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Although a survey conducted last spring indicated that most District 202 parents are satisfied with many aspects of their children’s school experience, there were some areas with which parents expressed less enthusiasm or familiarity. Among these are the counseling department, special education, adequacy of time to access academic supports, enforcement of the discipline policy and food services. In addition, 68 percent of the respondents to the survey were white, a skewed reflection of the school population which, according to the 2010 school profile, is only 43 percent white.

“We should look at the disaggregated data,” said Board President Mark Metz, “so we can see where there might be differences in the responses.”

Background on the Story

One of the District’s goals “is to gather feedback from parents regarding parent satisfaction with their student’s school experience and parent use of such communication venues as Home Access Center.” Evanston Township High School “has not conducted a parent survey in recent history,” according to the report presented to the School Board at its Sept. 12 meeting.

The survey was designed by Dr. Judith Levinson, director of Research, Evaluation and Assessment and Dr. Carrie Livingston, senior research associate, using examples from other districts and an independent research firm and with input from a committee composed of members of the School Improvement Team and various administrators.

Surveys, which were also translated into Spanish, were distributed online and in the mail to a total of 2,334 families, after notification through the phone alert system and email. Some 893 were completed, representing a response rate of 38 percent, according to Dr. Levinson’s report.

Possible survey responses were “strongly agree,” “agree,” “neutral,” “disagree,” “strongly disagree,” or “don’t know” to statements in general categories such as “Educational Services,” “Counseling Services,” “Communication” and “Parent Involvement.” Parents could also provide comments for each category.

“We shared all of this information, including the 200 pages of open-ended comments … divided up by area … Where there are concerns, people are doing something,” said Dr. Levinson.

Survey Responses

More than 75 percent of parents had a positive response about a range of educational services including instruction in subject areas and teacher interaction with students. Parents indicated they were less well-informed about the instruction in the Career and Technical Education and Special Education areas, and parents were not as positive about the adequacy of time during or after the school day for their child to access academic supports.

“Support is one of the things I really care about,” said Board member Scott
Rochelle. “I want to make sure we’re looking into that.”

Although 89 percent of parents said they agreed that the school “sets clear rules for student behavior,” respondents were not as clear on their agreement about whether the school enforces the discipline policy consistently, with 24 percent indicating they did not know and 15 percent saying they did not think it was enforced consistently.

In a related area, Overall Academic/School Climate, more than 80 percent of parents were satisfied, although only 54 percent agreed with the statement, “I feel students show respect for other students,” and only 70 percent said that their child felt safe at school. Food services did not receive particularly high marks either, with only 48% agreeing that food services were satisfactory and 33 percent agreeing that the lunch menu supported healthy eating. However, those low marks may also have been a result of a lack of knowledge, as 25 percent and 33 percent of parents respectively indicated they did not have enough information to assess those two statements.

One area that came in for a lot of criticism was the Counseling Services department. Most of that criticism seemed to center around a lack of familiarity, rather than a negative experience. About 25 percent of parents indicated they did not know if the Counseling Department “assists my child/children with post-secondary planning” [and] “the college application process.”

“Given our focus on college and career readiness, this is jarring,” said Board member Deborah Graham. “It raises significant questions about whether our college and career center is adequately staffed. This has long been a concern of mine, and the survey suggests that ETHS needs to provide more and better services in this area.”

Dr. Levinson said Dr. Paula Miller, associate principal for Student Services, “saw the data … [and she said] the communication [was] not the best it could be … They are doing a lot of things this year … a newsletter … more sessions with parents … they are starting earlier with sophomores. …”

Going Forward

Although responses were generally positive, Dr. Levinson indicated that the survey results suggested the need for the following:

• More opportunities for parent involvement

• More teachers updating the Home Access Center information

• Availability of healthy options for school lunches

• Communication about the school lunch menu

• Ensuring that the school and its neighborhood are safe environments

• Communication about the enforcement of the discipline policy

• Communication about course opportunities available in the Career and Technology Education Department and

• Communication about services available to students with regard to post-secondary planning, preparation of college applications and career decisions.