People think the Duval County Public School system is worse than it really is.
That's one of the biggest takeaways from an annual poll conducted by an independent nonprofit group focused on education in the Jacksonville area, according to its president.
According to the newest Public Education Perceptions Poll released today by the Jacksonville Public Education Fund, only 3.5% of the people surveyed rated DCPS as "excellent" and 23.5% as "good". "Fair" led the way at 44.9%, while "poor" is at 24.7%, 5.6% higher than it was a year ago.
While the "excellent" rating went up 1.1% compared to the year prior, the "good" and "fair" ratings both took a tumble of 1.3% and 4.1%, respectively, when compared to the last poll.
Trey Csar - President of the Jacksonville Public Education Fund - says the newest poll clearly shows in some areas that perception trails reality when it comes to DCPS performance.
"There is, in Jacksonville, a cultural bias against improving public schools," Csar added. "There is a community belief that our public schools are not improving and I think when you look at measures like the graduation rate, that is demonstrably not true."
DCPS had a 79% graduation rate in the 2015-16 school years, while those who were polled thought it was at 62% on average. A similar trend took place the year prior when the actual was at 77% and the perception was 61% on average.
Csar says it's not that unusual for perception to trail reality in these cases because public perception moves "very slowly".
"We've got to continue talking about where the real numbers are, where there is progress is being made and where challenges still exist," Csar noted.
The poll also shows the majority of responders rating the Duval County School Board, Superintendent Dr. Nikolai Vitti and DCPS teachers as a whole as "somewhat effective" when asked their opinion of how effective each is helping improve public education in Jacksonville.
Just over 25% of the 510 Duval adults surveyed by JPEF in its latest poll are the parents of DCPS students, which Csar says is about in line compared to years past even though JPEF doesn't actually try to get a certain amount of parents in the statistical sample it uses to randomly choose who gets surveyed.
Another big takeaway from this year's results is a jump in the number of people who support a small increase in taxes for public education. 74% backed that idea compared to 70% a year ago and 60% the year prior.
Parents who took part in the poll gave "very effective" or "somewhat effective" marks to their children's schools (76.2%) and teachers (86.4%). 66.7% of them also gave their kids' schools an "A" or "B" grade even though only a third of DCPS schools actually have an "A" or "B" grade from the state.
84.3% of parents surveyed also backed the idea of parents being allowed to enroll their children in any public school in Florida that has space available instead of confining them to a specific school district. This question was not included in last year's JPEF poll.