February 2, 2023

Most Indiana parents approve of their schools and what is taught, Gallup finds

More than 3,000 parents participated in the survey conducted by the Indiana Department of Education and Gallup in 2022. - Indiana Department of Education

More than 3,000 parents participated in the survey conducted by the Indiana Department of Education and Gallup in 2022.

Indiana Department of Education

A new statewide poll shows the vast majority of Indiana parents surveyed approve of their child’s school. 

More than 3,000 parents participated in the survey conducted by the Indiana Department of Education and Gallup last year. The major findings also include parent opinions on safety, college access and affordability, as well as the subject matter taught in schools. 

The data was presented at a meeting of the State Board of Education this week. The survey was conducted by mail using randomly selected addresses of Indiana parents of school-aged children. According to Gallup, the results are a statistically accurate representation of the opinions of Indiana parents. 

Overall, 88 percent of parents who responded to the survey said they were satisfied with the quality of their child’s school. Satisfaction was especially high among parents whose children are in elementary school and parents in rural and small communities throughout the state — at 90 percent and 96 percent respectively. 

Another key takeaway: only 2 percent of parents surveyed said they are both aware of and disagree with the subjects and topics taught in their school. Those who fall into this category were not statistically different from the rest of the parents surveyed regarding race, income, population density, education or internet access, according to a report released by the IDOE. 

But parents who were unhappy with the subject matter taught at their schools were more likely to consider a college education less important or “completely unimportant” compared to other parents. 

“Coming into this, I mean, we truly wanted to know, right. You have to look in the mirror and see. And so our parents spoke loud and clear on this,” said Katie Jenner, Indiana Secretary of Education. 

The finding is notable given recent protests at school board meetings and claims by conservative groups, activists and politicians that schools are indoctrinating children into liberal ideologies. 

“That very, very small percentage — that 2 percent — is very loud, very organized. And they get a lot of airplay,” said Scott Bess, a board member and executive director of Purdue Polytechnic High School.

Bess said he hoped that publicization of the survey results would quell the idea that many parents are unsatisfied or upset with what’s happening inside schools.

“Even the 92 percent, 95 percent of parents who are satisfied, they're not yelling and pounding on tables and showing up,” he said. “And I think this, this really illustrates that point.” 

Key findings:

  • 88 percent of Indiana parents are satisfied with the quality of their child’s school.
  • Most parents know and approve of the subject material taught in their child’s school. Among the 7 percent who disapprove of the subject material, only 2 percent said they were aware of what was being taught. 
  • Nearly half of parents (47 percent) in low-income households in micro- and metropolitan areas said they worry often about their child’s safety at school — compared to about 33 percent of all parents.
  • Most parents said post-secondary education was accessible (72 percent of parents) but only 27 percent said it was affordable. 
  • Awareness of the Indiana 21st Century Scholars program is inconsistent among parents. 
  • Nearly one third of parents of seniors in highschool said they don’t believe their child is prepared for life after highschool. 
  • Seven in 10 parents said their child plans to pursue additional education or training after high school.
  • Only about half of high school parents are aware of the Indiana College Core, which is a block of 30 credit hours that transfers to Indiana public colleges and universities. 

But not all of the survey data is positive; 14 percent of parents surveyed said they don’t feel their school is open to feedback on the subject matter they cover. And roughly a third of parents said they worry often or very often about their child’s safety at school. 

Concerns about safety are greatest among parents in lower-income households in micro- and metropolitan areas. Additionally, 23 percent of parents in low-income households said their children worry about their safety at school — compared to 16 percent of all parents and 19 percent of parents with children in middle or highschool. 

The results also showed that Indiana parents are concerned about college affordability, and there’s inconsistency in awareness about certain state programs and initiatives.

For example, only six in 10 middle school parents said they were aware of the 21st Century Scholars program, which covers tuition costs for lower income students at participating Indiana colleges and universities. The program is available to seventh and eighth grade students who meet the eligibility requirements. Legislation that would automatically enroll students in the program was approved by the House Education Committee this week. 

“Even among parents who are aware of this scholarship program, only 27 percent agree that education beyond high school is affordable to anyone in the state of Indiana who needs it, suggesting there are some significant concerns around affordability of post-secondary education,” said Kelsey Peaper, assistant director of school support at IDOE. 

Peaper said the results indicate there’s more work to be done to increase parent involvement in the education system. 

“Engaging families and parents more in this process and in their child's education is definitely an area of growth that we see at the department,” she said. 

Access the full report on the parent survey from the IDOE here

Contact WFYI education reporter Lee V. Gaines at lgaines@wfyi.org. Follow on Twitter: @LeeVGaines.

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