announcement from Alabama officials that 86 percent of the state’s local schools have met goals established by the No Child Left Behind program administered by the U.S. Department of Education.

Not everyone polled was so happy with their local schools, however. Twenty-six percent gave local schools in their community a grade of C, 6 percent a D, and 3 percent a failing grade of F. Nationally, Gallup reports that 16 percent of all Americans give their local schools a grade of D or F.

The Auburn poll analysts found that satisfaction varies across the state, with residents of southeast counties most likely to give their schools grades of A or B (80 percent). Residents of southwest counties were least likely to give those top marks to their schools (49 percent A or B). Rural residents are more satisfied with their schools (67 percent A or B) than are suburban (57 percent) or urban (62 percent) residents

“Surprisingly, there were few differences in the opinions of older and younger poll respondents, and men were only slightly more positive than women,” said poll center manager Patrick Rose. “We also find that African-Americans are slightly more satisfied with their local schools (65 percent A or B) than are whites (60 percent).

Educational attainment also figures into Alabamians’ perceptions of their schools. Among residents with only a high school education, more than two-thirds (67 percent) give local schools an A or B. But just 58 percent of college graduates and 59 percent of residents with a graduate degree give A’s or B’s to local schools in their communities.

The Ask Alabama survey results are based on telephone interviews conducted July 6-19 with a stratified random sample of 639 adult householders. The sample’s geographic, gender, race and age distributions were weighted to be proportionate to the U.S. Census Bureau’s data for Alabama’s adult (18 years of age or older) householders.

Patrick Rose, manager of the center’s Survey Research Laboratory that conducted the interviews, said that poll results based on the full statewide sample have a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

The Ask Alabama Poll is conducted quarterly by the Center for Governmental Services, a unit of Auburn University Outreach that provides research, consulting and training to government agencies, not-for-profit associations and private sector clients.

Upcoming poll topic include:

* Hunger – Many residents see Alabama families skipping meals to cope with economy.

* News media – Internet is a growing news source in Alabama; threatens to overtake newspapers.

* State image – Alabama is seen as a friendly place to raise a family or retire, but not to start a business or look for a job.

* Jobs – Better pay and benefits top of list of what Alabama job seekers want.

For more information on the Center for Governmental Services and for additional information about the polling process, including graphic representations, go to http://www.askalabama.org.

Contact: Don-Terry Veal, (334) 844-4781 (vealdon@auburn.edu), or
David Hill, (334) 844-4867 (david.hill@auburn.edu)