SURVEY Tables are turned as teens get opportunity to grade adults
Adults received only a mediocre report card from the people ages 12-19 polled.
KNIGHT RIDDER NEWSPAPERS
WASHINGTON -- School is out across much of the country, and so is the seventh annual Uhlich Report Card, a survey that gives teenagers a chance to grade adults on how well they're solving problems teens and the rest of the nation face.
They didn't give adults a report card that most kids would be proud to take home, however. Adults' overall grade came out to a C; they scored 10 B's, 13 C's, one D and no A's when their grades in 24 categories were averaged.
As in all the surveys since 1999, more than 50 percent of teens surveyed gave superior grades (A's and B's) to adults for providing quality education, creating job opportunities and spending quality time with their families. For the first time in the survey's history, more teens gave positive rather than negative grades to adults for stopping youth smoking.
But more than 35 percent gave adults poor grades (D's and F's) for dealing with gangs, listening to and understanding teens, and stopping young people from using drugs. Adults' grade for fighting the war on terrorism fell from a B- to a C+.
The D grade was for "understanding why teens leave home."
In a random nationwide sample, 1,000 people ages 12-19 were asked to assign letter grades to adults in the 24 categories, ranging from "making neighborhoods safe" to "being honest." Focus groups of teens then met in Washington, Los Angeles and Chicago to offer more input on the grades.
Shakeva Kirkman, a freshman at IDEA Public Charter School in Washington, echoed many teens in the survey who gave poor grades to adults for running the government.
"In our focus group, I gave government a D," she said Friday at a news conference announcing the survey's results. "I'm scared, because I think when I get older, 69, I won't have money to be able to buy my own prescriptions because I don't think Social Security's gonna be there to help me." The government overall received a grade of C.
The teens also gave adults a C in the category of helping young people deal with depression.
"I think that if you could target depression and anxiety, all those other things [problems] would fall in line," said Rochelle Delaney, who recently graduated from IDEA.
Learning to listen
The five teens at the news conference expressed hope that adults would take them seriously.
Kirkman said there were adults who were working to provide young people with a better future than they themselves would have. But she said she thinks many adults are too busy with their daily lives to listen to teenagers' concerns.
The survey was sponsored by the Uhlich Children's Advantage Network, a foundation in Chicago. The Child Welfare League of America analyzed the data.
League spokeswoman Linda Spears said Friday that she hoped the report card would bring attention to the voices and needs of teenagers. "We spend a lot of time worrying about what teens are doing, but a lot less time actually with teens, hearing about what we're doing for them," she said.
Spears said the survey results would be sent to the 900 member organizations of the Child Welfare League and to various lawmakers, and would be part of future policy recommendations.
XFor all the survey results, go to http://www.ucanchicago.org/reportcard/Grades.htm.