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L.B. Schools Pleased With High Marks in Districtwide Survey

April 09, 1987|DARYL KELLEY | Times Staff Writer

LONG BEACH — In an unusually broad 71,500-person survey, students and parents have given the Long Beach Unified School District marks so high even district officials have expressed some surprise.

But teachers scattered A's and Fs across the district's report card. Though nine of every 10 teachers found the district a good place to work, about half said they receive little recognition of how well they do their jobs.

"We have some work to do," Supt. E. Tom Giugni told the school board Monday as his research staff reported the overall glowing results of a first-time survey of about half the district's students and parents and three-fourths of its employees.

The $70,000 survey, which state education officials said is as comprehensive as they have seen by a large district, will serve as a benchmark to judge future progress and will be done again next March.

As a starting point it could not have been much better, district officials said.

"This would be marvelous material for realtors to have" to sell Long Beach houses, trustee Harriet Williams said. "This is a real indication that things are pretty good in our schools."

For example, more than 86% of parents who responded to the fall, 1986, survey said their children were getting at least adequate instruction in reading, math and language.

70% Approval

In fact, the district received at least 70% approval from parents, students and teachers in nearly all of the eight categories seen as keys to an effective school. Those essential categories are leadership, instruction, curriculum, school climate, staff development, meeting students' special needs, school interaction with the community, and the planning and evaluation of the educational program.

Survey results varied little regardless of ethnic group, although Asian and Latino parent and student responses were generally more positive. Perceptions also were about the same among parents whose children attend neighborhood schools and those who are bused to school. Both findings surprised the district, officials said.

The survey also provided a strong indication of the opposition the district could encounter in 1988, as it converts two schools to begin its experiment in year-round education. Just 36% of teachers said they would voluntarily work in a year-round school, while 54% of parents said they would allow their children to attend.

However, about two-thirds of Asian and Latino parents said they have no objections to year-round education. White and black parents were more reticent, giving 41% and 49% approval to their children's attendance, respectively.

The district, which has a diverse racial mix of students, has said participation in the year-round program will be voluntary and that it will be placed at schools where acceptance is greatest. Some schools have registered 60% to 70% acceptance by parents, it reported.

The survey reflects the opinions of 36,319 students, 31,089 parents and 4,113 district employees and is a compilation of surveys customized to meet the special needs of the 78 participating schools. Surveys--devised by teachers, parents and some high school students--will be used to set goals for each school.

Concerns of Parents

Some districtwide items were included on all surveys. For instance, all parent surveys rated schools in areas such as adequacy of instruction, discipline, friendliness, upkeep, clarity of purpose, parent involvement and whether lines of communication are open.

The district's overall marks were good in all areas, and to a degree they were too good to be true. They were unavoidably skewed to reflect the more upbeat appraisals of parents with elementary school children, since they returned about 78% of all the voluntary parent surveys. Parents of high school students, who were least positive about the district, made up only 9.2% of the sample. (Elementary students make up 60% of the district total.)

In the curriculum area, for example, this meant that while 76% of all parents thought the course work was effective, only 66% of high school parents agreed.

Still, the majority of the parents at all levels agreed that the quality of local education is good, said Mardel Kolls, assistant director of research.

"That's a typical pattern you would see in any district," Kolls said. Educational problems that may have seemed solvable at the elementary level seem less so as the child grows older, she said. In addition, the larger size of secondary schools makes them more imposing and reduces parent involvement with them, she said.

If the parent surveys were skewed toward the positive, the student surveys gave greater weight to the negative, because no student below fourth grade was polled, Kolls said. In curriculum, this meant that while 78% of elementary students thought curriculum was good, only 47% of high school students agreed. That gave an overall approval rating of 66%.

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