Kids Say: You’re Fired! To Schools

Survey shows serious problems in teaching environment

Foul language, drug and alcohol abuse, and unruly classrooms are what students are contending with in public schools, according to a national survey.

Reality Check 2006: How Black and Hispanic Families Rate Their Schools is the second report in a series released by Public Agenda, a nonpartisan public policy research group that is tracking education trends. The findings were based on random interviews with 721 teachers, 1,379 parents, and 1,342 students in grades six through 12.

“This survey raises the question, ‘Are we providing the appropriate school environments for our students?’” says Jean Johnson, one of the authors of the report.

Black and Hispanic students were more likely to report that social and academic problems at their schools were “very serious,” with 52% of blacks citing other students’ disrespect of teachers and use of bad language, 32% concerned about fighting and weapons, and 30% pointing to drug and alcohol abuse. A third of black students also reported that their school is not consistent in its enforcement of rules on discipline.

The behavioral problems are having a negative effect on students’ academic environment. About 30% of black students said that teachers spend more time trying to keep order in class than teaching and that the number of students passing through the system without learning is a very serious problem.

“We found that in almost every dimension, African American students were more likely to report problems,” Johnson continues. “These are young kids saying, ‘Something is wrong in my school.”

For all of the disturbing findings, the majority of kids surveyed reported that they have had a teacher who was able to get them excited about a subject in which they were not previously interested.

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