Survey of 1999 Graduates Reveals Satisfaction with their Educational Preparation as Well as High Expectations and Career Goals

January 7, 2000
Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) graduates are satisfied with their education and continue to have high expectations and career goals, according to a 1999 survey of graduating seniors. However, discrepancies about the perceived quality of education still exist based on race and ethnicity.

Nine out of 10 MCPS seniors reported that their public education adequately prepared them for their future. Eighty-six percent planned to attend college, far surpassing the 60 percent nationally who planned to attend college. And MCPS seniors reported acceptance rates to colleges generally higher than those of seniors nationwide.

Of the 7,742 seniors eligible for graduation in 1999, 6,896 (89 percent) completed the survey, prepared by MCPS' Department of Applied Research and Evaluation. Results of the survey, which has taken place each year since 1983, provide the school system with students' perspectives on the quality of education. Students report the adequacy of MCPS in preparing them for future plans, strengths of and interferences with their education, and educational and career aspirations.

Both last year and this year, Asian American seniors (59 percent) were more likely to say MCPS prepared them "exceptionally well" and "more than adequately" for their future, compared with 51 percent of white, 49 percent of Hispanic and 44 percent of African American students.

Across the two survey years, more white seniors in 1999 than 1998 (a 5 percent increase) felt satisfied that MCPS had prepared them "exceptionally well" and "more than adequately" for their future. In contrast, fewer African American seniors in 1999 than in 1998 (a 3 percent decrease) felt that MCPS had "more than adequately" prepared them. The percentage of Hispanic seniors who reported that MCPS prepared them "exceptionally well" and "more than adequately" remained almost the same across the two surveys (50 percent to 49 percent, respectively).

Parents were, by far, named as most influential in helping MCPS seniors decide their future plans, followed by school counselors, other students and teachers. Hispanic seniors more frequently named teachers as an influence on future plans than did other seniors. Hispanic and African American seniors named career information coordinators more frequently than did other seniors.

Aspects of seniors' education that continue to be rated highly are quality of instruction (English, social science), course offerings (variety and flexibility in selection) and opportunities for social activities (friends, sports).

Poor study habits interfered most with MCPS seniors' education. The next two most frequently cited interferences related to the personal life of the student (job outside school, family obligations, television, videos, money worries, frequent illness) and to classroom instruction (poor class instruction, teachers not encouraging the student) and school climate (the student not feeling part of the school).

Among seniors who had taken the Scholastic Assessment Test (SAT), those who reported having after-school jobs and money worries had lower grade point averages and SAT scores. Lower GPAs among seniors were related to poor study habits and difficulty in their coursework.

Very few seniors named worrying about safety at school (5 percent) and no place to study (3 percent) as interferences with their education. Very few seniors said that not fitting in with a peer group and not getting along with others were barriers to their education. Few seniors (2 percent) reported that parents not caring was an interference with their education.

Reports prepared for each high school listed postsecondary schools to which students applied, whether they were accepted and if they received financial aid. The University of Maryland, College Park-with 1,808 applicants and a 76 percent acceptance rate-continued to top the list of universities/colleges applied to most frequently, followed by Montgomery College, with 1,223 applicants and an open admissions policy. The average SAT of students accepted at the University of Maryland was 1,264, compared with 941 for Montgomery College. Fifty-five percent of those accepted to Maryland and 31 percent of those accepted to Montgomery College received financial aid.

Survey answers also were linked to other student information, such as gender, race/ethnic identification and SAT scores. The reports can be useful to guidance counselors and parents as they advise students on their post-secondary school plans.

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