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Thursday, January 27, 2011

Budget Survey Results

Did having a budget survey done matter? On the face of it, no, it did not.

I say that because (1) it has not been referenced by staff at all during any budget talks except that it occurred, (2) there is no analysis of the specific questions and (3) the comments section was not broken down at all.

However, I'll do it if only to let the Board know what was said.

What to keep in mind?
  • This was a poorly design survey (numerous respondents said this so it's not just me).
  • Judging from the answers, the district likely got a certain sub-set of parents/staff. That said, they did receive 2700 responses which is still pretty good.
  • Some respondents clearly did not know certain things about the district so you have to keep that in mind. (It was things like not knowing that high school students only use Metro, APP is not a program at Garfield, etc.)
However, 2700 parents, community and staff took the time so let's not make it an exercise in window dressing.

Demographics - Overwhelmingly parents (64.5%) following by teachers (23.8%). The lowest was student, followed by principals. By region it was uneven. NW and NE were about 28% each, followed by the Central at 16%, West Seattle by 13% and SE by 7%.

They asked questions in several groups: K-5 (1323 responses), 6-8(515 responses), 9-12 (534), district staff (non-principals)(1061 responses), community members (409 responses) and principals (33 responses). (I admit to leaving out the pre-school responses.)

It was interesting because all the groups voted nearly the same.

For School Services - everyone said number one for them was school and classroom support staff either teacher/student ratio followed by teacher training and PD or strong leadership in class and school. The least necessary was extra-curricular activities followed by equitable program offerings.

For District Services - the most important was timely and accurate school communication with parents and a virtual tie for second place were customer service functions/inclusion and collaboration with parents and community members with respect to the direction of the District and major initiatives. The least important was transportation. The only real variation here was number two which was either human resources (principals) or facilities management (6-8).

For the 2011-2012 budget, again, the groups very closely mirror each other.

Most important was well-developed curriculum and meaningful student assessments closely followed by strong leadership in the classroom, schools and support systems. The least important item ranked was efficient districtwide systems. Principals voted family and community engagement the least important. Hmm.

Comments Section

There were 4 Open Comments sections. The last one, Additional Comments, I didn't go through as it reflected much of what was already said in the other comments sections.

Part 1 -Please share with us any programs/activities not mentioned previously that you believe must be maintained during the 2011-2012 school year.

Number one (with a bullet) - Arts. It was mostly for music but clearly, clearly parents believe in and want arts in our schools for their children.

Number two - Advanced Learning. Yes, this was a surprise to me but it was interesting the number of people who spoke of ALOs. I think this may be a growing awareness of being able to offer extra rigor at every school. (Then again, it could be a large number of APP/Spectrum parents but I don't think so given the other comment sections.)

Far beyond (but still in large numbers) were school support staff: counselors, librarians, and PE.

Finally, the ever-popular lower class size.


Part 2 -It asked what top three programs/services that people wanted protected at their school. (I think it should have been what top three programs/services do you think should be protected at all schools.)

Number one (again) - Music and arts
Number two - Advanced Learning
Number three - librarian (followed closely by Special Ed services, counselor, PE teacher and nurse)
Number four - Remedial services (reading/math specialists or intervention)


Part 3 - This question asked what should be reduced or eliminated (if necessary) for 2011-2012.

This is where it got interesting. People really let fly here (but there were at least 25+ "none/don't know"). As I mentioned, some responses indicated that people did not know certain things about the district like that the enrollment plan IS now a neighborhood plan, high schoolers ride Metro, etc.

Number one - Central administration staff (more than 100 votes)
Number two - Sports (especially football) - not the same as PE, though
Number three - Transportation
Number four - MAP
Number five - Advanced Learning (a few of these responses were about transportation)
Number six - Academic coaches
Number seven - Music/art
Number eight - Assessments
Number nine - After-school activities

Those last three were in the teens but had more than 10 answers. Interesting to note: 13 votes to get rid of the Superintendent and 12 to get rid of TFA (and it hasn't even started).

So, take the specific questions and their responses and the open-ended comments and I see this:

- transportation is really low on the importance scale in terms of perceptions about a high-performing school. I suspect if they drastically cut transportation, you'd hear plenty of howls but boy, this survey would provide cover. That every single group in the specific questions said that transportation was the least important is interesting. Or maybe, people just take it for granted that it will be there.

- arts matter to people.

- non-academic extra curricular activities might have to go (at least for awhile). Again, the responses back this up. I'd feel sad for sure but there are savings to be had, there are boosters if it's that important and there are outside rec teams. I would support keeping low-cost intramurals like Ultimate Frisbee that have no refs and just a frisbee to play. (I'm not even sure the district pays anything for those sports.)

- again, clearly the respondents believe the important people are IN our schools and there are a high number of respondents who believe the central administration is bloated ( claimed "cuts" notwithstanding).

17 comments:

seattle citizen said...

Wow, that's some detailed analysis, Melissa. I'm glad to see it done, and thank you so much for taking the time to crunch the data.
Wow. Thank you.

seattle citizen said...

This concerns me:
"By region [participation in the survey] was uneven. NW and NE were about 28% each, followed by the Central at 16%, West Seattle by 13% and SE by 7%.

The district and the city MUST do more to facilitate the engagement of parent/guardians who can't/won't participate in such important matters. The over-representation of participants "north of the ship canal" must surely (in this survey and in the minds of board members, administrators, and other VIPs) have an unbalanced impact on policy. I mean, who are you gonna listen to? Those who speak.

What can be done to engage the whole community? Especially given that the Number One request, under District Services, was for "timely and accurate school communication with parents." The people WANT to participate, how will it be made easier and more of an obligation?

Jet City mom said...

By region it was uneven. NW and NE were about 28% each, followed by the Central at 16%, West Seattle by 13% and SE by 7%.

This struck me also- we need more computer access- more access to information that is transmitted face to face- more information that is followed up on, so parents who take the time to give their input don't feel like they are wasting their time & then are less likely to try to give their $.02 next time.

What is the district doing to address this disparity? What is working & what isn't working?

seattle citizen said...

I just realized that only about 1500 parents participated: So only about FIVE PERCENT of parents!

And I was concerned about the disparity AMONG parents...(still am)...Heck, how do we get the other 95% of parent/guardians to participate?!

Nice to see that about 700 teachers participated, that's about 25% of them. That's a but better, but considering how important all this is for educators, you'd expect a lot more there, too...And only a third of principals?

Anonymous said...

Well, as a south-ender who voted, I find it telling that "equitable program offerings" is ranked so low. I bet more SE responses would have resulted in a higher score. We generally feel shortchanged down here... But with such anemic participation, what else can we expect?
- southie

Anonymous said...

Maybe you have to look at the responses with the concerns of students with disabilities in mind. When we looked we felt amazed at the voluminous comments about the new service delivery model and how it has diluted services. That was one big topic. The other was the perception of central office special ed middle management as not contributing to capacity development at the school level.

Parent

wsnorth said...

I'm wondering how the word got out on this. As a concerned West Seattle parent involved in PTA's at three schools, a frequent visitor to this blog, and I monitor the district website (not to mention the source), I never heard about this survey.

How did others find out?

wsnorth said...

I'm wondering how the word got out on this. As a concerned West Seattle parent involved in PTA's at three schools, a frequent visitor to this blog, and I monitor the district website (not to mention the source), I never heard about this survey.

How did others find out?

Bird said...

It went out in a School Beat newsletter.

I also got notification through my schools weekly mail and my local PTSA's email.

The district wide PTSA also sent out an email about it.

Melissa Westbrook said...

We posted it on the blog.

I think that all the principals should have to post this stuff, on-site and with any kid mail.

Anonymous said...

Southie,

I think that you have hit the nail directly on the head.

"We generally feel shortchanged down here... But with such anemic participation, what else can we expect?"

This is the crux of the SE problems, anemic participation by parents and families. It's not bad teachers, big classes or old books that most effect student learning. It's anemic participation by parents and families. That must be frustrating to the nth degree for the families that do participate.

Sadly, I do not think this can be solved by parents from other parts of the city, I think this has to be solved by engaged SE parents working their butts off to engage their neighbors.

- engaged parent.

Maureen said...

It sounds as though there are RBHS parents who are working really hard at that. They have testified at Board meetings and were at Director coffees in December. I hope enough others join them that they don't burn out.

Melissa Westbrook said...

SE, do you have a general idea of how the responses might have been different if more SE parents had participated?

And to all, looking at these results, would you be okay if sports were cut (or pay to play went higher)? What if there were further transportation cuts?

Kathy said...

I paid particular attention to the comment section.

Couldn't help but notice large amounts of teachers want counselor support- speaks volumes to keeping funds in WSS.

I feel certain district will propose letting go of elementary school counselors...again.

Anonymous said...

Melissa,

I would support cuts in sports (increased pay to play, hopefully with a sliding scale and some PTA supported scholarships) and further cuts to transportation. To be clear, I do not actually support either of these in a more perfect world. Given the amount of cuts already to classrooms I think this is one of the only logical steps left. That and cutting the staff at central to a bare minimum. Halting the strategic play ( what a load of bull that is). Assigning all those coaches to work with actual students, firing them if they cannot. And halting all bonuses for the super and other highly compensated individuals. I do not know how that woman sleeps at night knowing how much her salary alone is draining funds from real students.

Making sports more pay to play would be very hard on our family, but I would rather my child forgo a school sport than go without an aide in class, a school nurse, a safe building etc...

-slp

Jan said...

slp: I agree with you that I can't see how to take money away from instruction for sports, but sports are a hugely important learning experience for many kids (and I am not thinking football -- I am thinking of the highly successful girls volleyball teams, the no cut swim teams, etc.) I would like to see the District brainstorm another funding solution (maybe something like a tax exempt Public School Athletic Foundation). While some parents can't pay anything, others -- and other folks who arent parents but who care -- could fund it. Keeping it district wide means that the funding could be spread out so that all kids have opportunities, regardless of economic discrepancies within schools. Keeping it as a "part" of public schools is critical, because it is the only way that the teams qualify as school teams, the only way that kids can get "excused" absences for the games/meets that require school time, PE credit, etc. for the sports teams, and the only way that games, etc. would still be held on school property.

The idea that the only kids who will ever know the joy, discipline, hard work, confidence building, etc. that comes from participation in team sports is unbearable to me.

I am not a big "sports parent" myself. Only one of my kids has ever really been involved in school sports (and then only as the j-est of jvs), but I see what non-school based (i.e., very expensive) club programs in a non-school sport has done for one of my kids -- and I see what school athletics has done for children of frieds.

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