Whenever information is put out by government agencies it’s a good thing, and as this information becomes easier to access through the internet, people should be asking about how the programs they are paying for are helping them live their lives. But it’s just as important to question the data itself.
The New York City’s Department of Education has taken a good step by implementing “customer service” surveys by asking parents, teachers, and students, how they feel about their schools. This is the third year they have conducted this survey and the results havestayed the same. Parents indicated a high level of satisfaction with their schools at 91 percent, and 94 percent of parents were satisfied with the level of education their children received. Student satisfaction was also high with 91 percent of students saying adults at the school were able to help them understand what they needed to do at school.
One area that should please administrators and parents is that 78 percent of teachers said the school leaders gave them regular and helpful feedback about their teaching. After the abrupt exit by Cathie Black, you would think New Yorkers would want better leadership, but only 5 percent of all respondents said more effective leadership was needed. Instead, the biggest issue they cited was class sizes with 23 percent believing they needed to be smaller.
This was the largest participation rate by these groups since the survey started in 2008. Instead of speculating what people think and the media running stories on a school failing, we see the majority of those participating in New York City’s education system are pleased with that they see. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be asking more questions or looking for a way to improve the system.
When academic studies show that only 1 for every 5 New York City high school graduates are ready for college, there is a clear disconnect between those within the system and those outside of it. Politics of course also plays a roll. Mayor Bloomberg would rather focus on the fact that more students in NYC are graduating high school while he has been in office.
The problem with any public opinion poll is that the people answering the questions can only refer to what they know or how they feel. Sometimes this can be a lot, but in most cases it’s not. In the world of education parents may not realize their children are behind because they have seen how their child has improved their reading, writing, and math skills. But they can’t compare it to other students in their school, other schools around the city, state, or country.
But people who study education policy may have a different take then those who were questioned here. Academics are the ones who have to know (or are supposed to know) all the stats, the studies, and ideas floating around on how we can improve America’s education system. If a thorough debate and analysis is to be taken they need to be brought into the discussion for the outside view.
That being said, there are a lot of good educators out there who know and are working to make improvements. While these survey’s are a good first step to open up the discussion, it is just the beginning.