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Updated Nov. 10, 2011. School District 65 administrators presented the results of a 2011 survey of School District 65 administrators, teachers, and parents to the District 65 School Board on Nov. 7. ECRA, a firm specializing in educational research, conducted the survey.

ECRA’s report presented an overall finding that, “District 65 thrives on the quality and dedication of its teaching staff, strong leadership on the part of District and building administrators, a diverse student population, involved parents and a supportive greater community.” 

Pat Markham, Director of Communications for the District, pointed out that the District had improved in areas where positive response rates were relatively low last year.

Superintendent Hardy Murphy said, “We are pleased with the overall results. I think it shows some areas where we still have work to do. That’s the purpose of a survey – to find out where you’re doing well and where you need to improve. “

Board members focused on the survey responses in two areas: implementation of the inclusion program and a need to challenge students.

Selected Views on the Quality of Education

“Many parents feel that their children are receiving an exemplary education in District 65 with diverse opportunities and the benefits of neighborhood schools and small classes,” says ECRA’s report. “Stakeholders also see some areas for improvement in the quality of education – especially among higher achievers, in specific curricular areas, and for students with special needs, but these stakeholders also believe that the District is committed to improvement.”

The report says from the parents’ perspective, “there needs to be more challenge and rigor in the District 65 curriculum and instructional programs … This is true particularly for parents of higher achieving or gifted students.” 

Some parents expressed an interest in including the arts and foreign language in the elementary grades, as well improving the integration of improved technology into the learning experience, adds the report.

ECRA’s report shows, among many other findings, that:

  • 82% of administrators, 81% of teachers and 69% of parents thought the overall quality of education in District 65 schools was above average or excellent.
  • 99% of teachers said they had high academic standards and expectations for students, while 68% of the parents agreed.  
  •  75% of administrators, 97% of teachers and 71% of parents agreed that the curriculum promotes critical thinking and problem-solving skills.
  • 85% of the parents agreed their children are being taught by “a highly skilled, committed and nurturing staff.”
  • 32% of the teachers agreed that the curriculum and instructional program are aligned with the high school curriculum and instructional program.

With respect to the working environment at District 65, ECRA’s report says, “The majority of District employees remain satisfied with their experience working in District 65.” According to the report, 73% of administrators and 54% of teachers rated their overall experience as above average or excellent.

Inclusion and a Challenging Curriculum

Members of the School Board focused on two areas, the implementation of the inclusion program, and a need to challenge students.

Board member Tracy Quattrocki started out saying, “I think it’s particularly good news we made progress in the areas we targeted.” She said, though, that teachers’ need for common planning time “comes up again and again.” (47% of the teachers agreed they had structured time to collaborate). She added that some teachers in the inclusion classrooms have raised a concern that they do not have enough support and that students are not getting evaluated for special education services because of the Response to Intervention program.

The School Board adopted a plan to include more students with a disability into the general classroom in the 2008-09 school year, and the District began to implement its inclusion model at the pre-K level in that year. It rolled up the inclusion model to kindergarten in 2009-10, to first grade in 2010-11, and to second grade this year.

In the 2009-10 school year, the District had full-time co-teachers in each kindergarten class. When the program rolled up to first grade, there was roughly one co-teacher for every kindergarten and first-grade inclusion class. This year administrators said they would support the needs of students in the general classroom based on whatever is provided in their Individual Education Program (IEP). “There’s really no one-third, one-half, one-fourth. It’s whatever they need,” said Mike Robey, assistant superintendent, on June 20.

Board member Richard Rykhus focused on the planned expansion of the inclusion model to an additional grade level each year. “With our financial environment, how are we going to manage to sustain this program and still deliver the results we want?” he asked.

 “I want to understand how this model moves forward in a sustainable way,” said Mr. Rykhus. He asked that the Board schedule a time to discuss how the District planned to provide push-in supports as the program expanded to include an additional grade level each year.

Ms. Quattrocki also said the District needed to challenge students more. “It comes through so clearly that parents feel kids aren’t being challenged so much.”

Dr. Murphy said the outcomes suggest that the District has a fairly challenging curriculum. He added, though, “Everyone knows we need more rigor. We’re trying to drive that through our writing program.”

On June 6, District administrators presented a writing plan to be implemented at grades K-8. The purpose of the plan is not only to teach students over time how to write effectively in a variety of formats (e.g., argument, informative/explanatory and narratives), but also to use writing as a tool for learning and as a way to develop comprehension and critical thinking skills.

Eileen Budde noted that there was only a 16% response rate by parents and suggested the low response rate may be due to the length of the survey. She suggested that the Board take a look at the survey questions before it is submitted again to parents, and said she would like data reported on a school by school basis.

Survey Response Rate

ECRA distributed surveys to 1,210 administrators/teachers/ staff and received 487 responses, for a 40% completion rate; it distributed 4,881 surveys to parents of District 65 students and received 779 responses, for a 16% response rate.

Level of Agreement

For 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.