Parent Survey Shows Gains As Well As Areas For Improvement

The full value of any survey lies in its ability not only to indicate things an organization is doing right, but initiatives upon which respondents believe it should improve. Such is the case with our second annual Parent Community Engagement Survey.

Perhaps the most encouraging piece of data is the number of parents – more than 14,600 – who took time to provide feedback. That’s a 70 percent increase from a year ago, a testament not only to our outreach efforts but to the willingness of parents to be active partners in a process that will ultimately lead to increased student achievement. Based on the number of children parents indicated they have in our system, we estimate the survey represents approximately 36 percent of our 75,000 students.

It was also encouraging that 94 percent of those who filled out the surveys expressed satisfaction with our school system, and that 97 percent indicated their child feels safe at school. There is no question that our schools, like those in every district across the country, have unfortunate incidents that disrupt schools and compromise instruction. And while we must continue to pursue every available avenue to help ensure the safety and security of our students and staff, the latter number belies some public assertions that our schools are unsafe.

A large majority of parents believe our schools are doing a good job of informing them of events and activities, but 13 percent feel disconnected from information about instruction and new programs. That number is clearly too high, and it is my expectation that our principals will take measures to lower it significantly before next year’s survey.

We are all concerned about the satisfaction levels in our high schools. Even though high school parents made up just 7 percent of respondents (meaning that every response translates to a greater percentage than at other levels), dissatisfaction rates of 55, 56, 69, and 74 percent are simply unacceptable.

One area in which parents will see a quick change is in our School Improvement Plans. Even before these results showed that 44 percent of respondents had not seen their school’s plan, we were working on posting all 120 on our Web site. That project should be completed in the next two months or so. The plans will remain a regular part of the data portions of our school Web sites so that all parents have access to them.

Those Web sites, for any parents who have not yet seen them, now contain testing and achievement data for all of our schools. From AYP and MSA or HSA information, to Advanced Placement, PSAT, and SAT data for our high schools, parents can now put their hands on more data in one central location than ever before. This is just the first phase of an ongoing project.

We are continuing to move forward as a school system in large part because of the vital role our parents and community partners continue to play. Our community engagement goals are not part of our Strategic Plan as window dressing, but as key indicators that we believe will move us forward on our Journey To Greatness and make Anne Arundel County Public Schools the best school system in the state and one of the best in the nation.

The results of this survey are encouraging, but there is much more work to do. From individual parents to groups like the County Council of PTAs and the Parent Involvement Advisory Council, we must work collaboratively and constructively to develop partnerships that will help create better educational environments for all of our children.

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