Wednesday, May 26, 2010

High School Survey

Did you get your e-mail or phone call yet from the district? Apparently (and without any notice), the district is surveying parents of high school students. (There is nothing at the district website announcing it nor at my own school's website.)

It's a 15-question survey that I don't find particularly useful. (I feel bad saying that because I'm happy someone is asking something but it's frustrating when it's not the survey it should be.)
I accidentally hit send before I wrote all the questions down. Basically, it was things like:
  • does your child feel safe at school
  • do you get notification of academic issues
  • do you get notification of meetings
  • are there opportunities to volunteer
  • do you find the principal effective
  • do adults in the building "care" about your child
  • is the school well-rounded in activities provided
  • do you feel the teachers are effective
  • do you feel welcome coming into the building
They didn't ask for your zip code or school so they will have zero idea what school you are talking about (not that it would be valid for everyone but you'd have a good idea).

Survey questions that have multiple answers in them are almost impossible to answer. Maybe you do feel the music program is good but not other activities. There is nothing to do except not to answer the question (and that's your alternative, not "don't know"). There is no comments section so you can't let them know what is important to you, a burning issue at your school, etc. Nothing about the alignment of the curriculum, about AP/Honors, about what's missing in our high schools.

I'm not sure what this survey will tell them. What I do think is that many people are loyal to their schools and will answer in the affirmative rather than the negative. And, in the end, what will it be used for? What does it mean?

18 comments:

Limes said...

I received the survey, and I agree that it felt like a waste of time. Isn't one of the first rules in surveying people to tell people what the survey is for, to tell them how it works?

And hey, since it doesn't follow survey rules and procedures, maybe they should invalidate it.

John J said...

A complete waste of time. Sorry, but it is. I was half laughing as I filled it out because the sruvey doesn't ask what school your child goes to. I don't see how the info would be of any use without that one piece of critical information.

For instance maybe kids don't feel safe at Ingraham but feel totally safe at Center School? There would be no way for the district to distinguish.

The results will be just as vague and look something like this:

76% of kids in SPS high schools feel safe.

What good does that do? It doesn't give a parent, the district or the school one ounce of information?

I wonder if it was something they just had to do to qualify for a grant or something?

Tom said...

I got the survey. The survey link has code on it that probably identifies you. They sent you the email with a link with code: they know what high school you are referring to. Unless, perhaps, you have multiple children in multiple high schools.

Sometimes you tell people the purpose of the survey, and sometimes you do not. It depends on whether you think this will skew your results.

emeraldkity said...

They sent you the email with a link with code: they know what high school you are referring to.

You are referring to the Seattle district right?

A district who doesn't know how to legally track & spend state/federal money, and you think they are able to tie responses through parent/guardian ID to the school their student attends?

dan dempsey said...

The purpose is obvious....

.... so the board knows the central admin is interested in the public's opinions.

Well interested when the annual eval is imminent.

You would have been notified earlier but in the "usual planning ahead plan" there was no planning ahead.

wsnorth said...

I would like to see these results published, by school and grade. Does anyone think they will?

none1111 said...

Tom said: "I got the survey. The survey link has code on it that probably identifies you. "

and emeraldkity said: "A district who doesn't know how to legally track & spend state/federal money, and you think they are able to tie responses through parent/guardian ID to the school their student attends?"

Was this a survey handled online by a 3rd party, or on SPS web site, or something else? (If by phone it's hard to say, because they can just enter the data directly into a 3rd party service or their own database)

If the code was the same for everyone it may just be a code for the given survey. But if it's unique for each user then that's a dead giveaway that it is being tracked to individual student/family.

How can we tell? Use the power of this blog. Post the last 2 or 3 digits of the code you received here. They could be tricky and vary other digits, but usually the last digits are most likely to vary. If they're all the same it's likely that it's not correlated with anything meaningful (and thus, probably worthless). If each code is unique, then it's definitely NOT an anonymous survey, and you might be wary of answering in a way that you don't want tracked to you individually.

What should be done is that each building/district/whatever has it's own code. Then answers could be correlated to something meaningful, but in a way that doesn't track individual participant's answers.

John J said...

I received a link to follow to take the survey.

It ended in 3d1k_c

Rosie said...

I actually think it's about as valid as the survey this site promoted. Neither one was well designed, or had (has) a prayer of unearthing any meaningful data.

But I answered both anyway.

hschinske said...

My link ended in something different from John J's, so yeah, maybe there are unique links on each one ... but that might just be to keep people from taking the survey more than once.

I've got kids at Garfield and Nova. The district would have no way to know which school I was answering about.

Helen Schinske

Maureen said...

My link ended in:F-jE.

Helen, they ask the grade for the kid you are thinking about, so for most people, that plus your address would identify the school. (Of course twins will mess with them!)

hschinske said...

I do have twins, so there you are. I bet the code is random for each email, rather than coded for the school: if two people from the same school are willing to post the end of their codes, that should settle it. Or if two people in the same family get the survey with different codes (I don't think my husband got it, but will check; not sure his email is on the district list).

Helen Schinske

seattle citizen said...

The phone version, I'm told, asks the taker, if they have students in more than one school, to "think about" which school they have in mind as they take the survey: They could take it for one or the other, and I don't think the district would know which one.

none1111 said...

That's at least 3 different codes for the same survey (unless Helen's matched Maureen's). It's really unlikely that they are coding them differently for different schools.

It sounds like the survey takes place on the SPS site itself, right? As opposed to a 3rd party service. If so, you can bet that the results are coded directly to you as an individual/family. This type of coding is standard practice. And it's acceptable if disclosed, but people should be aware of this.

mom of 3 said...

I took the phone version, and it asked me to code the grade level of the student I was thinking of, as I have students at two different high schools. So I'm pretty sure they can track it.

But I was only given the opportunity to respond for one school.

MathTeacher42 said...

I know 6 teachers who were called, myself included, and NONE of us have children, much less children in the district.

How the results of the survey are presented will be ... interesting.

Charlie Mas said...

I have it from the fellow who wrote the survey and is responsible for it.

The survey is an abridged version of the recently revised family survey they hope to get to all families starting next year.

Here's the bulk of an email he sent me:

"Family Surveys

We decided to administer the family survey through our automated SchoolMessenger phone/email system, beginning this week with high school families. We did this to save costs and to maximize the response rate. Unfortunately, this did necessitate a shorter survey than we originally planned. It might have been ideal to send out a detailed survey to all families with a pre-paid return envelope, but with the spending freeze that was not possible this year. A purely web-based survey was also not an option because of the non-negligible proportion of families without easy Internet access.

We translated the family survey into four languages – Somali, Spanish, Cantonese, and Vietnamese.

In most cases, we will be able to identify responses by school. The potential differentiation in responses between/across schools is of great interest to us – and is something we have not been able to discern in recent annual family/parent surveys.

The immediate response rate has been very strong. In less than 4 hours, we recorded 3,600 responses out of 12,800 families with high school students – a response rate of 28%. The web-version of the survey remains open through tomorrow, so we expect the rate to approach 30%.

We will administer the survey to middle school families next week, followed later by elementary schools. This will enable families to respond more than once if they have children in different levels (Elem, MS, HS). Unfortunately, they will not be able to respond more than once if they have children at more than one school in the same level (more than one high school, for example.) Thus, at most, a family could take the survey three times – once for high schools, once for middle, and once for elementary – assuming they had children currently enrolled at all three levels.

We hope to continue to use SchoolMessenger for large scale surveys (due to its efficiencies) and perhaps look to conduct more focused, in-depth surveys using sampling techniques.
"

wsnorth said...

From the SPS website:

Hearing from our families, staff, and students is critical to our efforts to improve education for every student...

I think we should all email them the results of the CPPS survey!