College Board/National Journal Poll

If You Thought Your Time in High School Could Have Been Better, You’re Not Alone

College Board/National Journal poll finds Americans would have liked smaller, more challenging classes, and help developing study skills.

US President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama visit a classroom at Coral Reef High School in Miami, Florida on March 7, 2014. 
National Journal
April 24, 2014, 6:52 a.m.

While many people look back on their high school days with fond­ness, most of us agree that the train­ing we got there could have been bet­ter. A healthy ma­jor­ity of Amer­ic­ans think that changes to their high school ex­per­i­ence, such as more in­ter­ac­tion with guid­ance coun­selors and help de­vel­op­ing study skills, would have im­proved their edu­ca­tion, ac­cord­ing to the latest Col­lege Board/Na­tion­al Journ­al Next Amer­ica Poll. 

Sup­port was highest for the kinds of changes that would have im­pacted re­spond­ents’ post-high-school em­ploy­ment and edu­ca­tion­al op­por­tun­it­ies. Asked about the chance to have more tech­nic­al and job-skills train­ing, a full 72 per­cent said that would have made their high school edu­ca­tion bet­ter. Only 2 per­cent thought those ser­vices would have changed their ex­per­i­ence for the worse. 

In the same vein, 63 per­cent wanted more in­ter­ac­tion with guid­ance coun­selors “about op­tions avail­able after high school,” and 66 per­cent thought “bet­ter in­struc­tion to de­vel­op study skills” would have im­proved their high school ex­per­i­ence. Young Amer­ic­ans are par­tic­u­larly aware of how im­port­ant good ca­reer and col­lege coun­sel­ing can be: 75 per­cent of those between the ages of 18 and 29 re­por­ted want­ing more in­ter­ac­tion with coun­selors, as did 78 per­cent of cur­rent stu­dents. 

The idea of get­ting more help de­vel­op­ing good study habits also at­trac­ted strong sup­port, with col­lege gradu­ates and re­spond­ents with some col­lege edu­ca­tion most will­ing to say they would have be­nefited (70 and 69 per­cent, re­spect­ively, com­pared with 61 per­cent of those with a high school edu­ca­tion or less).

While more op­por­tun­it­ies for tech­nic­al and job-skills train­ing earned the highest back­ing from re­spond­ents — 72 per­cent over­all thought it would have im­proved their high school edu­ca­tion — there were no sig­ni­fic­ant dif­fer­ences in sup­port by party, race, or in­come. 

There was one high school in­nov­a­tion — ex­tend­ing the school day — that not many Amer­ic­ans could sup­port. Even if you had the time of your life in high school, it ap­pears, that didn’t mean you wanted to spend more of your life there. In­ter­est­ingly, the only ex­cep­tion was among Amer­ic­ans who didn’t end up go­ing on to col­lege. While only 18 per­cent of all re­spond­ents thought a longer school day would have been a good idea, 28 per­cent of blacks with less than a col­lege edu­ca­tion and 31 per­cent of His­pan­ics with the same said an ex­ten­ded high school day would have made their edu­ca­tion bet­ter. 

The Col­lege Board/Na­tion­al Journ­al Next Amer­ica Poll, con­duc­ted by Prin­ceton Sur­vey Re­search As­so­ci­ates In­ter­na­tion­al, sur­veyed 1,271 adults, in­clud­ing over­samples of Afric­an-Amer­ic­ans, His­pan­ics, and Asi­an-Amer­ic­ans, from March 18-26. The in­ter­views were con­duc­ted by land­line and cell phone in Eng­lish and Span­ish. The poll has a mar­gin of er­ror of plus or minus 3.9 per­cent­age points for the en­tire sample, and lar­ger mar­gins for ra­cial sub­groups.

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