By Andrew Cluley
AAPS District News
Ann Arbor Public Schools have once again received high marks on the annual School Climate Survey of over 14,000 parents, students, and staff. The results of the survey from last spring were shared with the Board of Education this week. Once more the district has scored highly on quality instructional delivery and strong academic preparation. School leadership was another strength according to the survey based on the scores for confidence in school leaders and high expectations set in schools.
While the numbers across the board were high, district officials and school board members say the survey serves as a great tool in highlighting areas that need attention to ensure every child is getting the biggest benefit possible from Ann Arbor Public Schools.
Work already in place may help bring up scores in areas that continue to pose a challenge such as concerns over bus safety and timeliness. Ann Arbor Public Schools new partnership with Durham School Services and the purchase of new buses funded by the millage approved by voters last spring is anticipated to lead to improvements in these areas. Likewise, quality improvements made by Chartwells may bring up scores related to school breakfast and lunch.
Equity and respect for diversity is an area that continues to pose a challenge for schools across the nation. The school climate survey showed it’s an issue where AAPS can improve as well, particularly in the eyes of African-American students. The survey results mean equity work remains a priority for the district.
School Board President Deb Mexicotte says the survey is important as they work on setting priorities and goals for the upcoming school year. “We should use this data as a focus for our committee work,” she says. “We have seen positive results when we focus on a particular area, and the improvements are maintained even once we turn our attention to other issues.”
It’s not just the School Board that’s interested in getting to work on areas with the lowest scores. Executive Director of Elementary Education Dawn Linden says teachers and principals are always eager to see the results. “This report is critical to staff, as soon as the survey closes we start to get questions from them about when they will get the data,” Linden says.
This year’s data offers a more comprehensive view than past climate surveys provided. That’s because the number of participants is up in every category. Overall participation increased by 36 percent, led by a jump of 3,600 in the number of students completing the survey. Board member Donna Lasinski says it’s crucial to hear from kids inside the classroom. “Students are very capable of telling us what they need and if their needs are met, from the youngest levels,” Lasinski says. “We may struggle with asking the right questions, but students know if their needs are being met.”
Mexicotte is also pleased that the survey focused on the same areas as the previous year so more direct comparisons can be made. “Excited to get the apples to apples comparison and a level of participation that really allows us to make informed decisions,” she says.