08 April, 2013

Tell Me How You Really Feel...

The past few weeks my school, like most others, has been preparing to give the school environment surveys to students, parents, and teachers. This year, for the first time, I have found that this process is far removed from honest, useful feedback.

Teachers were given some time to fill out surveys in the past few days and several were actually laughing out loud at certain questions. Do I believe the negative responses will change things? After reviewing results from last year's survey, administration reminded us not to fill out the surveys if we had a bad day because the results affect the students and teachers who may come to us next year. I can think of a few things that changed because of the results from last year's survey, including more, informal surveys given throughout the year.

Before students were given their surveys, teachers were provided with a handful of lesson plans to do during advisory that would address the areas we did poorly on last year. These lessons were less than half a page long and riddled with grammatical and logistical errors. Several teachers expressed that they were offended by these lessons considering how much effort most teachers at the school put into their own lesson plans. Interestingly, my own students responded well to these lessons. They offered some interesting insights about why they respect certain teachers ("They went to good colleges" being the most surprising answer) and what they notice about the school environment (the bathrooms are a mess, half of the class could not name 3 locations of trash cans). Other teachers reported that these lessons spiraled into gripe sessions for students with no acknowledgement of student ownership of the school. I think that this tells us a lot about what our school community is or isn't like, but I am in no place to make any changes, especially as so many people are in their end of the year mentality.

What I've learned in the last month of survey prep- we care what surveys say but we work to influence results (optics, as Olivia Pope might say on Scandal) rather than to create lasting changes that might also produce positive surveys. Data-driven education at it's finest.