LONG BEACH — The majority of parents think the Long Beach Unified School District is doing a satisfactory job educating their children, according to a recent survey of more than 100,000 parents, students and staff members in the district.
In the district's second annual survey of attitudes toward education, more than 85% of the parents who responded thought the schools were educating their children adequately in language, reading and mathematics. Although less enthusiastic than parents, most teachers and students also gave the district high marks.
A total of 33,168 parents, 33,326 students and 3,626 teachers and other staff participated in the survey, conducted last spring. Questionnaires were sent to all district parents, all teachers and administrators except district-level staff, and all students in grades 4 to 12. A total of more than 100,000 questionnaires was distributed.
According to Mardel R. Kolls, assistant director of the district's research and statistics service, Long Beach conducted its first districtwide survey on educational quality in 1986-87. The annual survey, she said, is part of an effort "to gather, summarize, analyze and report information that will enable individual schools, as well as the total district, to improve their effectiveness."
For the survey, committees of parents and staff developed customized questionnaires for parents, staff and students at each of the district's 81 schools (in some cases, secondary students also served on the committees). In addition to items of particular interest to the individual school, each questionnaire also contained districtwide questions.
The questionnaires asked respondents to say whether they strongly agreed, agreed, disagreed, strongly disagreed or didn't have enough information to respond to statements about school effectiveness such as "Teachers expect high quality work, including homework from students at this school" and "Morale of staff and students is high."
The questionnaires did not ask how parents and others felt about such measures of school success as performance on the California Assessment Program tests, which varies widely in the district.
The questionnaires also asked for open-ended comments from the respondents. Forms developed for the first survey were used again this year.
In the 1987-88 survey, parents voiced satisfaction with other aspects of their children's schooling besides the three Rs. Although discipline has recently emerged as an issue at Millikan High School, where a strict policy on tardiness has been criticized by parents and students, 80% of the parents said they thought discipline is handled effectively at district schools. More than 85% reported a high degree of satisfaction with school leadership (the performance of the principal and others), while 86% said they thought school buildings and grounds were well maintained.
The majority of responding parents (83%) said they thought parents had adequate participation in the education of their children. Seventy-eight percent said they felt they had a good understanding of what teachers are teaching.
Parents were queried about such controversial subjects as year-round schools: The district now has four such schools and is considering expanding the program.
More than half the parents who responded said they would be willing to have their children attend year-round schools (51%), slightly fewer than supported year-round schools in the earlier survey (53%). However, only 37% of the white parents in the district were for year-round schools, while 53% were opposed. American Indian parents (68%) and Asian, Filipino and Pacific Islander parents (63%) expressed the most support for year-round education. The majority of Hispanic parents were also in favor (58%), while black parents were almost evenly divided on the issue (46% for, 47% against and 7% undecided because of lack of information).
Kolls pointed out that this year's results were almost identical to those of the first survey. This year, however, 51% of the parents who were polled responded, compared with 48% in 1986-87. Kolls attributed some of the increase to the district's decision to send questionnaires home with all students, instead of mailing them to the homes of secondary students as the district had done in 1986. "Classroom teachers were able to remind students to return the parent forms and schools were able to keep track of their rate of return," she noted.
This year, Kolls said, 8,249 district parents responded to the questionnaire in a language other than English--25% of all the parents responding. This was an increase of 3 percentage points.