There’s hopeful news in the new DCPS Stakeholder Survey. Eighty-two percent of students say their school is “on the right track for student achievement,” up 13 points from 2008. Eighty-five percent of parents either agree or strongly agree with the “right track” statement, seven points over 2008. Students are signaling that teachers have raised the bar, with 91 percent agreeing that instructors “often require me to explain my answers,” up 7 points from 2008.
Less encouraging is that only about half of the teachers surveyed (55 percent) say DCPS is on the right track, a number that has remained essentially flat since 2008 (although they feel better about their own schools, with 74 percent registering positively). Less than half (46 percent) say the central office supports their school effectively. About six in 10 teachers would recommend that a friend send his or her child to their school.
Most problematic is the chronically low rate of parent participation. Just 17 percent of those surveyed last May and June by the firm KPMG responded by phone, on-line questionnaire or hard copy. Many factors are involved here, including inaccurate or outdated contact information and language barriers. But it is also a reflection of the persistently low levels of parent engagement, especially in high-poverty communities.
In Ward 7, for example, five schools (Ron Brown, Woodson Academy@Ron Brown, Drew, Kenilworth and Winston) didn’t yield enough parent respondents for a reportable result. At Kenilworth Elementary, just eight parents answered, a response rate of 6 percent. The survey of Winston Education Campus netted six parents, a response rate of 3 percent. Some schools that appear to have high rates of parent satisfaction are drawing from small pools. Plummer Elementary’s 93 percent “right track” rating came from 17 parents, an 8 percent response rate.
Other school communities were more responsive. Sousa Middle School had the same “right track” rating as its Ward 3 counterpart, Deal (97 percent). But 70 percent of Sousa parents who were polled (191) responded. At Deal, slightly more parents responded (208), but the overall rate was far lower — 25 percent.
School officials are meeting with Ward 7 parents this evening at the former Transition Academy@Shadd to discuss how to raise the level of engagement.