Column: Surveys a technicality, not a genuine effort


Allegra H.

“In my school, students help each other even if they are not friends.” “My school considers students’ opinions when planning ways to improve the school.” “In my school, students treat adults with respect.” Whether you strongly agree, strongly disagree or are neutral to these sentiments, statements like these found in school surveys allow the student body to voice opinions about DCHS in a statistical manner. While data collected from the surveys may be analyzed, does student opinion really make a difference?

Recently, DCHS and DCMS students had an opportunity to take a survey for an external review accreditation service called AdvancED. Currently, our school is going through a five-year accreditation process. With this year being the fifth year, surveys are sent to students, staff and parents to obtain opinions about the school, said Special Services Director Niki Coon.

While students and parents were encouraged to participate in the survey, this is the first time the purpose of the survey is being released. Students and parents were never informed as to what the survey was for or if the results would ever be shared.

Like many surveys before it, the statistical results may never be publicized. Although students take similar school improvement surveys almost every year, the results that have come from these surveys haven’t been shared, and this AdvancED survey doesn’t seem to be any different.

“We typically do not release the results of that [AdvancED] survey, partly because it is only given once every five years, and we do not get to help write the questions to make them personal to our school situation,” Superintendent Chad Denker said.

Even though the AdvancED survey questions were not personalized to our school, the results from the survey will still be used for school improvement. The results will be viewed as student feedback and examined by building administrators to analyze positive features of the school as well as common concerns, said Assistant Principal Chad Fuller.

Optimistically, I say in the future we may see steps of improvement because of this survey. Realistically, I say I haven’t seen a great amount of change come to DCHS because of surveys, and I don’t expect this recent AdvancED survey to change that trend.

Although no obvious amount of change has occurred directly because of past surveys, small changes have happened in the background. New positions in the school have been added because of a need for improvement in given areas found in past surveys. For example, the position of Special Services Director has been created because of a need that was voiced in past surveys, Coon said.

Now, I must mention one change that administrative members refer to when asked what changes have been made to our school because of previous student surveys, and that is the addition of Access Period. It has been said by both Coon and Fuller that in past student surveys, homework came up as a topic of concern, which helped justify the addition of Access Period.

While homework concerns were voiced in previous surveys, possible solutions for those concerns were never discussed with the students. Rather, a group of teachers and an administrative team were asked for their opinions about Access Period, Principal Cortney Couch said. In essence, students were part of voicing concerns but not part of voicing solutions.

While the students may not have all of the solutions, they can offer ideas to alleviate their concerns. The surveys that are sent to students, parents and staff are meant to improve our school based on the consensus of all parties involved.

“Truly, if you’re doing the right things, you look at the feedback that is given from the students, you look at the feedback that is given by the staff and from the stakeholders in the community, and you try to balance those things out and see what you can do to improve your school,” Fuller said.

I have one final survey question before I close. My school highly values student opinion. Do I agree or disagree with this statement? In this case, I will have to select that I feel my opinion is not applicable.