Survey finds satisfaction with schools Parent, teacher, pupil responses released in report

Attempt to define mission

High marks given to academic quality

behavior marked low

November 26, 1998|By Erika D. Peterman | Erika D. Peterman,SUN STAFF

The Howard County school system has released its first public report on how the district is meeting a variety of goals ranging from pupil achievement to diversity to the quality of instruction pupils get.

The report -- based on a survey of 51,000 pupils, parents and school employees during the 1996-1997 school year -- was sent recently to parents, staff and businesses that work as partners with the school system. It reveals:

73 percent of parents, pupils and teachers are satisfied with the quality of teaching in Howard County schools and how much pupils are learning.

Parental and pupil satisfaction with school in general drops significantly as children progress from elementary school to middle and high school.

67 percent of those surveyed believe diversity is valued in the school system.

46 percent of parents, 54 percent of pupils and 36 percent of staff members are dissatisfied with how pupils behave in the classroom.

"This is our first report out since we pulled all that data together," schools spokeswoman Patti Caplan said of the report, which was made available to school board members earlier this year.

The report, called "Beyond the Year 2000," was designed to include pupils, parents and school workers in defining the school system's mission. Adopted by the school system in 1995, BTY 2000 focuses on seven areas: community participation, academic preparation, diversity, learning environment, pupil achievement, quality of instruction and the school system's overall structure.

"We did a lot of publicity on it through newsletters, through the PTA," Caplan said of the survey. "We had a really good response rate. It was incredible."

Superintendent Michael E. Hickey said another survey will be offered in the spring, with the results to be published next fall.

"I think that what will be more helpful to me is when we get the [new] data so we can see what kind of trend we have," Hickey said.

Many of the initial responses were positive, particularly where academic quality was concerned. For example, 71 percent of those surveyed agreed that Howard County's curriculum, instruction and tests "are relevant and challenging." In the area of instruction, 73 percent believed that school staff teaches "to ensure the highest levels of performance for all students."

About 86 percent said the school environment "promotes creativity, responsible risk-taking, cooperation, mutual trust and respect."

But the respondents took the school system to task for the achievement and dropout rate gap between pupils of different races, pupil behavior and satisfaction with the school system as children progress.

"You see a very high turnout for parent activities at the elementary level, a little bit less at the middle school level, and then a lot less at the high school level," Hickey said. "I think that lack of connectedness is one of the factors.

"Also, as students progress up the ladder parents tend to become more critical judges as to whether their child is ready to go out into the world."

Despite the concern about pupil behavior, 78 percent of those surveyed indicated that they felt safe at school and at work.

"I would say that people are relatively satisfied with the fact that the schools are safe," Hickey said.

Pub Date: 11/26/98

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