Sur­vey shows strengths, weak­nesses

High marks were given for safety, ac­cess to tech and class­room space, mid­dling marks for ‘over­all sat­is­fac­tion’

The Community Connection - - LOCAL NEWS - By Evan Brandt ebrandt@21st-cen­tu­ry­media. com @PottstownNews on Twit­ter

Much of the ef­fort in Pottsgrove schools is geared to­ward giv­ing and im­prov­ing grades to stu­dents.

But a re­cent sur­vey has stu­dents, par­ents, teach­ers and tax­pay­ers grad­ing the school district and the re­sults are mixed.

Al­though a sur­vey of the Pottsgrove com­mu­nity gave the school sys­tem high marks for se­cu­rity, ac­cess to tech­nol­ogy and com­mu­ni­ca­tions, scores for over­all sat­is­fac­tion hov­ered be­tween a C and B-mi­nus.

The sur­vey was taken by 617 stu­dents, staff, par­ents and res­i­dents who re­sponded to the 36-page, 32-ques­tion doc­u­ment.

Ac­cord­ing to a let­ter to the com­mu­nity from Su­per­in­ten­dent Wil­liam Shirk, the district scored well — be­tween 85 and 91 per­cent — on sub­jects like keep­ing stu­dents safe, ad­e­quate class­room space, ac­cess to tech­nol­ogy and com­mu­ni­ca­tions.

How­ever, asked to give a grade for “over­all sat­is­fac­tion” on a 100-point scale, re­sponses among all those who an­swered av­er­aged out to 73, even though the most com­mon an­swer was 80.

The re­sponse of par­ents of cur­rent stu­dents av­er­aged out to 76, ac­cord­ing to Shirk’s let­ter which, along with the sur­vey and re­sponses, are both posted on www.pgsd.org — the district’s web­site.

Shirk wrote that as a re­sult of the find­ings, the district will now fo­cus on sev­eral ar­eas of im­prove­ment. They in­clude:

Com­mu­ni­cat­ing with non-par­ent res­i­dents;

Pre­par­ing non-col­lege­bound stu­dents for ca­reers after high school;

Ask­ing for and re­spond­ing to pub­lic in­put;

Pre­par­ing stu­dents to be suc­cess­ful in col­lege;

Pro­vid­ing help for stu­dents who need ex­tra aca­demic as­sis­tance.

The largest num­ber of re­sponses — 450 — came from those be­tween the ages of 35 to 64; and who have lived in the district for 11 years or more — 386.

More than 70 per­cent of the re­spon­dents rated the qual­ity of the district’s K-2 ed­u­ca­tion as ex­cel­lent or good, but en­thu­si­asm for the pro­gram’s qual­ity dropped off steadily as the higher grades were con­sid­ered.

Just over 43 per­cent of those re­spond­ing rated the qual­ity of Pottsgrove’s high school as good or ex­cel­lent.

Per­haps of equal sig­nif­i­cance, nearly half the 426 re­spon­dents who have chil­dren in Pottsgrove schools, are par­ents of a high school stu­dent — 197.

Mid­dle school par­ents rep­re­sented 160 of the re­spon­dents, or 38 per­cent. Lower Pottsgrove El­e­men­tary had 157 par­ents re­spond and Ring­ing Rocks and West Pottsgrove had 75 and 55 par­ents, re­spec­tively, who re­sponded.

Among the staffers, the vast ma­jor­ity who re­sponded were teach­ers, with the high school and Lower Pottsgrove El­e­men­tary rep­re­sent­ing the high­est num­ber who gave an­swers.

And while the district got good grades for com­mu­ni­cat­ing with par­ents and stu­dents; the ma­jor­ity of the scores for com­mu­ni­ca­tions with the pub­lic, ask­ing for and re­spond­ing to pub­lic in­put were in the “ad­e­quate,” “poor” or “don’t know” cat­e­gory.

Nearly 60 per­cent of the re­spon­ders gave Pottsgrove high grades for main­tain­ing high aca­demic stan­dards, but low marks for help­ing stu­dents in need of aca­demic as­sis­tance.

The ma­jor­ity of sur­vey re­sponses in­di­cated Pottsgrove ei­ther im­proved — 32.74 per­cent — or stayed the same — 34.2 per­cent — in the past few years.

Emer­gency pro­ce­dures, cal­en­dar of events, gen­eral news of hap­pen­ings in the school and aca­demic data topped the list, in that or­der, of things re­spon­dents ranked as the most im­por­tant.

And in a mixed re­sult for this pub­li­ca­tion, al­though “read­ing the lo­cal news­pa­per” ranked low­est in the re­spon­dent’s reg­u­lar meth­ods of com­mu­ni­ca­tion — when pit­ted against tex­ting, In­ter­net use on phones or tablets or Face­book — the vast ma­jor­ity of those who do read the pa­per (86 per­cent) said they read The Mer­cury.

Most re­spon­dents said they would pre­fer to get in­for­ma­tion about Pottsgrove from district emails, au­to­mated calls or their child’s teacher or prin­ci­pal news­let­ters — this de­spite the fact that nearly half the re­spon­dents in­di­cated they do not sub­scribe to the email dis­tri­bu­tion list.

The district’s web­site was deemed sat­is­fac­tory by most re­spon­dents.

The ma­jor­ity of sur­vey re­sponses in­di­cated they are “very well in­formed” or “pretty well in­formed” about ac­tiv­i­ties and events; poli­cies and pro­ce­dures; and their child’s aca­demic progress in school.

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