Las Vegas Sun

September 3, 2015

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Parents give Clark County schools high ratings in survey

Parents, students and staff don’t always see eye to eye on school issues, according to a Clark County School District survey released this week.

For example, while 96 percent of parents surveyed said they agreed or strongly agreed that their school was clean, only 67 percent of students and 86 percent of staff said the same.

Each year, the School District conducts parent, staff and student surveys to determine how well the district is performing outside of test scores and graduation rates. This year, a record number responded.

Parents rated the School District the highest among the three surveyed groups. Nearly 19,000 parents took the survey, given online from March 1 to April 27.

In most categories — from how well the district teaches reading, writing and math to academic expectations — parents gave the School District above a 90 percent approval rating.

The only two categories where parents rated the district lower than 90 percent was in bus transportation communication and shared decision-making.

Parents also submitted fewer public complaint forms: just 91, down from a high of 178 from a decade ago.

Students were the most critical of the School District, according to the survey. Nearly 129,000 students out of about 309,000 students in the School District responded to the survey.

Students were critical of the district when it came to healthy, good-tasting cafeteria food, giving the district a 48 percent approval rating. Students also said they didn’t think they received fair treatment from the district, giving the district a 67 percent rating.

About three-quarters of students said they would recommend their school to a friend. About 81 percent and 93 percent of staff and parents, respectively, said they would recommend their school to a friend.

Although 93 percent of parents said their children were enthusiastic about learning, only 78 percent of students and 64 percent of staff agreed.

Staff members were critical of how well students were learning skills such as creativity, leadership and organizational skills, rating the district in the 70th percentile. Staff also rated the district low on professional development opportunities and accessibility to school zone managers.

About 9,900 staff members — teachers, support staff and administrators — responded to the survey.

The staff disagreed with parents and students when it came to whether their school was teaching students about becoming a responsible citizen. Although parents and students rated the district 95 percent and 87 percent, respectively, the staff rated the district a 77 percent.

Staff members were the most critical of the district when it came to shared decision-making. Just 71 percent of staff said they felt they were included in the district’s decision-making process when it came to school changes.

“We need to be more collaborative so that we can work on the things that are important to kids,” said Vikki Courtney, vice president of the local teachers union.

“This will be a focus area for us,” Clark County Schools Superintendent Dwight Jones said. “We want to ensure that teachers’ voices are heard.”

Ensuring collaboration will be key as the district rolls out new reforms, such as a growth model to measure student achievement as well as a more rigorous curriculum. Some grants — such as such as the district’s $40 million Race to the Top application — require support from the teachers union.

Courtney said the report was indicative of what she saw as low teacher morale across the district. The School District is demanding more of teachers while trying to negotiate contract concessions, she said.

“I think what this indicates is we need more resources, time and support from the district to help teachers do their jobs,” Courtney said.

School Board member Erin Cranor said she was concerned about how the district was supporting its teachers through all the reforms that have been instituted. It’s a difficult time across the nation to be a teacher, Cranor said.

“Teachers feel like they’re just being barraged (by the changes),” she said.

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