Parents Praise Schools In Survey

SNOW HILL — Though return rates saw a minor drop from 2011 levels, this year’s parental survey showed several favorability increases for Worcester County schools. Trends such as a desire to maintain small class sizes and see local funding above the minimal Maintenance of Effort (MoE) level were also highlighted.

The surveys are important, said Board of Education President Bob Rothermel, because they allow the board to peer into the minds of parents and stakeholders. With the information they gather, school board officials are then able to better craft a strategic education plan.

“I liken this to show and tell,” he said. “You’ve got to tell us what you need.”

Rothermel added that, while the board will use the survey as a guide, budget limitations mean that not every request can be met. However, he also expressed confidence that the funding situation will continue to improve in the years ahead.

“At this point, we know the light at the end of the tunnel isn’t a train,” said Rothermel.

The survey had a 65-percent return rate this year, down 3 percent from 2011 and 8 percent from the peak year of 2009. However, at 65 percent this year’s returns are still approximately double the return rates of 2003-2005 and continue to be within 3 points of every survey since 2008, with the exception of the 2009 spike.

Parents were asked to judge public schools on 44 separate criteria including everything from school buildings and grounds to quality of the foreign language program to safety and efficiency of bus transportation.

“When reviewing all 44 areas, with the exception of the lunch program at 89 percent, all other areas received a favorability rating of 90 percent or above. This is exceptional and indicates that parents have a high-degree of satisfaction with our instructional programs, support services, school facilities and grounds, and with our efforts to involve them in their child’s education,” said Coordinator of Public Relations and Special Programs Barb Witherow.

The area with the highest favorability was Academic Standards, which received a 99 percent approval rating from surveyed parents. Of the areas that were rated above favorable at “excellent,” school cleanliness scored the best at 56 percent, followed closely by quality of kindergarten and pre-kindergarten programs, both at 55 percent.

When looking at all criteria, more than half, or 28, remained static or saw an increase in favorability when compared to last year. Fifteen areas saw favorability dip by 1 percent. School communications to parents witnessed the biggest decrease by losing 2 percent favorability.

This year’s survey also included three statements that parents were asked to rate on a scale of no, undecided, maybe, yes, or absolutely. The first statement asked parents if local funding to schools should be above MoE. The second statement asked if local funding should fully support after school programs. The final statement asked if elected officials should fully fund education priorities.

Parents responded overwhelmingly in favor of all three statements. The first statement was 85 percent positive, with 57 percent saying “Absolutely” and 28 percent “Yes.” The second had an 80 percent positive response, with 49 percent “Absolutely” and 31 percent “Yes.” The final statement was 82 percent positive, 57 percent “Absolutely” and 25 percent “Yes.”

As far as future priorities go, the desire to continue to be a “top-performing” school system was the clear favorite, with 65 percent of parents ranking it in the “most important” category. It should be noted, however, that this is the first year that the category was included on the survey.