NHPS Releases 3rd Annual School Climate Survey Results.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012
New Haven Public Schools
Will Clark                                            Garth Harries
203-691-2681                                      203-691-2678             


The New Haven Public Schools announced today results of the third annual School Learning Environment Survey, showing substantially improved satisfaction in many schools across the district. The Learning Environment Survey (also referred to as the climate survey) gathers feedback from students, parents, teachers and school staff on a variety of measures grouped into five categories: academic expectations, communication, collaboration, engagement, and safety and respect. School staff received results in June prior to the end of school.  The results are now being posted publicly at www.nhps.net. The Learning Environment Survey is a key component of New Haven School Change and was developed collaboratively by school leaders, teachers, and parents.
Aggregate satisfaction scores rose significantly in 18 schools this year, while scores dropped significantly in four. Turnaround schools continued to show substantial gains. Clemente Leadership Academy’s aggregate overall score increased by 0.7 on the districts 10 point scale in the first year under new leadership. Also in the first year of a turnaround, Wexler-Grant increased by 0.8, the largest improvement of any preK-8 school. Katherine Brennan and DOMUS Academy also improved their learning environments by significant margins, even in the second year of turnaround.  More information on the scale of the scores follows below.
“I am pleased to see the feedback for so many of our school teams,” said Superintendent of Schools Dr. Reginald Mayo.  “In so many of our schools, students, parents, teachers and staff clearly feel safer, more engaged, more collaborative, and more academically challenged.  The survey also highlights the places where we need to keep working.  I urge each school to study the results closely,” he said.
“There are good lessons in the teamwork we see in each of the turnaround schools.  Now we need to see the same progress in academic results, particularly in those schools that are in their second year of turnaround,” Dr. Mayo noted.
The survey represents the views of 9,453 5th to 12th grade students (87 percent of the student population), 5,192 parents (38 percent of the parent population), 1,397 teachers (81 percent of the teacher population), and 493 non-instructional staff members, including front office secretaries, security guards, and custodial staff (54 percent of the staff population). Parent participation rose from 31 percent last year, reflecting the hard work of school staff to improve parent engagement. Still, parent participation and parent engagement remain a focus for future efforts.
In order to create a synthesized score, the responses of all survey questions were aggregated on a 0-10 scale, with parent responses providing one third of the weight, students one third, and teachers and staff combined to provide the final third.  Scores below 4 were considered “unsatisfied”, scores of 4.0 to 5.9 were “mixed satisfaction”, scores of 6.0 to 7.9 were “satisfied”, and 8.0 and above were “highly satisfied”.  Using this scoring method, 10 schools scored in the highly satisfied realm this year, up from zero in the 2009-2010 school year and eight in the 2010-2011 school year. All other schools were in the satisfied range.  The district considers a change of 0.25 or more to be a “significant” change in results, either up or down.  Fourteen elementary schools and four high schools improved their satisfaction levels significantly.  Four schools saw their aggregate satisfaction levels fall significantly.
Survey results are shared with school communities and have been used over the past three years to improve learning and educational practices from the student level through to school administration. The surveys are also one of the factors used to rank schools into tiers each year and to evaluate principals. Many principals use the surveys to set performance goals for themselves and their schools.  The survey results include both synthesized scoring, and question by question responses. 
The Nathan Hale School had the highest satisfaction score in the district this year, with a rating of 8.8. Principal Lucia Paolella said, “I am blessed to be part of this school community – so many people care so much about this school.  We’ve also worked hard on climate issues, particularly through the support of Dr. Comer and the School Development Process.  All that investment in community shows up in the results on our survey.”
The Strong School reflected the highest overall increase in satisfaction in the district, reflecting the hard work of a new principal and the staff of the school.  “I am so grateful to my parents, staff, and community for their hard work this year,” said Strong School Principal Susan DeNicola.  “Strong School began its life as an overflow site, and we have come a long way in building culture this year.”
One school that improved significantly this year was Metropolitan Business Academy, particularly in the area of student satisfaction.  Based on survey results last year that found Metropolitan Business Academy students did not feel a strong connection to their school community, students there hosted a series of activities and developed a cell phone application to enable students to report bullying. In addition, the BOOST! program focused on after-school activities requested by students.  Student satisfaction at MBA improved by 0.9 on this year’s survey.

“I encourage school communities and school leaders to study the question by question results,” said SAA President Peggy Moore.  “It is a rich trove of information and feedback, and we should honor the community members who took the survey by taking action on their specific concerns and suggestions.  At Wilbur Cross, we are pleased with the improvement we saw this year, but we know we have a long way to go to strengthen the learning climate for students, parents, teachers and staff.”
The Brennan-Rogers School had the highest participation rate in the district across all participant groups with a 96% response rate from parents and a 100% response rate from students, teachers and staff.  “As a turnaround school, we highly value the input and opinions of all stakeholders and consequently placed great emphasis on and attention to getting maximum participation rates. Using  the survey results as a means for self-improvement we have already analyzed the data as a staff and come up with concrete steps to improve in specific areas where the rankings are not as high as we would have liked,” says, Brennan-Rogers School Principal Karen Lott.
Cheryl Brown, principal of the host school, emphasized similar themes.  “At Ross-Woodward, we’ve emphasized parent engagement, and it shows in our survey.  The parent response rate more than doubled from last year, and our parents are giving us lots of positive feedback.  Thank you to the teachers and staff at Ross-Woodward who made that happen.”
Student engagement has been a priority for the district through the year, and 31 of 42 schools saw significant improvements in student satisfaction, including all nine high schools in the district.  Parent satisfaction was also strong.  At 39 of 42 schools, more than 80 percent of parents agreed or strongly agreed with the statement “Overall, I am satisfied with the education my child has received at this school.”  At 41 of 42 schools, 80 percent or more of parents agreed or strongly agreed that “Adults at this school challenge my child to do better,” and that “I feel welcome at my child’s school.”[1]
The trends in teacher satisfaction were mixed, and at most schools teacher satisfaction was lower than that of parents and students.  Twelve schools saw teacher satisfaction go up, and twelve schools saw teacher satisfaction go down.  Trends in teacher satisfaction appeared closely correlated with teachers’ satisfaction with administrator support and with student discipline and behavior; where teachers felt less supported and where student discipline and behavior was more problematic, teacher overall satisfaction trended significantly downward. 
“We know we need to continue to work on student behavior and teacher support and professionalism – we’ve already planned for both to be a significant focus of professional development, and both issues are consistent with our vision of ensuring that our schools are engaging and meaningful for both students and staff,” stated Dr. Mayo.

[1] One school did not have enough parent responses to be scored