A and B grades for public schools: 1974-2019

Three of the recurring questions in the PDK poll regard grading the schools.

Each year since 1974, we have asked American adults to grade the schools in their community. In 1981, we began asking them to grade the nation's schools, and, in 1985, we added a question about grading the school attended by their oldest child.

2019 Percent A Or B Grades

PDK Poll of the Public's Attitude Toward the Public Schools

Public school parents overwhelmingly believe the schools attended by their oldest children are worthy of A's and B's. Local public schools receive lower grades, and the nation's schools still lower grades. That trend has held steady for several decades.

A few additional nuggets stand out over the years:

Local schools have earned A's and B's from a majority of Americans only a handful of times (2001, 2009, 2011, 2013, 2014, 2015) during the 45 years this question has been asked.

The lowest percentage - 31% - of adults giving their local schools an A or a B came in 1983 on the heels of the publication of A Nation at Risk, a report that was highly critical of the nation's public schools and launched the current era of school reform. That year, only 6% of the respondents gave an A to their local schools, but only 7% gave them a failing grade.

The percentage of adults giving their local schools a failing grade has never reached the double digits. Only in 2014 did 10% of Americans give the national schools a failing grade. No more than 5% of parents have ever said their oldest child attended a school that deserved an F.