Getting your Evanston news from Facebook? Try the Evanston RoundTable’s free daily and weekend email newsletters – sign up now!
Subscribe to the newsletter!
John Gotta, of the ECRA Group, presented the results of a survey of School District 65 administrators, teachers, parents, and a sample of community members to the District 65 School Board on Nov. 1. ECRA, a firm specializing in educational research, conducted the survey.
Dr. Gotta said the overall findings were that, “District 65 is a strong school district and is supported by its stakeholders. District 65 is a united community in its belief that the schools provide a quality education, and united on what are considered to be important issues facing the District.
“Stakeholders feel that the schools are doing a good job of educating children, but would like to see better communication, more input into decision making, and ultimately to put students and high expectations at the forefront of educational initiatives.”
He added, “From ECRA’s assessment, there is nothing in the findings that could be considered radically inconsistent with what is typically found in other suburban school district surveys.”
“District 65 stakeholders feel that the schools provide a high quality education, with few stakeholders perceiving the quality of education to be below average or unsatisfactory,” Dr. Gotta said. ECRA’s report shows that 77% of administrators, 81% of teachers and 69% of parents thought the overall quality of education in District 65 schools was above average or excellent. He added that these ratings are consistent with ratings of other suburban school districts in the Chicago region.
With respect to the working environment at District 65, Dr. Gotta said, “The majority of administrators, faculty and staff members are satisfied with their experience working in District 65.” ECRA’s report shows that 60% of administrators, and 51% of teachers rated their overall experience as above average or excellent. He said these are consistent with employee satisfaction surveys of other suburban school districts.
Standards and Expectations
Mr. Gotta said teachers strongly maintain that they have high academic standards and expectations for their students, while parents had a “more neutral” perception. ECRA’s report shows that 99% of teachers said they had high academic standards and expectations for students, compared to 67% of the parents. In a related question, 99% of teachers said they encouraged students to achieve to their maximum potential, compared to 66% of the parents.
Mr. Gotta said this tension is apparent in other suburban school districts where parents are pushing for their children to succeed.
Curriculum and Instruction
In ranking the overall quality of the curriculum areas, 75% of the administrators and teachers ranked the math curriculum as being above average or excellent. The percentages were 72% for the English/language arts curriculum; 64% for the sciences curriculum and 59% for the social sciences curriculum.
In response to a survey question, 73% of administrators, 98% of teachers and 76% of parents agreed that the curriculum promotes critical thinking and problem-solving skills.
In a question singled out by Superintendent Hardy Murphy that asked whether the District prepares students to be successful in the next level of their education and in life, 70% of administrators, 97% of teachers, and 76% of parents agreed that it does. Data presented by District 65 on Oct. 18 shows that high percentages of District 65 white eighth-graders are on track for college readiness in reading and math when they leave the District, but much lower percentages of African American and Hispanic students are on track.
ECRA’s report indicated that parents lacked agreement on whether their children received meaningful homework assignments and whether teachers were held accountable for their children’s achievement. Dr. Murphy said parents may not have been aware of the new teacher appraisal system.
Dr. Gotta said the survey results indicate that teachers “feel there should be a long-term plan and more opportunities for curriculum development and revision, as well as improvement in the alignment of the curriculum and instructional program across the district, schools and grade levels, as well as with the high school curriculum and instructional program.”
The report reflects that 56% of administrators, 56% of teachers and 64% of parents agreed that appropriate and effective assessments are used to measure learning; 50% of administrators and 56% of teachers agreed that assessment results are used to revise and improve instruction and curriculum.
“Stakeholders indicate that more appropriate and effective assessments could be explored to measure learning, as well as used more effectively to revise and improve instruction,” said Dr. Gotta.
Additional Parent Views
ECRA’s report found that “parents believe that their children are being taught by excellent teachers. … The educational experience in District 65 supports diversity, and students are learning to become responsible citizens. … District 65 schools promote positive, healthy, student-peer relationships, and children are treated with respect. … Parents feel welcomed and engaged in District 65 schools, and feel informed on their child’s progress and on school issues.”
ECRA’s report shows that 85% or more of the parents surveyed agreed on each of these issues.
One issue highlighted by ECRA in its report was that only 33% of parents agreed that the School Board understands and represents parents in its work; Dr. Gotta said the nature of the Board’s work generates this kind of response.
Additional Teachers’ Views
“Teachers feel supported by parents in their work with children,” said Dr. Gotta. ECRA’s report also showed that 98-99% percent of the teachers said they were committed to the development of their students, that they support an educational experience that supports diversity, and that they teach students to be responsible citizens.
Some areas highlighted by ECRA as areas where teachers lack agreement are: only 49% agree that a comprehensive staff development program is offered; only 51% agree that teachers have structured time to collaborate with other teachers to improve curriculum, teaching and learning; only 51% agree that staff meetings focus on important issues, including instructional improvement; only 46% agree they are recognized and rewarded for their work and achievements; only 27% agree that the teacher evaluation process is fair and helpful; only 18% agree that the School Board understands and represents teachers in its work.
Communication and Awareness
ECRA’s report found that teachers and parents receive most of their information from e-mail, District 65 teachers, school meetings and the calendar. “This is positive in that it indicates some control over the dissemination of information to parents and employees,” says the report.
“Community members without children in the District receive most of their information from the local newspaper, and neighbors and friends, which makes it difficult for the district to control its messaging,” says the report.
Using the Survey Information in Adopting Goals
School Board members and administrators discussed many responses to the survey. Overall, Dr. Gotta said, “If you look at this in context, the District is doing a fantastic job. There’s nothing in here that’s radically different from a high-performing district.”
Board member Tracy Quattrocki said just because the responses were not out of line with those from other school districts should not mean the responses should be ignored. Dr. Gotta agreed, but added that if other school districts were struggling with similar issues, it indicated “these issues must be challenging.”
The survey responses will be considered again when the Board considers its annual goals.
The survey asked respondents to identify the three most and the three least important issues from a list of 18 issues. The tables below show the top seven issues most often marked by parents, and it also show the percent of administrators and teachers who marked that issue as the most or least important.
% Indicating Issue as One of the Three MOST Important
Issue Admin. Teachers Parents
Hiring and retaining quality teachers 71% 62% 82%
Maintaining lowest possible class size 13% 45% 39%
Student achievement 39% 31% 35%
Raising academic standards and expectations 14% 8% 34%
Student behavior and discipline 17% 35% 16%
Financial viability of the District 29% 17% 16%
Hiring and retaining quality administrators 32% 28% 15%
% Indicating Issue as One of the Three LEAST Important
Establishing a school in 5th ward 58% 56% 51%
Expanding the world language curriculum 57% 56% 43%
Environmental concerns in facilities planning 26% 45% 33%
Community relations 25% 16% 31%
Addressing diversity of the District 15% 10% 21%
Making adequate yearly progress (AYP) 14% 17% 21%
Ensuring equity among schools 15% 17% 17%
Survey Response Rates/DemographicsECRA distributed surveys to 1,255 administrators/teachers/ staff and received 360 responses, for a 28% completion rate; it distributed 4,729 surveys to parents of District 65 students and received 933 responses, for a 20% response rate. ECRA called thousands of households; more than 400 agreed to complete the survey.
ECRA’s survey report did not provide the demographics of the survey respondents. District 65, however, told the RoundTable that of the 933 parents who responded, 6% were Asian, 12% African American, 7% Hispanic, 9% multi-racial, 65% white, and 1% other. Last year, the ethnic distribution of the student body was 5% Asian, 30% African American, 15% Hispanic, 7% multi-racial, 42% white and 1% other.
Of the 400 community members who responded, 5% were Asian, 32% African American, 14% Hispanic, 44% white and 5% other.
Level of AgreementFor most questions, respondents were asked to state their level of agreement: strongly agree, agree, neutral, disagree, or strongly disagree. When this article gives the percentage of respondents who agreed, it combines the percentages of those who strongly agreed or agreed.