Statewide poll looks at parents’ opinions on schools, classroom curricula

By Casey Smith
Indiana Capital Chronicle

INDIANAPOLIS — Results from a new statewide poll show that most Indiana parents are happy with the education their kids get at school.

The revelation comes as state lawmakers debate how to revamp K-12 instruction and increase funding to schools. It also appears to conflict with rhetoric at the Statehouse suggesting widespread parental disapproval of topics taught in the classroom, including claims that schools are indoctrinating children with liberal ideologies.

Overall, 88% of Hoosier parents who responded to the survey said they were satisfied with the quality of their child’s school. That sentiment was especially high among parents whose children are in elementary school (90% satisfied) and parents in rural and small communities throughout the state (96% satisfied).

Most parents said they also know and approve of the subjects taught at their child’s school. Only 7% of parents said they don’t approve of the curriculum, while just 2% of parents surveyed said they are both aware of and disagree with what their kids are learning.

The Indiana Department of Education (IDOE) presented results from the statewide survey last week. Education officials said the purpose was to better understand parents’ perceptions in order to make improvements to K-12 education across Indiana.

The survey was conducted last year by the state education department, in partnership with Gallup. It was administered by mail using randomly selected addresses of more than 3,000 Indiana parents with school-aged kids.

This is the first time IDOE has conducted a survey like this since Indiana Secretary of Education Katie Jenner took the helm in 2021, a department spokesperson told the Indiana Capital Chronicle. It’s not clear whether previous administrations have commissioned similar surveys, too.

“Coming into this, we truly wanted to know … you have to look in the mirror and see,” Jenner said during a State Board of Education meeting last week. “Our parents spoke loud and clear on this.”

More awareness of post-high school opportunities

Parents provided information about their child’s experiences at the school they attend, as well as their own attitudes and opinions about the school.


The results offer a statistically accurate representation of the opinions of Indiana parents, according to the Gallup report.

“We know that student achievement is at its highest when our schools and educators, as well as our parents and families, are working together to provide comprehensive support,” Jenner said in a written statement following the release of the survey results. “As our team has visited schools throughout the state, we have seen evidence of positive working relationships between educators and families, and the results of this survey confirm that. This data also provides key insight into areas where we must continue to raise awareness, particularly in terms of the educational opportunities that exist during high school and beyond.”

A majority of parents also reported that their high school student plans to pursue additional educational opportunities beyond high school. This includes the six in 10 who plan to attend a four-year university or two-year college and the one in 10 who say they will pursue training to learn a skill or trade.

That could mean a helpful boost to Indiana’s overall college-going rate — recent data indicates only half of Indiana’s 2020 high school graduates pursued some form of college education beyond high school. The drop marked the state’s lowest college-going rate in recent history.

Still, about one-third of parents of seniors say their child is not prepared for life after high school. Among parents of freshmen, roughly half say their child is not prepared for what comes after graduation.

Parents say college is a good option — if you can afford it

Indiana parents further reported ongoing concerns about college affordability.

More than 70% of parents said education after high school is available in the state to those who need it, but only 27% expressed that post-high school education is affordable.

The survey additionally showed lacking awareness about certain state programs and initiatives that could help students earn post-secondary credentials.

Awareness of the Indiana 21st Century Scholars program, specifically, is inconsistent across parents of students who might benefit the most. About six in 10 parents of middle school students are aware of the Indiana 21st Century Scholars program, a statewide grant program that supports student enrollment at two- and four-year schools.

Indiana Commissioner for Higher Education Chris Lowery said the results show a need for increased promotion of the state’s “generous financial aid programs,” including the 21st Century Scholarship.

“Hoosiers with education or training beyond high school are more likely to experience greater social and economic mobility,” Lowery said. “Indiana ranks first in the Midwest and fifth in the nation in providing need-based financial aid. Our public institutions have held the line on tuition and fee increases for over a decade – we have to continue spreading these messages.”

Indiana lawmakers are currently weighing a proposal to automatically enroll eligible students in the program. Gov. Eric Holcomb said getting such legislation passed this session should be a priority.

Other concerns from parents

Parents said there is still room for improvement, though.

Fourteen percent of parents surveyed said they don’t feel their school is open to feedback on the subject matter they cover. Just over half of parents agree their child’s school is very open to feedback.

One-third of parents said they worry often or very often about their child’s safety at school.

Concerns are highest among lower-income parents in micro- and metropolitan areas, where nearly half of parents say they worry about their child’s safety at school, compared with 33% of all parents.

Additionally, 16% of all parents say their child has expressed worry or concern about feeling unsafe at school.

Parents who were unhappy with the subject matter taught at their child’s school were also more likely to consider a college education less important or “completely unimportant” compared to other parents.

Molly Williams, a spokesperson for the state education department, said the agency has been “intensely focused on gathering feedback from a variety of stakeholders throughout the state,” adding that “parents are the most important factor in the academic success of Indiana’s students.”

It remains to be seen whether lawmakers will take the poll results into consideration as they decide dozens of education-related measures moving through the General Assembly, or if parent input could influence the next state budget.

The poll did not survey parents about their thoughts on issues like school funding.

* * *

The Indiana Capital Chronicle is an independent, nonprofit news organization dedicated to giving Hoosiers a comprehensive look inside state government, policy and elections. The site combines daily coverage with in-depth scrutiny, political awareness and insightful commentary.

You can read the original version of the story here.