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Thursday, February 14, 2008

Results of the independent parent survey

Class Size Matters released a report yesterday, exploring how New York City public school parents view conditions in their children’s schools and the system as a whole.

The official parent survey developed by the Department of Education had some glaring deficiencies. It omitted any questions involving the overall direction of our public schools and the key policies put in place by this administration, and relegated critical concerns of parents about class size, testing, and other issues into a catch-all question towards the end of the survey – in an apparent attempt to minimize their importance.

Class Size Matters decided to develop an independent, parent-driven survey with questions covering some of the key areas left out of the official DOE survey. Hart Associates used this survey to poll a representative cross section of 604 parents by telephone. More than 1,000 parents responded to the survey online. The latter group was unusually active, involved, and informed about conditions at their schools and system-wide, with half of them either active members or officers of PTA, School Leadership Teams or Community Education Councils.

Over 80% of both groups of parents said that overcrowding and class size had stayed the same or worsened over the last few years, and over 70% believed that class size reduction was the most important reform that should be taken to improve the public schools. On testing, over half opposed the DOE policy of holding back students primarily based on standardized exams, and felt that the emphasis on the results of such exams caused too much stress for their children. In the online survey, when asked about the new initiative that will pay students for high test scores, parents overwhelming opposed it.

A substantial majority of respondents believed that Mayoral control should be ended or amended by the State Legislature. Nearly 800 parents provided detailed comments on this issue, which clustered around several main themes: In the current system of governance, there was a lack of checks and balances, leading to almost dictatorial powers being exercised by the Mayor and Chancellor. The views of important stakeholders such as parents had been routinely ignored, and the school system had been run more like a business than an educational enterprise.

Other common criticisms revolved around what parents saw as the results of this unchecked, unaccountable power. The DOE had mismanaged finances and spent too much money on consultants and contractors, had embarked on too many confusing reorganizations, and had put in place the wrong educational policies. Finally, many parents expressed the view that schools and the educational system as a whole needed more separation from the political sphere and greater continuity than politics could provide.

When asked about the positive and negative aspects of their child’s school, more than one thousand parents responded in detail. Their comments on this question, as well as on Mayoral control, are a rich source of information about the views of New York public school parents, as well as some of our most engaged and active parent leaders.

For some comments from civic and parent leaders about the report, see the Class Size Matters website . See also articles in the NY Sun and Gotham Gazette about the results.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The correct link is