Students on a public school bus.

Parents give schools low grades for their lack of focus on physical activity and have mixed views about the health of food available at school.

This poll is part of an ongoing series of surveys sponsored by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation in partnership with the Harvard School of Public Health and NPR. Just under 1,400 American adults who had a child attending a public or public charter school in grades K-12 during the 2012-2013 school year participated in the Education and Health in Schools poll.

Most parents gave their child’s schools high grades though they also voiced concern that schools are not adequately preparing children for entering the workforce. Contrary to the high grades that parents give schools in general, a large number of parents gave schools low grades for their lack of support of physical activity. Parents also had mixed views regarding school lunches with most parents reporting school lunches as healthy, but also reporting that schools serve a variety of unhealthy foods.  

Key Findings

  • Roughly eight in 10 parents (82%) gave their child’s school a grade of A or B.

  • Almost seven in 10 parents (68%) said their child's school did not provide daily physical education; while one-quarter (25%) of parents reported that physical education got too little emphasis in school.

  • Close to three in 10 parents (28%) gave their child’s school a grade of C or lower for providing time for physical activity.

  • Though a majority (72%) of parents said school lunches were very or somewhat healthy, one in five (20%) reported school lunches to be very or somewhat unhealthy.

  • About three in four parents (72%) reported that their child’s school was extremely or very safe.

About the Survey:

Interviews were conducted via telephone (including both landline and cell phone) between August 6 and September 8, 2013 among adults (1,368) who indicated they were one of the people in their household most knowledgeable about the education of the children during the school year ending in May or June 2013. The interviews were conducted in English and Spanish.  

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