New York State School Boards Association

PDK survey reveals strong support for school mental health services

by Eric D. Randall

On Board Online • September 4, 2017

By Eric D. Randall

Nine of 10 New Yorkers think public schools should provide mental health services for students who don't have access to such services elsewhere, according to a new poll by Phi Delta Kappa International (PDK). Eighty percent said they feel "strongly" that such services should be provided.

For 49 years, PDK has conducted an annual Poll of the Public's Attitudes Toward the Public Schools, which reports findings at a national level.

This year, in addition to its annual national survey, PDK conducted companion surveys in two states - New York and Georgia. Via telephone, pollsters questioned 628 randomly selected New York adults, including 354 parents of public school students, in May and June of 2017.

"Our goal in conducting the state surveys was to give relevant, actionable information on public views of public education to policymakers at the state and local levels," said Joshua P. Starr, chief executive officer of PDK.

Some notable findings in New York:

Huge support for social-emotional learning. Asked about six factors in school quality, the percentage of New Yorkers was highest regarding the importance of schools helping students "learn skills like being cooperative, respectful of others and persistent at solving problems." Eighty-five percent said teaching such skills is "very" or "extremely" important.

Limited faith in testing. Only 40 percent of New Yorkers said they considered "how well students do on standardized tests" to be "extremely" or "very" important in school quality. When a subset of public school parents were asked a similar question - "How confident are you that these tests do a good job measuring how well your child is learning?" - 24 percent said they were "very" confident, while 32 percent said they were "somewhat" confident.

Upstate residents are most concerned about drugs. Drugs are much more likely to be cited as an issue by upstate residents (21 percent) than by those in New York City (7 percent) or the city's suburbs (4 percent).

The survey has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 5.5 percentage points for all respondents and 7 percentage points for parents of public school students. For more information, go to

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