Nearly two-thirds of Salt Lake Valley residents rated their local education quality as excellent or good, according to a poll conducted for the Deseret News.
But respondents living east of State Street gave education higher marks than their west-side counterparts, with 65 percent describing it as "excellent" or "good."Fifty-eight percent of west-side residents in the poll ranked education quality as excellent or good.
College graduates also rated schools significantly higher than high school dropouts.
A total of 164 residents of Salt Lake County, among a total of about 400 Utahns, responded to the Dan Jones & Associates poll. The poll carries a 5 percent margin of error.
Karen Derrick, president of the Salt Lake City Board of Education, believes the numbers correlate with parental involvement.
"People involved in their child's education believe their schools are doing a great job," Derrick said.
Higher numbers of single parents on the west side may explain discrepancies between location-based ratings. "They don't have as much time to volunteer in the schools," Derrick said. "But that's just a guess."
Superintendent Barry Newbold of the Jordan School District says the survey results mirror the findings of public opinion polls commissioned by the school district.
"As I look at the data, especially with a confidence level of 95 percent, it doesn't seem to me the differences regarding the east side and the west side are that dramatic," Newbold said.
The district's own research suggests parents believe education quality is better in elementary school, followed by high school. Parents of middle school students reported the lowest satisfaction.
East-west comparisons may be folly in the case of the Jordan District, which encompasses an area including the east bench as well as more affluent areas in South Jordan, Bluffdale, Riverton and South Mountain on the west side.
"You don't make a modest or low income and purchase a one-acre lot with a home on it," Newbold said.
Granite School District spokesman Kent Gardner said the poll results are difficult to interpret on a single district basis, because the sample was narrow and included residents of four school districts.
"I think people, in general, support their schools. We get remarkable help from parents in education, and I think most polls would reflect that. It's part of our culture to do that. Every poll we've done has given us the same feeling in our Granite District family. It doesn't mean there aren't problems. But people support the schools and get involved, for the most part," Gardner said.
Fifteen percent of residents living east of State Street rated schools as excellent, while 9 percent of west residents gave such a rating. Fifty percent of east and 49 percent of west respondents rated schools as good.
Nearly one-fourth of west-side respondents rated schools as fair, with 9 percent giving a poor rating. Eight percent didn't know.
On the east side of the valley, 17 percent gave schools a fair rating, with 5 percent ranking them as poor. And 13 percent said they didn't know.
The level of respondents' education made a difference in their perceptions of school quality, poll results show.
For instance, 57 percent of respondents reporting less than a high school education ranked education as fair or poor, with 28 percent reporting excellent or good ratings. Fourteen percent didn't know.
Conversely, 65 percent of college graduates ranked education quality as excellent or good, while 27 percent gave poor or fair ratings. Nine percent didn't know.
Poll results show little disparity between ratings from the 170 reporting school-age children at home and the 230 who reported none. Sixty-five percent with schoolchildren rated schools as good or excellent, while 64 percent without schoolchildren gave the same rating.
Deseret News Poll
How would you rate the overall quality of education children in your school district receive?
East of State St. West of State St.
Excellent 15% 9%
Good 50% 49%
Fair 17% 24%
Poor 5% 9%
Don't know 13% 8%
This poll of 164 Utah residents was conducted by Dan Jones & Associates Sept. 27-30, 1997. It has a margin of error of +/-5 percent.