Schools turn to surveys
How about the principal?
Do you think teachers are providing a top quality education?
Does anybody care?
The Janesville School District has decided that it most definitely does care, enough to send out surveys to every district family.
Superintendent Tom Evert said the district will pay attention to what the surveys say.
“This will help us identify what we are doing well and where we need to improve,” Evert said.
The surveys will be mailed out next week. A similar survey of district staff was completed this week.
The effort is part of the Studer Group process. Former Janesville resident Quint Studer, who founded and runs a highly successful consulting company, is paying nearly all the costs for his firm to apply its know-how to the Janesville schools.
A major component of the Studer process is evaluation of managers based on data. Evert—and eventually all the district’s administration—will be evaluated based on tests scores, numbers of dropouts and other such “hard data.”
But customer satisfaction is another important component. The survey is supposed to supply so-called “soft data” on how parents rate the educational “product” they are receiving.
Paul Frederick, who has spent the last 20 years working with surveys and other data in Florida schools, heads up the Studer Group’s survey effort in Janesville.
Frederick is so enthused about the project that he moved up his retirement from the University of West Florida to devote more time to it, he said.
Frederick said the Janesville project has the potential to change the face of educational leadership nationwide.
“The data itself is virtually meaningless unless you do something about it, and I believe the leadership in the Janesville School District is ready to do something with the data,” Frederick said.
Frederick said the school board members in his home district are well paid, but the Janesville board members he has met, who are unpaid, seem to be just as hard-working and serious about improving their schools.
Frederick said a random sampling of parents would have given quality data, but Studer decided he wanted to be as accurate as possible in what will probably be the first in an annual opinion survey.
The most accurate survey is a survey of everyone, Frederick said, although he doesn’t expect everyone to respond.
“We think there’s a lot of interest in this (in Janesville), so I would anticipate we’ll get at least 50 percent back, which is phenomenal, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see it go even higher,” Frederick said.
Surveys will come with a postage-paid return envelope, so all parents have to do is invest the time to fill in the circles. The surveys will be machine-scored, much like “bubble” tests most people are familiar with.
Frederick said some people use the opportunity to slam the schools, while others will use them to praise. That’s expected on any survey.
The survey results will be made public sometime this summer. Frederick said he hopes Janesville focuses on the positives, not the negatives.
“Let’s focus on those and learn from those (successful efforts) and try to replicate those in the schools that perhaps aren’t using those,” he said.
The parent satisfaction survey is one of two Janesville School District surveys being sent to parents.
This week, the district sent parents a questionnaire asking what religious holy days they celebrate. The survey will lead to a listing of those holidays on the district’s calendar. The goal is to avoid scheduling school activities on those days if possible so students would not be excluded from participation because of religious commitments.