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Students Grade Schools Poorly in Preparing Them for Future, According to Gallup and Walton Family Foundation Survey

June 14, 2023
Few say schools make them excited about learning

WASHINGTON D.C. – JUNE 14, 2023 – As the academic year draws to a close for students across the United States, Gallup and the Walton Family Foundation have asked nearly 2,300 public and private school students enrolled in grades 5-12 to give their schools a report card — assigning letter grades across a range of important issues related to their educational experience. Survey findings highlight how students feel a lack of preparedness and excitement about learning. These data come from the inaugural Gallup-Walton Family Foundation survey, with full findings exploring how young people feel about themselves, their schools and their future to be released in the coming months.

Overall, U.S. students give their schools a “B-.” When asked about how their school prepares them for the future, nearly twice as many students give a “C” or below (39%) as award their school an “A” (20%). On average, students are four times as likely to give their school a “C” or lower (52%) for making them feel excited about learning as they are to give an “A” (13%).

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Donielle Lee

These subdued feelings around preparedness and excitement to learn continue when students reflect on how they are taught. Only 19% give their school an “A” for adapting to their learning needs, and 27% award an “A” grade for their school’s use of new technology to enhance learning. Only 17% of students give their school an “A” in teaching them about career opportunities.

When asked about their school’s ability to support students’ mental health, 46% of students handed out a “C” grade or lower, with an average grade of “C+” across all students. Schools receive the highest marks on respecting students for who they are: 48% of students surveyed give their school an “A” on this item.

The research highlights just how different the educational experience is for each student. For example, only a third (33%) of Black students give their school an “A” for “respecting who you are regardless of your race/ethnicity, gender and identity,” compared with 53% of Hispanic students and 50% of White students. Nearly nine in 10 students who say their school deserves an “A” for making them feel included report that they earn excellent or good grades, whereas less than half of those who give their schools a an “F” earn top marks.

“For learning to be more relevant, engaging and rigorous, we must listen to and collaborate with young people,” says Romy Drucker, director of the education program at Walton Family Foundation. “With students giving schools an overall “B-“ grade, it is clear that there is much work to do together.”


Results are based on a Gallup Panel™ web survey conducted Apr. 24-May 8, 2023, with a sample of 3,114 12- to 25-year-olds living in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The Gallup Panel is a probability-based panel of U.S. adults who are randomly selected using address-based sampling methodology. Gallup also recruits using random‑digit-dial phone interviews that cover landline and cellphones.

Within the overall sample, 2,294 12- to 18-year-old children were reached through adult members of the Gallup Panel who indicated they had at least one child 18 or younger living in their household; the additional 820 18- to 25-year-old respondents are members of the Gallup Panel.

For results based on the sample of 12- to 18-year-olds reached through their parents, the margin of sampling error is +/- 2.7 percentage points at the 95% confidence level. For the sample of 18- to 25-year-old Gallup Panel members, the margin of sampling error is +/- 4.6 percentage points at the 95% confidence level.

All reported margins of sampling error include computed design effects for weighting. In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

About Walton Family Foundation

The Walton Family Foundation is, at its core, a family-led foundation. Three generations of the descendants of our founders, Sam and Helen Walton, and their spouses work together to lead the foundation and create access to opportunity for people and communities. We work in three areas: improving education, protecting rivers and oceans and the communities they support, and investing in our home region of Northwest Arkansas and the Arkansas-Mississippi Delta. To learn more, visit and follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

About Gallup

Gallup delivers analytics and advice to help leaders and organizations solve their most pressing problems. Combining more than 80 years of experience with its global reach, Gallup knows more about the attitudes and behaviors of employees, customers, students and citizens than any other organization in the world.