The Michigan Education Poll began in 1982 as a project of the Michigan Department of Education (MDE) Project Outreach program. The 1998–99 Michigan Education Poll is the 13th survey in this series and was conducted for the MDE by Public Sector Consultants, Inc. This year’s poll marks the fifth year that private sponsors have underwritten the survey; the 1998–99 sponsors are the following:

  • Michigan Association of School Boards
  • Michigan Business Leaders for Education Excellence
  • Michigan Department of Education
  • Michigan Education Association
  • W.K. Kellogg Foundation

Overall, the grades that respondents give schools are similar to those awarded in 1996, the year in which the survey last was conducted. The percentage of respondents giving public schools an A or B grade is statistically unchanged: 53 percent in both 1996 and 1998–99. When results are compared over time, this year’s grades remain in line with those given through most of the 1990s. (See Exhibit 1 below.)

There are demographic differences in people’s perception of their local schools.

  • African-American respondents are much less likely than Caucasians to give their local public schools an A/B grade; the percentage of African-American and Caucasians assigning a high grade are 32 percent and 58 percent, respectively.
  • Regionally (available in the full report), respondents in central Michigan express the most satisfaction their schools, with 64 percent awarding an A/B grade.
  • Those in the City of Detroit and the Thumb express the least satisfaction, with only 31 and 51 percent, respectively, giving an A/B grade.

The public views the skills and abilities of graduating seniors somewhat more favorably this year than in 1996.

  • Forty-five percent (compared to 39 percent in 1996) give A/B grades for students’ math, science, reading and writing, and science skills.
  • Seventy percent (compared to 63 percent in 1996) believe students are very or somewhat prepared to compete in a world economy.


Southern Michigan’s view of its schools has improved. Until this year, the percentage of respondents in southern Michigan giving their schools high grades had been steadily dropping: The percentage giving an A/B grade was 66 percent in 1992, 51 percent in 1993–94, and 45 percent in 1996. In the current survey, the percentage is back up to 59 percent, but southern Michigan residents still express strong dissatisfaction in other areas. For example, in comparison with other regions, southern Michigan residents give low grades for graduating seniors’ academic skills, and more of them believe that there are drug and alcohol problems in their schools.

Fewer than half of those surveyed say that they support using public tax dollars to support nonpublic education. Thirty-nine percent say that public monies—via vouchers, tax credits, or other ways—should be given to support nonpublic schools, while 53 percent said that they should not.

While many respondents feel that violence is a problem in their local schools, far more feel that drugs and alcohol are serious problems.

  • Statewide, 41 percent of those surveyed this year strongly or somewhat strongly believe that physical violence is a serious problem in their local schools. The results vary regionally: Among City of Detroit residents, 63 percent believe that physical violence is a serious school problem; among central and northern Michigan residents, the percentage is only 31 percent.
  • Eighty-nine percent believe that students who bring weapons to school should be expelled automatically.
  • Sixty-three percent believe that drugs and alcohol are a serious problem in their local schools.

The survey finds that the public generally is pleased with their local schools computer education. Nearly three-quarters (74 percent) say that their local district adequately prepares students to use computers and other technology. A large share (80 percent) believe that increased use of computers in the classroom will substantially improve the schools.

A copy of the full report is available below.