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Nicholas Elden, a fifth-grader at Landstuhl (Germany) Elementary and Middle School, looks through his copy of the TerraNova test last week. Teachers, parents and pupils graded Defense Department schools higher than public schools on the most recent customer satisfaction survey released Friday.
Nicholas Elden, a fifth-grader at Landstuhl (Germany) Elementary and Middle School, looks through his copy of the TerraNova test last week. Teachers, parents and pupils graded Defense Department schools higher than public schools on the most recent customer satisfaction survey released Friday. (Ben Bloker / S&S)
Nicholas Elden, a fifth-grader at Landstuhl (Germany) Elementary and Middle School, looks through his copy of the TerraNova test last week. Teachers, parents and pupils graded Defense Department schools higher than public schools on the most recent customer satisfaction survey released Friday.
Nicholas Elden, a fifth-grader at Landstuhl (Germany) Elementary and Middle School, looks through his copy of the TerraNova test last week. Teachers, parents and pupils graded Defense Department schools higher than public schools on the most recent customer satisfaction survey released Friday. (Ben Bloker / S&S)
Kris Van Buren, a ninth-grader at Ramstein (Germany) High School, explores a small combustion engine in the auto tech classroom on March 12. Pupils and parents who took the survey had their share of concerns. Both said that more needs to be done to address alcohol and drug abuse. Nearly everyone said that lack of funding was a bigger issue than fighting or gangs.
Kris Van Buren, a ninth-grader at Ramstein (Germany) High School, explores a small combustion engine in the auto tech classroom on March 12. Pupils and parents who took the survey had their share of concerns. Both said that more needs to be done to address alcohol and drug abuse. Nearly everyone said that lack of funding was a bigger issue than fighting or gangs. (Ben Bloker / S&S)

KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany — Teachers, parents and students who were surveyed gave Defense Department schools higher grades than they did public schools, but listed a lack of funding as a big problem.

The Department of Defense Education Activity released the results of its latest “customer satisfaction” survey, which allowed students, parents and teachers to gauge the quality of education.

Three-quarters of parents said they would give Defense Department schools a letter grade of “A” or “B,” while only 37 percent said they would give public schools such high ratings.

The gap was smaller for students. Sixty-nine percent gave military schools high marks, while 55 percent would give the same to public schools. Eighty-three percent of teachers gave defense schools top grades; 34 percent thought more highly of public schools.

Liz Andersen’s three children attend Department of Defense Dependents Schools in the Kaiserslautern area and have never gone to a public school. But from what she’s heard from friends and family with children in the States, she believes military schools are better.

“I don’t know if my kids could survive in public schools from what I’ve heard,” Andersen said.

Teachers, students and parents were asked to grade their schools’ education on such factors as curriculum, tests, technology and student support. The survey is given every other year, and school system officials said participation was 40 percent higher than when it was last taken in 2004 and 2005. More than 63,000 people took the survey from Nov. 1 to Feb. 28.

Catharyn Ryan, who has three children enrolled in school at Aviano Air Base, Italy, said she wasn’t surprised by the generally positive reviews.

“That’s what I said in the survey pretty much,” she said. “I would stay here longer if I could, just because of the schools. It’s an excellent system.”

Cathy Knappen, who has a fifth-grader enrolled at Aviano and is a member of the local PTA, said she believes the schools are doing a good job.

“Especially compared to our last school district in the States,” she said.

Knappen said she thought that teachers paid attention to her concerns and “for the most part, they are really good.”

The survey also asked respondents to list the three biggest problems with their school. The specific response most frequently chosen by teachers, parents and students was lack of funding.

Rueben Moreno, 15, a freshman at Kaiserslautern High School, said his school — which shares a campus with the middle and elementary students — could use a serious overhaul.

“It’s a good school, but it’s too confined,” Moreno said. “We need more funding here.”

Freshman Calvin Collins, 15, agreed.

“Every time there’s an assembly, people are sitting on top of someone else,” he said.

Andersen, who is a clerk at Kaiserslautern Elementary School, said budget problems appear to vary from school to school, but she said it was a concern at the schools her children attend. She said school facilities in Okinawa, Japan, where her family was stationed for five years, were nicer.

“I definitely think funding is an issue,” she said.

Defense Department students do much better than their public-school counterparts on standardized tests, but 42 percent of teachers surveyed said there was too much emphasis on such assessments. Half said there was about the right amount.

Dennis Bohannon, a spokesman for Defense Department schools in Europe, said the survey is helpful for school officials.

“We are grateful for the responses that we received from the Customer Satisfaction Survey, and the insight it provides,” he wrote in a statement to Stars and Stripes. “The results of the survey speak for itself. In the weeks and months to come we will take a closer look at the areas of concern. We will look at those areas where we scored high and see if ‘what we are doing right’ can be expanded to other areas.”

Stripes reporter Kent Harris contributed to this story.

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