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Extensive survey probes parent, student, staff satisfaction with Palo Alto schools

Original post made on Apr 11, 2013

Ninety percent of Palo Alto parents and 93 percent of high school students say they are "somewhat satisfied" or "very satisfied" with the education children receive in the Palo Alto school district, according to the results of a new survey.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Thursday, April 11, 2013, 4:11 PM

Comments (20)

Posted by took the survey, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 11, 2013 at 8:05 pm

Can someone please post the "budget and infrastructure" questions here? They were pathetic. No mention of doing a good job monitoring the bond measure, efficient and effective budgeting, improving health and safety, maintenance practices, etc. One of the few questions they did ask was completely incomprehensible to me. I was really disappointed at how poorly the questioning for this topic was set up, as if the questioners wanted to diminish the priority of facilities from the get go. The environment affects kids health and wellbeing, too. I didn't see even an inkling of those priorities in the questioning.

Posted by Marcia, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Apr 11, 2013 at 9:52 pm

"Students enrolling in the same course could receive teachers ranging from bad to good, consequently resulting in inconsistent learning experiences," a student wrote.

Completely agree. Some history and English teachers are at opposite ends of the extreme. While "A"s are easy with one, they are difficult with another.

Posted by data please?, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Apr 11, 2013 at 10:42 pm

Let's see the full data behind this slide deck. The only counseling satisfaction data is about "college counseling" and Paly is still kicking Gunn's behind even in that. Let's see the social-emotional numbers. Hey new PR guy, I want to see what you do with that one.

Posted by TMI, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 12, 2013 at 7:16 am

We don't need to waste another $150K on a PR person, Diana Wilmot has done that already with an overuse of graphics and color in a way that takes away from the data. This is great data for district office folks, a good eye opener for the teacher's union (wake-up call: not all teachers are effective, you are just like us, human and of varying abilities, so you should not be paid the same, in fact some 1st year teachers are better than some 10th year teachers), but in the end, things like the recent Verde article on rape in the PAUSD, the number of our kids who have or want to kill themselves, and the deceit and incompetence of our top leaders (Skelly, Young, the board, etc.) indicate that our district is seriously flawed, even more than other nearby districts that we look down upon. As Joe DiSalvo said around six years ago in the Weekly, this is a pretty sick place. We need to clean our house and reform the top leadership, that IMHO, is the most pressing issue of today. Sometimes, you have to ask the right questions.

Posted by Grover, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Apr 12, 2013 at 9:31 am

It's quite revealing to see the overwhelmingly positive feedback from parents about their experience with PAUSD in this survey and contrast that with the frequent complaining that we see on the message boards here.

If someone's only source of information were the postings on these boards, they would get the impression that Palo Alto is a miserable place to live with a terrible school system. It's nice to see a more representative, broad-based study show that in reality, most people are quite happy to be here.

Posted by Mildred, a resident of Walter Hays School
on Apr 12, 2013 at 10:29 am

It's amazing how folks rant and rave about the schools. Yet if their students actually have difficulties of various sorts to try to get help from schools for bullying or those with verified disabilities by doctors
watch out. No help, understanding, it's the kids fault, never the teachers or the other students. I mean this district has charges from the Federal government in regards to bullying. House really needs to be cleaned and new rules established.

Posted by JayZ, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Apr 12, 2013 at 10:38 am

The survey results are a good indication of overall feel but the survey was poorly designed to learn much beneath the surface. For example, one bad teacher causes 80% of the stress and issues for my child and for us as a family. Yet, the feedback mechanism (believe me we've tried) is not conducive to being honest and the student is a potential victim if the teacher takes feedback the wrong way. This survey groups all teachers together. The reality is that most of our teachers over the years have been outstanding but a few are not and they are not weeded out and they turn off kids to learning a subject as well as create other stresses. I would have answered questions differently (very differently this year) if not for one teacher. Do I answer based on the 5 great teachers or the 1 bad teacher? Do I answer based on the "average". Not sure how you interpret the results of this survey when you don't really know how individuals interpret the question and how they choose to answer.

Posted by Yawn, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 12, 2013 at 11:04 am

Great! Now the Board can go back to sleep. And Skelly can continue his antics unrestrained.

Posted by sara, a resident of Stanford
on Apr 12, 2013 at 1:19 pm

The survey is poorly designed - or rather - the survey is designed to give the District the answers they want. Very sad.

Posted by classified, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Apr 12, 2013 at 6:47 pm

I am curious to know what % of classified employees took the survey. I did not take it. Seemed to me that the questions were not relevant to me. I have pasted the first page of the classified survey in the following thread dealing with the strategic plan: Web Link

Posted by classified, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Apr 13, 2013 at 9:07 pm

Trying to make sure I understood: The first sentence ofthe article above: "Ninety percent of Palo Alto parents and 93 percent of high school students say they are "somewhat satisfied" or "very satisfied" with the education children receive in the Palo Alto school district..." Later is is stated that nearly 4000 surveys were analysed.
Do I understand correctly that the 90%, 93% mentioned in the first sentence of the article above reflect % of those who took the survey? not of the PAUSD population?
Do I understand correctly that the 4000 surveys analysed are a cumulative combination of parents/high school students/stuff?

Posted by soccer mom, a resident of Midtown
on Apr 15, 2013 at 8:14 am

The survey included questions as to the use and purpose of tutoring. The survey asked if your student used outside tutoring resources, for what purpose (remediation, to pre-prepare for classes) and how much the family spent on tutoring each month.

I would like to see the results from this series of survey questions.

Posted by Chris Kenrick, Palo Alto Weekly staff writer, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 15, 2013 at 9:04 am

Classified --

A total of 3,848 people completed the survey. Of those, 2,392 are parents; 780 are high school students; 477 are teachers; 162 are classified staff and 37 are administrators. You are correct that the 90 percent and 93 percent mentioned in the first sentence reflect the parents and high school students, respectively, who took the survey.

Posted by Chris Kenrick, Palo Alto Weekly staff writer, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 15, 2013 at 9:11 am

Soccer Mom --

See pages 30 and 31 of the appendix, here: Web Link

There's a lot of data here.

Posted by Michele Dauber, a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 15, 2013 at 10:24 am

Here is a slide from the Strategic Plan data, just gathered, that supports again the counseling gap between Gunn and Paly: Web Link

This is from page 42: Web Link

We Can Do Better will be making a request for the raw survey data and will provide the community with an analysis of stress, counseling, tutoring and other data related to student social-emotional health. On a first reading, the data supports the position that there is too much stress, inconsistent policies, practices, and teacher quality is adding to that stress, that parents are paying a lot of money to mitigate those effects, and that counseling at Gunn continues to lag far behind that at Paly both in college counseling and in the social-emotional realm.

Another interesting data point is that around a third of parents feel that the district level staff and oversight is poor and that the district's response to bullying is poor. See page 65.

These are other issues that WCDB will continue to advocate on.

Overall, this is great data. Hopefully it will do more than sit on a shelf and gather dust as have previous Strategic Plan surveys.

Posted by What comparable means, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Apr 15, 2013 at 5:07 pm

Dear Dr. Skelly:
At a recent board meeting you and Dr. Millikin stated that you did not know what comparable means. If you would be so kind to look at your own report prepared by yourself as linked above you can see what comparable means. Your report says that there is "a large gap" in satisfaction between Paly and Gunn counseling. So if you want to know what "comparable" means it means close the gap until they Gunn is not lagging. Make them similar. Make each have a number that is "like" the number for the other. So if Phil keeps improving Paly (wow that's great for us at Paly!!) then that means that to make Gunn "comparable" "similar" or "like" Paly you have to make Gunn a lot better than it is. It is probably not likely that 7 people at Gunn can do the work of 50 at Paly. Not similar.

I hope this helps you to understand what comparable means. If you forget you can look at your own report again.


A Paly Parent

Posted by Wondering?, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 15, 2013 at 5:11 pm

One has to wonder just how knowledgeable a high school student's sense of the quality of his/her education in terms of preparation for college.

This sort of information would better be sought from Freshmen/Sophmores in college--who graduated within the past two years, rather than students who have yet to graduate.

Also have to wonder how much about the quality of a PAUSD education can be gleaned from classided employees.

Posted by classified, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Apr 15, 2013 at 5:58 pm

@Chris Kenrick - thank you for your detailed response.
@Wondering? - you wrote: "Also have to wonder how much about the quality of a PAUSD education can be gleaned from classided employees." Could you elaborate, please?

Posted by Wondering?, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 15, 2013 at 6:54 pm

A generalized questionnaire about the school district that offers all respondents the opportunity to answer all questions is likely to get answers from some respondents that are not particularly meaningful.

For instance, most classified employees are not involved with the direct delivery of education content. So, their opinions about the quality of the district's education delivery are not likely to be very deeply considered.

On the other hand, questions targeting classified employees about their job satisfaction, compensation, or their sense of how effective their immediate management chain might be, is another matter. The district should probably be conducting surveys every year to establish baselines for employee relations purposes.

Posted by Survey fatigue, a resident of Palo Verde
on Apr 15, 2013 at 10:36 pm

Is there anyone we can complain to about the survey design? I've tried to complete it twice, and abandoned it about 1/3 way through.

If I recall correctly, the question that broke me was some long list that required me to enter percentages for each item that add up to a 100. I know, I could have just cheated, and completed the parts I care about truthfully. But when I see a survey designed like this, I get the sense that the pollster does not really care about what I think.

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