La Canada Unified School District Superintendent Wendy Sinnette presented findings from a district-wide survey of students, parents and staff Tuesday night that provided in-depth feedback on classes, teachers, instruction, school experience and staff performance.
An overview of school-specific results will be available to access on the LCUSD website by Friday, according to Sinnette.
Results on individual teachers and courses will not be made public, but a school’s average results will be.
The aim is for teachers and staff to use these surveys to identify areas that they need to improve upon, and to develop action plans for each school site, according to Sinnette. The results have already been reviewed by the district and given to teachers and staff.
Board member Andrew Blumenfeld pointed out that with these surveys, "La Cañada joins a small group of trailblazing communities carrying the mantle of this important piece of education reform.''
He added, "The research on the ability of well-crafted surveys to accurately capture teacher effectiveness continues to grow, and their utility as both an instructional and management tool will help us all better serve students.
"While our superintendent primarily presented on macro-level data at our Board meeting, most powerful will be the use of these surveys to help set individual teacher goals along which evaluations are based,'' Blumenfeld said.
For former school board member Cindy Wilcox, a staunch advoate of this type of tool, the surveys were a long time coming.
“Many teachers don't like these types of survey[s],” Wilcox told Patch via email. “They argue that students and parents are not qualified to judge teacher performance,'' she wrote.
"However, kids are asked questions like, 'Are you busy during class time?' and 'Is the work meaningful?', 'Is the homework meaningful?', 'Do you have time to learn from your mistakes before the next test?' These questions are not about, 'Is your teacher your good friend?' The researched survey questions are about effective instruction, not friendship. More teachers agree to the surveys when that is made clear.”
Sinnette said in a recent LCUSD newsletter that “The survey results were very affirming of the district’s programs and practices, but also provided essential feedback, helping us to assess areas for growth and improvement."
The surveys were administered this past spring to district staff, students in grades four through twelve and parents of children in kindergarten through twelfth grade.
Questions like, “My teacher is nice to me when I ask questions,” “The teacher has helped my child develop effective work habits,” and “The teacher manages the classroom effectively,” were among the parent and student survey questions for grades kindergarten through six.
At the middle and high school level, questions like “Discipline is handled fairly and applied equally,” “I would recommend this school to other families,” and “At my school, bullying is not acceptable,” were on the student or parents surveys.
Students were asked to answer each questions on a scale of one to five, with five being the highest.
The surveys had been proposed four times since 2008 to the board of education, according to Wilcox, but were only approved in November 2011.
The surveys will now be issued annually in the spring. The cost of the survey was $7,000, and it was conducted by Panorama Education, which is sponsored by Yale University.
Here’s a sample of some of the survey data collected:
Student Survey, District-wide Average for Grades Four Through Six
My teacher is nice to me when I ask questions (4.4)
My teacher doesn’t let people give up when the work gets hard (4.3)
My teacher wants us to use our thinking skills, not just memorize things (4.2)
I am encouraged to participate in class (4.2)
My teacher in this class makes me feel that s/he really cares about me (4.2)
Our class stays busy and does not waste time (3.7)
I need to get extra help to better understand what I learned in class (3.7)
My teacher uses technology to keep us interested, organized and to learn in new ways (3.6)
My afterschool activities leave me enough time to finish my homework (3.5)
I get too much homework in this class (3.4)
Student Survey, District-wide Average for Grades Seven Through Twelve, Core Classes
My teacher has a fair grading policy and applies it consistently (4.2)
My teacher gives tests which only cover the material assigned or discussed (4.3)
Students know what they should be doing in this class (4.2)
My teacher is available to meet with students outside of class time (4.2)
Students in this class treat the teacher with respect (4.2)
I need tutoring help to better understand the material I learn in this class (4.0)
My teacher explains difficult things clearly (3.9)
The comments that I get regarding my work in this class help me understand how to improve (3.9)
My teacher returns corrected homework and tests reasonably soon (3.9)
My teacher makes lessons interesting (3.8)
Certificated Staff/Teacher Survey District-wide Averages
I have given someone at work positive feedback this past week (4.6)
I believe students are getting a high-quality education at this school (4.5)
I enjoy my job (4.2)
Learning from other teachers has improved my performance in the classroom (4.1)
Even on hard days, I know this is the best place for me (4.1)
I like working at this school (4.1)
Teacher in this school support each other’s teaching activities (4.0)
I believe I am successfully dealing with students who are achieving below grade level (4.0)
Areas for attention:
I receive relevant and timely feedback on my performance and progress toward goals (3.5)
I have access to the technology I need (3.5)
The anchor assessments are effective (3.0)
There is a clear academic vision for this school (3.6)
The atmosphere of the school encourages respect among students and adults (3.5)
The school’s discipline program is effective (3.2)
The Governing Board’s decisions reflects the best interests of the students (2.8)
The Governing Board provides effective leadership to the district schools (2.6)
Staff morale is high at this school (2.2)