Journal coverage of Brooks School survey doesn't tell the whole story

Opinion

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While not untrue, your headline "Brooks teachers rank leadership, discipline lowest in survey" (December 8) fails to capture the sentiments of the 583 students, 198 parents, and 87 staff members who participated in a "customer satisfaction" survey conducted in October by the Gwendolyn Brooks School Leadership Team. Using a scale from 1 to 5, each group rated their satisfaction with the school in the areas of communication, leadership, discipline, instruction, and several other areas. Response rates were 96 percent for students, 26 percent for parents and 76 percent for staff, with respondents closely mirroring the demographics of the school. The survey represents baseline data, or the beliefs of the community before change has been instituted. It was conducted as part of the Critical Issues Process, the school's problem-solving and improvement process, now in its second year. The survey results are on the school website at http://www.op97.k12.il.us/brooks/crit
issues/October%20Surveys.html.

The real story from the survey is that, on average, the members of the Brooks community are medium satisfied with the school, with nearly all ratings between 3 and 4. The lowest average rating by any group of staff in any area was 2.8 and the highest average rating by any group of staff in any area was close to 4.

So while some individuals may be less than satisfied in some areas, and on average some groups are more satisfied than others, all groups find the school to be "OK" in all areas. Parents' ratings tended, on average, to be higher than staff's, with students' ratings, not unexpectedly, somewhat lower.

Several results are notable. First, all groups were most satisfied with instruction. Secondly, no racial differences in satisfaction emerged among students. Finally, while eighth graders were less satisfied than seventh graders (sixth graders did not take the survey since they were too new to the school), there were no differences by grade of child in parents' satisfaction, indicating that the eighth graders' lower satisfaction may be developmental.

Of course, we would like all results to be higher, and hope to see steady increases in satisfaction when we conduct the survey again in late winter/spring 2005. The surveys are intended to gauge whether the community perceives improvement in the four areas targeted for improvement as part of the unique problem-solving process that the Brooks community has been engaged in since last June.

Numerous changes have been initiated as part of this process, including creation of a vision and motto; providing constructive social time for students during lunch; bulletin boards, calendars and e-mail updates on school activities; expanded distribution of progress reports; and training for staff in differentiated instruction. These efforts are thanks to the teachers, administrators and parents who set objectives for improvement and have been implementing changes, in addition to their "regular" work. While anecdotal evidence suggests that some of these efforts are making improvements at the school, we hope to see the results translate to improved satisfaction in the next set of surveys.

In any community, it is normal to find some groups more satisfied than others. We are continuing to analyze the survey results to discover the range of satisfaction among various groups in the school. This information will help us make the problem-solving process more robust and effective. In addition to improving satisfaction ratings, we are also striving for a strong, lasting process that will enable the school to maintain the high levels of satisfaction we will achieve. 

Andi Dunn
Parent Co-chair
GBMS  School Leadership Team
Lynne Beauprez
Teacher Co-chair
GBMS School Leadership Team

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