State prepares to roll out parent and teacher surveys

A group of parents and educators on Friday began screening survey questions that will be used as a part of Idaho’s school accountability system.

This year, for the first time, parents and teachers will take surveys about school quality and student engagement. The surveys will be similar to student engagement surveys that were administered for the first time last year in grades K-8.

The group of 15 people reviewing questions included several members of the PTA, school trustees, teachers and administrators. The job of the group was to review a bank of potential questions, pare down the bank of questions to a manageable list of 10-20 questions and suggest revisions or improvements.

Jean Henscheid, a research scientist and policy analyst, told the group to focus on two important questions when they reviewed the survey questions.

“Does this help to understand how the parent feels about the engagement they have with the school and the communication the school provides to them?” Henscheid asked. “Keep those in mind, those are the two primary reasons we ask these folks.”

Student engagement is defined as the degree of attention, curiosity, interest, optimism and passion that students show when they are learning or being taught, according to The Glossary of Education Reform.

Proposed questions from the parent survey include:

  • “Our school has shared its purpose statement with me.” (Yes, No, Unsure)
  • “Our school involves parents and community members as its partners in helping students learn.” (Strongly agree, agree, neither agree nor disagree, disagree, strongly disagree or unsure)

Proposed questions from the teacher survey include:

  • “Our school protects classroom time from too many disruptions.” (Strongly agree, agree, neither agree nor disagree, disagree, strongly disagree or unsure)
  • “Everyone in our school knows they are accountable for student learning.” (Strongly agree, agree, neither agree nor disagree, disagree, strongly disagree or unsure)

Some parents and teachers reviewing the questions chose to suggest revisions. Once they broke into small groups, one group wondered whether a question asking about a school’s governing board was clear enough, and whether the governing board referred to the school board, the superintendent or the building administrators. The group also wondered whether a question about a “purpose statement” should be reworded to reference a mission statement.

The parents and educators reviewing the questions also wanted respondents, especially parents, to be clear about the purpose of the survey and how the data would be used.

“It’s really critical to explain how we will use that information to help the parent understand that information is going to be used to make a difference and, hey yeah, we’re going to celebrate some things about this too,” Rolling Hills Public Charter School Administrator Shane Pratt said.

Some wondered what would be expected of parents who have multiple children attending school — should they fill out just one survey, or one for each child? What if they have different children attending different schools? How many surveys should each parent then take?

Much like the student engagement surveys, the parent and teacher surveys are important because Idaho education leaders chose to include the data in the state’s accountability plan. Results of the anonymous parent and teacher surveys will be available to school administrators and superintendents and will be included as one of many points of accountability data presented in school report cards.

The parent and teacher surveys are expected to go before the State Board of Education for consideration in December. Once the surveys are approved, they will be administered online to parents and teachers, in the spring of 2019.


Clark Corbin

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