Summary of Results from the 2014/15 Parent and Teacher Survey
By Farnaz Golshani Flechner, MBEF Executive Director
This past summer MBEF surveyed our stakeholders in hopes of getting a clear understanding of what we are doing well, and what we can do better. We wanted to learn what programs and initiatives our community wants us to fund in the years to come. Though response rates were not as high as we would have liked- 65% of teachers and 34% of parents- the survey trends are statistically significant and can be used to make some solid, data-backed decisions on our grantmaking this year.
In an effort to assess the value of our existing grants and programs, we asked both parents and teachers to select up to three currently funded programs that are “most important” to them. Reasonable Class Sizes (K-3 and English 6-12) earned the top ranking for both groups. Other priorities were Writing and Literacy programs, Science Labs, P.E., Counselors and Secondary Math. Libraries and music programs were not ranked in the top three for either group. Does this mean that our community is confident in the stability of these grants, or does this mean that these programs no longer align with our community needs? We hope to answer this and other questions through future surveys and focus groups.
As we look forward and begin to evaluate what our community would like to see MBEF prioritize, we asked parents and teachers to rank their priorities for our schools. Click here for the descriptions of each option. Consistent across all grade levels, our parent’s ranked (1) Strengthening Academic Programming, (2) Personalizing Education and, (3) Character Development as their top three priorities.
Teachers prioritized (1) Character Development, (2) Teaching Social Responsibility and (3) Focus on Teacher Development. Elementary Teachers also prioritized Creativity and Arts programs. The alignment of parents and teachers on Character Development provides our District with a great opportunity. Many national research studies indicate that the development of character is as important as teaching rigorous academic skills, and that there is a positive correlation between character development and lifelong success.
This Spring, MBUSD will receive funding from the Beach Cities Health District to train all of our K-5 teachers on the provision of MindUp, a research-based curriculum and training program based on neuroscience, positive psychology, and social and emotional literacy. MindUp helps students focus their attention, improve their self-regulation skills, build resilience to stress, and develop a positive mind-set in both school and life. This curriculum has also been proven to reduce drug and alcohol usage in teens, which is an area of concern in our community. Stay tuned as MBEF and PTAs will be hosting information sessions on MindUp in the coming months.
When asked, “What additional areas of funding would you like to see MBEF prioritize?”, 78% of parents and 75% of teachers agreed that STEM/ STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math- and A for Arts integration) is their number one priority. Parents did not have a consistent second priority- Foreign Languages, Character Development, Professional Development and Social Responsibility were all prioritized equally. This consensus provides the District and MBEF with clear guidance as to what our community wants in the coming year.
Also prioritized by both parents and teachers was the development of Innovation Grants directly to classroom teachers to pilot new programs. We all consistently speak about the importance of developing teachers as leaders and innovators, so this will be an opportunity for us to put our money where our mouth is. Prior to implementation, the MBEF Board must give much thought to ensuring these grants are distributed in a consistent and equitable manner across all schools and grade levels.
The good news is that a significant majority of parents (86%) and teachers (94%) believe that MBEF funding is extremely important to maintaining the quality of our public schools, and more than 90% are satisfied with MBEF funded programs and grants. There is always room for improvement, and we are hopeful that in the coming years through consistent surveys and focus groups we will continue to be responsive to our community’s needs. We are grateful to be an important part of an engaged, generous, and educated community. There is no question that the priorities set forth by our parent and teacher community are aligned with all that is best in the education reform movement. We look forward to working with you all to ensure that our schools and our students continue to thrive in the years to come!