Students, community grade the schools
- Published: June 23, 2011
The Yellow Springs school district released the results of its first comprehensive evaluation through community survey this week. Four versions of the survey were distributed to parents, teachers, 4th–6th grade students, 7th–12th grade students. The survey included both multiple-choice items based on a five-point scale (A,B,C,D,F) and open-ended response questions.
The following is the results section from the report, which was generated by graduate students in the Wright State University School of Professional Psychology in partial fulfillment of the Program Evaluation course. The report was written under the supervision of WSU faculty member and local parent Cheryl Meyer, who coordinated the survey for the district.
The complete report and survey results can be found on the school Web site, www.yellow-springs.k12.oh.us/. See the story in this week’s News.
What Did We Find?
After final analysis of all collected surveys, the results provided useful and positive information. The letter response system used in the multiple-choice questions were converted to a number scoring system, so that an “A” was equal to a 4.0, a “B” equaled a 3.0, a “C” equaled 2.0, a “D” was a 1.0 and a “F” was a 0.0. Using that system, in order to achieve an “A” on any item, most respondents would have had to rate the item as an “A.” It should be noted that achieving an “A” on an item would be highly unlikely. It was possible to earn an “A” if an average fell at 3.5 or higher. The numbered averages for each multiple-choice item are included in the Appendix (Table A). Table B has the conversion of averages to letter grade equivalents.
Table C shows the key for the conversion.
With the exception of a few “Ds” most grades were either “B” or “C”, which is average or better than average. There were no “F” grades. If the distribution of grades was a normal distribution (a bell shaped curve), it would be expected to have a majority of “C” grades with fewer “B” and “D” grades and infrequent “A” or “F” grades. In the case of this survey, the distribution of grades is actually positive, indicating that overall, the district reported within the average to above average range.
Several prominent main themes were found across both multiple-choice and open-ended questions. A number of themes were identified as areas of strength for the school district and there were some areas that could benefit from attention.
There were several multiple-choice and open-ended questions which provided positive feedback for the superintendent, principals and the district as a whole. Two groups, faculty and parents, rated several multiple-choice items as the top ten highest scoring items of the survey. The Mills Lawn principal specifically was awarded high scores on items “accessibility of principal,” “openness of principal to faculty and staff input,” as well as giving the principal an overall “B” on the item “grade on how well he handles student issues.” In multiple-choice questions, parents rated “accessibility of high school principal” as one of the ten highest items. In open-ended responses, parents reported “praise for superintendent and a job done well during his first year; recognition for accessibility and positive communication” and high school students “gave recognition that Mr. Krier is doing well considering it is his first year.” This is a recurring theme across multiple-choice and open-ended questions and should be recognized.
Another area of very positive feedback for the district included a theme of acceptance among students and faculty for individual differences. Multiple-choice items consistently ranked among the ten highest from three groups, faculty, parents, and high school students include “making the school a safe place for all students regardless of their race/ethnicity,” “making the school a safe place for all students regardless of sexual orientation,” “making the school a safe place for all students regardless of gender,” “making the school a safe place for all students regardless of economic status,” and “making the school a safe place for all students regardless of religious beliefs.” Faculty endorsed similar statements in the open-ended question by saying they like “community support for students” and faculty and parents reported liking the “diversity.” Parents and high school students commented that they hope to always keep “openness of the environment.” Based on the theme of a welcoming and open atmosphere in regards to individual differences of students, Yellow Springs School District should take pride in having created a safe place for diversity and individual differences.
Technology is a theme, scoring among the lowest across both multiple-choice and open- ended questions. Three groups, parents, faculty, and high school students all rated “keeping technology current” and “keeping website updated” as two of their ten lowest. Teachers and parents endorsed “helpfulness of the website” and “the amount of technology available at school,” as two of the ten lowest items of the survey. Across open-ended response questions this same theme was endorsed by teachers saying, “website needs improvement and more frequent updates/website is unfriendly,” parents saying, “the website needs improvement and more frequent updates of events,” and high school students commenting they “want better technology/computers; operating systems are out of date.”
The Yellow Springs School Board is a theme scoring among the lowest across multiple- choice and open-ended questions as well. Two groups, faculty and parents both rated “helpfulness of school board” as one of their ten lowest items of the survey. Faculty rated “ability of the school board to relate to school issues” and “openness of the school board to faculty/staff input” as two of the ten lowest items of the survey. Across open-ended response questions this same theme was endorsed by teachers saying, “school board has hidden agenda and are out of touch with current needs of the district,” “school board members are not present at events,” and “teachers do not know school board members.” Although parents rated the school board as “C” or average, they also indicated that the “school board needs better communication and input from parents” and “school board is out of touch.”
Two groups, high school students and faculty, rated “give your principal a grade on how well he handles student issues” as one of the ten lowest items of their survey. High school students commented in open-ended responses saying they “feel as though principal can do a better job listening to students.” Faculty said, “principal is not present enough.”
Deficiency in curriculum is a theme scoring among the lowest across multiple-choice and open-ended questions. Two groups, parents and high school students, both rated “variety of courses offered” as one of the ten lowest items of their survey. Parents rated “how well curriculum prepares students for educational/employment options after high school” and “the variety of options to earn credit” as two of the ten lowest items of the survey. Teachers also endorsed this theme in open-ended questions by saying, “need more music classes,” “increase class options,” “there is a need for more challenging classes,” and “there is a failure to prepare students outside of the Yellow Springs School District.” High school students responded in open- ended questions by saying, “there needs to be more class options to earn credit” and “there should be more challenging classes.” Parents commented saying they “would like an increase in class options for students to earn credit” and “would like more difficult class options”.
Discipline concerns and high-risk behaviors are themes that were highlighted across both multiple-choice and open-ended questions. Two groups, parents and high school students, ranked “awareness of drug use in school” and “preventing drug use in school” in multiple-choice questions as two of the lowest items of their survey. Parents reported “preventing bullying in the school” as one of the lowest ten of multiple-choice questions. The high school students and teachers rated that same item as a “C.” 4th-6th graders ranked “making sure students behave at school” as one of the ten lowest multiple-choice items. In open-ended questions, high school students say there is “large drug use” and “poor and inconsistent discipline of disruptive students.” Parents commented in open-ended questions saying, “too much drug use and not enough awareness of drugs among administration/staff.” Further open-ended questions revealed comments from parents that include “too much bullying and nothing is done to prevent or discipline bullies.” 4th-6th graders reported they want “better ways to report bullying.” Teachers
stated there is “an unsafe climate with bullying and drug use.”
Administration requested separating the survey items based on the different school buildings within the district. By separating the multiple-choice responses based on the specific school being evaluated, additional themes emerge. For Mills Lawn, teachers rated the “maintenance and cleanliness of the school” and “the resources available at school,” as areas that could use improvement. A concern expressed by teachers at McKinney Middle School that was not previously addressed indicates that teachers are unclear as to why decisions are made. The main areas of concern for teachers at Yellow Springs High School not previously mentioned include: “the openness of the superintendent to faculty input,” and “not knowing why decisions are made.” The areas needing improvement expressed from parents of high school students include: “making the school a safe space for all students regardless of their special needs,” “inspiring students to be enthusiastic about learning,” and “awareness of drug use in the schools.” There is also a group of parents that have children in multiple schools whose main concern is the variety of options for earning credit available.