Friday, September 7

Student, parent, teacher survey results now out

Remember the "learning environment" surveys the DOE was pushing parents, teachers, and students to take last spring? Their results are now available in the "statistics" section of each school's DOE website. Each report has a ton of information to wade through, but the New York Times has a useful summary. Some of the most interesting tidbits:

  • 26 percent of parents overall answered the surveys, far fewer than the DOE originally said it wanted but a reasonably good sample (though not representative — response rates were much lower in schools with poorer students).
  • Most parents' responses indicated that they are generally happy with their schools, just as researchers have discovered pretty much every time they've ever surveyed parents, regardless of the quality of schools from which those parents are drawn.
  • Perhaps for this reason, Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum thinks the survey was "nothing more than a multi-million dollar P.R. effort."
  • But there's actually a surprising amount of criticism of principals, coming mainly from teachers. I checked out the reports of a couple of schools that I know are having leadership problems, and it looked like teachers reported freely that their principals don't adequately respect or support them. I wonder whether the DOE will take a closer look at schools like these, even if the final grade into which the surveys are being factored isn't low.
  • A quarter of parents said the single improvement they'd most like to see in their kid's school is smaller class size, a request that Mayor Bloomberg immediately downplayed. Small class size advocates mobilized around the surveys, so the results might be a little distorted, but it's still telling that parents almost universally chose class size reduction over "more effective school leadership" and "better communication with parents." And it's simply bizarre to see the disdain Bloomberg has for an idea that makes an unimpeachable goal, even if it isn't immediately attainable.
I'm impressed that the DOE released the survey results in such a straightforward manner. The next step is for the DOE to give parents, teachers, and students a real say in crafting the surveys (that way, perhaps special education would get addressed) and to translate the wealth of information into a language that's more understandable for those of us who aren't trained to analyze data.


Leonie Haimson said...

First of all, we asked for a boycott of the parent survey -- so to the degree that our efforts were successful, the issue would have received an even higher preference than it did.

Secondly, the DOE and the Mayor have hardly presented the results in a "straightforward manner" as you write. Not only did they try to obscure the fact that smaller classes came out as the top priority of parents by lumping together the percentages of four different responses in the press release--but then, during the press conference the Mayor falsely claimed that "enrichment programs" were preferred over class size was by "two to one" when actually class size ranked higher than enrichment by 24% to 19%. Then he repeated this misstatement on his radio show the next day.

I would hardly call that straightforward.

For more on this see our parent blog at

Philissa said...

Hi Leonie,

Thanks for your comment. Re: your first point, my thought was that because you launched a competing survey, parents who pay attention to class size issues may simply have been more activated than other parents, despite the fact that they were originally instructed not to respond to the DOE's survey. Maybe they were not more activated than involved parents would have been otherwise.

As far as transparency goes, I agree that the level of spin coming out of the DOE is dizzying. I guess I'm just surprised that the data is all there for folks to parse. I was expecting the press release and conference, but I wasn't expecting the warts that the survey revealed to be made public as well. But I guess this is no different from test score data -- you can find a different story from the one the DOE puts out if you know how to read the numbers.

I'm looking forward to seeing the results of your survey.