Americans Reject Fixing One High School At A Time — New Poll Shows Strong Support For District-Wide Reform To Bring All Urban High Schools Up To The Community’s Best


For further information contact:
Carnegie Corporation of New York 
Office of Public Affairs, Adrienne Faraci 212-207-6273
Widmeyer Communication, Stacey Finkel 202-667-0901

During a year of unprecedented attention to and demands for reform of the nation’s urban public high schools, a new poll from Carnegie Corporation of New York suggests a path that commands broad and deep support from Americans. The national survey found that more than two in three adults (68 percent) say that the best way to improve public education is to concentrate on the district as a whole and improve the entire system of high schools in a community. Only 26 percent say the best way is to fix one high school at a time.

While high school reform has garnered significant attention in the past several years, most reform efforts follow a one-school-at-a-time model. The findings from Carnegie Corporation of New York’s survey demonstrate that the majority of Americans want their school districts to improve all high schools simultaneously.

The poll also points to the urgent need for reform. Nearly three in four Americans (73 percent) say that at least “some” of the urban public high schools in their city are failing to properly educate students.

Other key findings include:

  • Nine in 10 Americans (91 percent) agree that every public high school should be as good as the community’s very best;
  • More than nine in 10 Americans (92 percent) agree that successful high school reform must include changes in how the school district manages its high schools; and
  • More than four in five Americans (85 percent) say the larger community outside of the school district should play an important role in improving the quality of education offered by urban high schools.

Carnegie Corporation of New York commissioned the poll, which was conducted by Widmeyer Research and Polling, as part of itsSchools for a New Society initiative. The initiative is effecting sweeping, large-scale reform and reinvention of secondary schools in seven urban communities (Boston; Hamilton County-Chattanooga, TN; Houston; Providence, RI; Sacramento, CA; San Diego; and Worcester, MA.). Carnegie Corporation launchedSchools for a New Society in 2001, with additional support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Each community received $8-12 million in grants.

“These poll results provide us, first, with a window into the extent of the challenges facing our high schools at the dawn of the 21st century, and then support for ideas and pathways for successful reinvention,” said Vartan Gregorian, president of Carnegie Corporation. “Since we began this initiative in 2000, high schools have been placed on the national agenda. We want to share with others what we have learned over the past five years so that other school leaders and reform advocates can benefit from both our successes and mistakes. We think this experiment has surfaced models of reform for the nation.”


Key to Schools for a New Society are partnerships between businesses, universities, parent and student groups, unions and community organizations committed to high school reinvention. Poll results clearly show that the vast majority of Americans believe that community partnerships will not only be effective, but are actually required to reform urban public high schools.

  • More than four in five Americans (83 percent) think that building a working partnership between the school district and a leading community non-profit educational organization would be an effective way to improve urban public high schools;
  • More than four in five Americans (83 percent) say that community members and organizations should share some of the accountability or responsibility for reforming or improving urban public high schools;

The poll also included an oversampling of respondents in the seven Schools for a New Society communities and their results either matched or exceeded the national percentages.

The nationally representative and Census-balanced telephone poll was conducted among 616 adults, 18 years of age or older living in urban areas. The margin of error is +/- 4.4% percent.

“We are replete with polls exposing the needs of today’s high schools but this is one of the first to gauge the thoughts of Americans about actual reform efforts that are in the midst of being implemented,” said Widmeyer Senior Vice President of Research and Polling Marty McGough. “A key component ofSchools for a New Society is the belief the public must commit to raising performance and expectations at every school. This poll clearly demonstrates that the commitment is out there.”

Carnegie Corporation of New York was created by Andrew Carnegie in 1911 to promote "the advancement and diffusion of knowledge and understanding." As a grantmaking foundation, the Corporation seeks to carry out Carnegie's vision of philanthropy, which he said should aim "to do real and permanent good in the world." The Corporation's capital fund, originally donated at a value of about $135 million, had a market value of $1.9 billion on September 30, 2004. The Corporation awards grants totaling approximately $80 million a year in the areas of education, international peace and security, international development and strengthening U.S. democracy.

For full text of the poll please click here