Oregon Students: School is Boring, Too Many Incompetent Teachers

Findings from a survey show that majority of Oregon high school students are dissatisfied with their schools, testifying that services provided by districts, from teachers to classrooms, leave them wanting.

Most alarmingly, the survey showed that Oregon students think too many of their teachers are careless or incompetent and that school is too easy.

Betsy Hammond of The Oregonian reports that students' school dissatisfaction with the public education experience came to light from a survey conducted on 200 of high school students representative of the geographic, grade-level and racial/ethnic make-up of the state's high school population. The small sample size means the survey has a margin of error of about 7 percentage points.

Designed to inject the student voice into the adult-dominated conversation about education reform in Oregon, the survey was carried out by survey firm DHM Research and the non-profit advocacy group The Chalkboard Project. According to Betsy Hammond of The Oregonian, the panel of students, called by a market research firm using social media to get a broad sample of Oregon teens willing to give their opinions, had strong views — most of them opposing the status quo in their schools.

Results from the survey show that only 18% reported they are "very satisfied" with their own education, with 28% "unsatisfied" and 51% "somewhat satisfied". About 75% agreed that "too many students in the local public schools are falling through the cracks," 35% of them strongly so.

Asked whether they think public schools in Oregon expect students to learn too little or too much, 45% said too little. About 35% said the academic demand is "about right," and 17% said schools ask too much.

As explained by pollster Adam Davis, a principal in DHM and a leader of the survey, the bleak opinions of today's schools match what students tell him in focus groups he has conducted around the state.

"A lot of them are unhappy with what's going on in their schools," he said.

No factor came close in importance to teachers when the students were asked what factor led them to be satisfied or dissatisfied with their education. Among students who said they were very or somewhat satisfied with their high school experience, 26% cited strong, helpful teachers while 8% cited bad or incompetent teachers. 7% said challenging classes made them satisfied with their education.

Among students who expressed dissatisfaction with their education, 20% cited incompetent or unmotivated teachers. Sixteen percent said school was simply unchallenging or boring.

Students overwhelmingly said they would support changing the current education policy, such as judging high school quality mainly by how much progress all students make from year to year, not by the graduation rate; hiring, paying and promoting teachers in part by how much they impact student learning, not primarily by seniority (87% agreed strongly or somewhat); and instituting additional rules to help with bullying in schools (77% agreed strongly or somewhat).

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