Survey brings high marks for school district | AspenTimes.com

Survey brings high marks for school district

Naomi Havlen

The results from a “consumer satisfaction” survey of the Aspen School District are in, and district officials received high marks from teachers, parents and students.But the survey’s results also indicate a couple of areas where the district needs to improve, one of which is communication with the community about various programs and achievements.Members of the district accountability committee, who administered the second annual survey, said respondents indicated they didn’t know much about some questions, which means better communication about the district is needed. The committee plans on pursuing a communication task force to promote the school district, as a result.But overall, compared to the survey performed last year, the committee reported to district board members on Monday that respondents overall seemed more satisfied. Many said they felt welcomed in the local schools and happy with the district’s activities and the board.”We should celebrate that the overall rating of the system is very high,” said Dr. Diana Sirko, district superintendent. “Yes, we want to look at issues we need to address, but it’s important not to forget the successes of this system.”The surveys were given out last spring to students, parents, teachers and administrators and completed by a total of 289 people. Unfortunately, the accountability committee noted, this was half the response rate of the year before, despite greater marketing efforts.Those who completed the survey represented 10 percent of school households, and 20 percent of the high school population.The survey reports high ratings for the schools’ outdoor education and experiential education programs, as well as the curricula for reading, writing and social studies. Ratings for the teaching staff were favorable, and a total of 83 percent of the adults and 81 percent of students rated the school as good or outstanding.The district received lower ratings for the math, foreign language and music curricula, and the school’s principals received relatively low marks with 12 percent of elementary school respondents, 19 percent of middle school respondents and 32 percent of high school respondents rating performance of principals as poor or unacceptable.The survey reports mixed results for the international baccalaureate program, the high school’s college-preparatory curriculum that’s been in effect for the past three years. Many survey respondents didn’t seem to know much about the program, indicating that the district needs to work on communicating with the public about programs such as this one.Overall, school board President John Seigle said this survey combined with last year’s gives him plenty of context to evaluate the district’s performance. But the board should look into more specific, shorter surveys to focus on finding out more from teachers, students and parents about areas where the district didn’t rate well, he said.”Last year we might not have thought about this as a real tool, a measurement, because that’s what a survey is,” Seigle said. “The board can use this information and come up with ideas about where the next microsurveys might be.”Board Vice President Fred Peirce said he is interested in the idea of a task force that could find out more about effective communication between the district and the public.”We have a limited budget and can’t spend lots of money on this, but the real key is that I’d love to hear how we can target audiences to get messages out there,” he said.Besides forming the task force, the district accountability committee is also working on plans to give graduating seniors and recent Aspen High alumni an exit interview to gauge their thoughts on the school system.Naomi Havlen’s e-mail address is nhavlen@aspentimes.com


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