When the results of the DOE's Learning Environment Survey were released yesterday, the administration took credit for high rates of parent satisfaction, though reporters pointed out the satisfaction rates were the same for the last three years and this year, only about half of all parents bothered to respond to the survey.
Yet what was most striking was the question that was left out. This question had been asked of parents since the survey was first given: Which of the following improvements would you MOST like your school to make? Every year since 2007, which was the first year the survey was given, smaller classes have been the top priority of parents by far, among ten choices.
If you look at the 2014 data, smaller classes were even more clearly a top priority of NYC parents; as it was either their #1 or #2 priority in all but two out of 32 districts:
In 2007, Bloomberg tried to obscure the responses to this question during his press conference by grouping together many other options in a new category, called "more or better programs." I and others, including Patrick Sullivan, called him out on this naked attempt to obscure that class size reduction had been first. Here is the NY Times article from the time:
Mr. Bloomberg lumped together several categories to note that for 45 percent of parents, “more or better programs,” not class size, was the top priority, despite a fierce lobbying campaign for smaller classes by some parents groups and the teachers’ union.In 2012, the DOE stopped including the responses to this question in their citywide summaries, though the data was still easy to find in their reports. Now for the DOE to stop asking this question at all, after eight years, especially for an administration that claims to care about parent input,, is hugely disappointing. Here are quotes from yesterday's DOE press release:
“When somebody stands up and says, ‘I speak for all parents and we want smaller class sizes,’ that’s just not true,” Mr. Bloomberg said.
Leonie Haimson of Class Size Matters, an advocacy group at which the mayor was clearly taking aim, said the survey pointed to the opposite conclusion. “It’s a transparent attempt to minimize the importance of an issue that is staring everybody in the face as the top priority of parents.”
Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña: "... I look forward to working with school communities as they use these results to identify areas of improvement, and develop the right supports and solutions to address them. The more we listen to the feedback of students, parents, and teachers, the better our schools are going to be."But how can they listen to parent feedback if they refuse to ask them what changes need to be made? And this quote:
“The retooled survey focuses on dimensions of the school community that past research has found to be critical for improving student outcomes. The goal of this work is to equip schools with actionable information they can use to support teachers and serve students more effectively….” said James Kemple, Executive Director, Research Alliance for New York City Schools at New York University.