Wednesday, September 19, 2007

The DOE and the Parent Survey: A Case of the Blind Men and the Elephant?

Since the results of last June’s Parent Survey were announced, Mayor Bloomberg and Chancellor Klein have repeatedly played down parents’ collective concerns over class size, as reported previously on this site. The DOE has not yet made a database of the survey results publicly available for comparative purposes. However, we now have enough information to take a closer look, at least for the Districts (1 through 6) that comprise the schools on Manhattan Island.

Here’s a summary of the results for the 266 elementary, middle, and high schools whose Learning Environment Survey Reports were posted on their DOE school web pages.

-- Parents in 46.6% (124) of the schools -- almost half!! --voted smaller class sizes as their most desired improvement. The next highest improvement choice was more or better enrichment programs, chosen by parents at 38.0% (101) of the schools.

-- Parents at an impressive 66.1% (37 out of 56) of the Manhattan schools with enrollments of over 700 students chose smaller class size as their first priority.

-- Parents at an even more remarkable 84.6% (22 out of 26) of the Manhattan schools with enrollments of over 1,000 students chose smaller class size as their highest priority.

-- Overall, 27.0% of Manhattan parents who responded to the survey chose small class size as their highest improvement priority (versus 24% Citywide reported by the DOE).

-- There was a noticeable statistical difference between schools whose parents chose smaller class size versus those that voted for enrichment.

Smaller Class Size
Number of Schools -- 124
Total Student Enrollment -- 88,551
% Manhattan Enrollment -- 58.0%
Average Enrollment -- 714
Median Enrollment -- 556

More/Better Enrichment Prog.
Number of Schools -- 101
Total Student Enrollment -- 45,057
% Manhattan Enrollment -- 29.5%
Average Enrollment -- 446
Median Enrollment -- 256

The conclusions are inescapable. Parents in just under half of all Manhattan schools cited smaller class sizes as their highest improvement priority, and those parents represented larger schools on average as well schools with 58% of the Borough’s student enrollment. Given New York Magazine’s recent real estate report citing city population growth projections of 200,000 in the next three years and 500,000 by 2020, suggesting that class size is not (or should not be) public school parents’ first concern is willfully manipulative of the facts. Or perhaps it’s just a case of the blind men and the elephant?

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