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Helmut Schmidt, Published April 10 2014

Poll: ND has highest confidence in K-12 system, Minn. ranks 3rd

FARGO – Sheena Ramirez is a big fan of Jefferson Elementary School.

She says her son, third-grader Braeden, is getting an excellent education at the public school in Fargo.

“They do a lot of one-on-one when they (students) need it. And they have a lot of before-school and after-school programs, which I love,” Ramirez said, as she picked up her son from the playground.

Ramirez is not the only North Dakotan who loves her neighborhood school.

Eighty-seven percent of North Dakotans rated the quality of the state’s public schools in kindergarten through 12th grade as good or excellent in a Gallup poll released Wednesday.

That’s the highest satisfaction rating in the nation, the poll found.

The public school systems in Iowa (83 percent), Minnesota (81 percent) and South Dakota and Nebraska (80 percent) trailed North Dakota closely, the Gallup poll found.

Schools in the nation’s South and West fared much more poorly in the eyes of residents there.

New Mexico held the bottom spot in ratings of public education at 41 percent.

Also in the basement of the ratings were Nevada (42 percent), Louisiana (45 percent), Hawaii (46 percent), Illinois (49 percent) and California (50 percent).

People polled in states that ranked their K-12 education system the highest also said their public schools prepared students for success in the workplace. South Dakota led in that area at 83 percent, followed by North Dakota (82 percent), Iowa (81 percent), Nebraska (79 percent) and Minnesota (76 percent).

Least prepared, according to residents in those states, were Nevada at 48 percent, New Mexico (51 percent), California (52 percent), Oregon (54 percent) and Illinois (55 percent).

According to Gallup, unemployment rates were under 5 percent in many states that did the best in both rankings, including North and South Dakota, Iowa, Nebraska and Wyoming.

If Gallup had contacted Jean Ricker, a grandmother waiting to pick up her granddaughter outside of Carl Ben Eielson Middle School, they might have gotten an endorsement with a couple generations of perspective.

“I had five children graduate from South High School. I think they do a good job here,” Ricker said. “They got a pretty good education. They all have good jobs, anyway.”

The poll was conducted between June and December 2013 with a random sample of about 600 adults living in each of the 50 states. The margin of error was plus or minus 5 percent.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Helmut Schmidt at (701) 241-5583