In May Spooner Area School District staff were asked to participate in a survey conducted by a company hired by the district called School Perceptions.
On Monday, August 20, Bill Foster of School Perceptions reviewed the staff survey results with the school board during its monthly meeting.
Superintendent Don Hack asked for a copy of the survey for the district’s website (www.spoonerk12.wi.us) which is now available under the “Faculty and Staff” listing as “2012 SASD Staff Survey Report.”
Foster said he had 140 e-mails for staff and 104 responded, representing a 74.9 percent return. He said the average return is between 75 and 80 percent, and he called Spooner’s level “typical.”
Of the 104 who responded, 64 percent were teachers, 13 percent support staff, 11 percent instructional assistants, and 8 percent administration.
Approximately 30 percent response from each school level – high, middle, elementary – was recorded.
The following article contrasts areas that scored high and low in each category. More survey information can be found on the school’s website.
Foster said the survey would help create goals for the district and also goals for professional development.
Asked about what type of professional development is preferable, 65 precent said “workshops and conferences”; 59 percent, “workshops with a presenter from outside the district”; 45 percent, “technology staff development opportunities.”
Not so desirable are “peer observation,” 22 percent; “online university courses,” 17 percent; and “book study,” 17 percent.
The staff was asked to rank areas as to the importance for the district on a four-point scale: 4, absolutely critical, 3 important, 2 somewhat important, and 1 not important. Foster said just because something scored lower did not mean it was not important but that “in relative terms” it is perceived as less important to those items scoring higher.
The staff ranked “respect for all” as highest with 3.74, followed by “problem solving skills,” 3.71; “working well with others,” 3.59; “realizing education effects future success,” 3.59.
Lower on the scale are “extra-curricular activities (non-sports),” 2.97; sports, 2.95; “community service,” 2.94; and “transitioning to the next grade,” 2.94.
How is district doing?
The staff was also asked to rank how the district was performing in several areas on a four-point scale: 4 great, 3 good, 2 fair, 1 fair.
Ranking high are sports, 3.18; “extracurricular activities (non-sports),” 2.84; “media technology literacy” 2.64; but ranking lower are “respect for all,” 2.4; and even lower: “organizational skills,” 2.17; “study skills and habits,” 2.08; and “note-taking skills,” 2.
“Subtracting importance from performance equals gap analysis,” said Foster, or the perceived gap between what staff thinks is important and what they perceive is actually being achieved.
“Problem solving skills,” has the largest gap, -1.41; followed by “respect for all,” -1.34; “study skills and habits,” -1.32; and “organizational skills,” -1.27.
Others with a small gap include “presentation skills/public speaking,” -0.6; “transitioning students to the next grade,” -0.5; “community service,” -0.46; “extra-curricular activities (non-sports),” -0.13.
Sports has a positive gap of .23.
The staff was asked to indicate their “level of agreement” in areas of their professional learning communities. They used a four-point scale: 5 strongly agree, 4 agree, 2 disagree, 1 strongly disagree. Three was not used, said Foster, to help reveal leanings.
Ranking high on the survey are the following:
• “Collegial relationships exist among staff that reflect commitment to school improvement efforts highest,” 3.75.
• “My direct supervisor incorporates advice from staff to make decisions,” 3.61.
• “School goals focus on student learning beyond test scores and grades,” 3.61.
• “Shared values support norms of behavior that guide decisions about teaching and learning,” 3.61.
Lowest on the scale are the following:
• “The staff have accessibility to key information,” 3.01
• “A collaborative process exists for developing a shared vision among staff,” 2.88
• “The staff are consistently involved in discussing and making decision about most school issues,” 2.72.
Board member Paul Goellner said it seemed the respondents were mostly neutral, but Foster said they were actually “leaning positive” on the scale between 3.52 and 3.75, but said 3.29 to 2.72 indicated “leaning negative.”
Another set of questions on learning communitites also elicited responses from the staff. High on the agreement list is “Caring relationships exist among staff and student that are built on trust and respect,” 4.05; “The school facility is clean, attractive and inviting,” 4.04; “The proximity of grade level and department personnel allows for ease is collaborating with colleagues,” 3.85.
Scoring lower are “fiscal resources available for professional development,” 3.02; “the school schedule promotes collective learning and shared practice,” 2.98; and “opportunities exist for staff to observe peers and offer encouragement,” 2.84.
In a section just for teachers, 34 percent said they did not have enough time during the school day to prepare for classes, and 40 percent said they did not have enough “personalized instruction time.”
Concerning class load, 27 percent said it was too large, 72 percent just right, and 1 percent too small.
Foster said educational research has shown that level of expectation influences student performance. Fifty-two percent of teachers said the expectation in the district was “just right,” but 48 percent said it was “too low.”
Ranking communication in the district using the same 5 to 1 scale with the three missing, the staff feels good about communication with a direct supervisor, 4.03; but communication between board of eduction and school employees was rated low, 1.96, along with communication to the community, 2.37.
Communicating between the grade levels was judged by 33 percent as not effective and 52 percent as effective.
Communication between the school buildings was judged by 74 percent as ineffective.
Internal communication is judged by 40 percent as effective and by 58 percent as ineffective.
In several categories, the staff was asked to rank their overall satisfaction on a four-point scale: 4 excellent, 3 good, 2 fair, 1 poor.
In “overall perception of the district” by “areas” the “office support staff,” is ranked highest, 3.6; followed by teachers, 3.41; para-professionals, 3.4; custodians, 3.23; principals, 2.81; food service, 2.71; district administration, 2.29; and school board, 2.19
Concerning their relationship with peers, 97 percent categorized their relationships as “good” and 3 percent did not.
Eight-nine percent said they enjoy their jobs, and 10 percent do not.
Asked if they would recommend the district, 89 percent they would,m and 10 percent said they would not.
Responding to “satisfied with financial management,” 36 percent agreed but 45 disagreed, and 18 percent said they “did not know or did not know if it applied to them.” During the last school year, said Foster, there has been “much more frustration with management of districts across the state.”
Ranking the district to others, 62 percent thought Spooner was better, 27 percent the same, and 10 percent worse.
Overall satisfaction, 79 percent are satisfied, 16 percent are not satisfied, and 4 percent have no opinion.
Foster said overall satisfaction at Spooner is “relatively positive.”
Areas of focus
Foster said the survey asked the staff to indicate areas of top priority or areas that should be a focus for the district.
Top areas of focus:
• “The staff consistently involved in discussing and making decisions about most school issues,” 55 percent or 58 responses.
• “Am satisfied with level and appropriateness of discipline,” 47 percent or 49 responses.
• “The staff plan and work together to search for solutions to address diverse student needs,” 44 percent or 46 responses.
• “My direct supervisor is proactive and addresses areas where support is needed,” 42 percent or 44 responses.
• “Teachers have time during the day to prepare for class,” 42 percent or 44 responses.
Ranked as a lower focus are the following:
• “Maintaing a diversity of curriculum choices,” 11 percent or 12 responses.
• “Improving staff collaboration,” 11 percent or 12 responses.
• “Encouraging homework/work outside of class,” 9 percent or nine responses.
• “Establishing a vision for the district,” 7 percent or seven responses.
• “Developing/improving our employee handbook,” 4 percent or four responses.
Asked after reviewing the survey, Foster said even though Spooner’s survey was unique in its structure he thought the district compared very similarly to those of similar size in the state.
After the meeting, Haack talked about how the district would use the survey results.
“We are already using some of the feedback to help shape our internal communication efforts, inservice offerings, and teacher collaboration efforts for the upcoming school year,” said Haack. “We will continue to use the survey information throughout the year as we work at shoring up areas such as communication and collaboration. We do many things well in our district and will continue to foster collegial relationships among staff and have schools with a caring relationship among staff and students.”
Haack added, “Last year was a tough year in many ways, with budget cuts and handbooks coming into play. Our faculty and staff did a great job of overcoming a lot of distractions and adversity and focused on teaching children. The survey gives us a guide as to what the staff needs to keep moving forward.
“We will be using the results of this survey as well as our community and student surveys for strategic planning,” said Haack.