During the course of the school year in Harford, public school officials administer student and parent surveys and also participate in a statewide survey of teachers and other classroom professionals.
The surveys provide important information for school administrators, says Teri Kranefeld, Harford County Public Schools Manager of Communications.
Administrators in Harford County's 54 schools use the data when shaping their school improvement plans each year, Kranefeld explained.
Fewer parents participated in the system's most recent survey, administered in January 2013, than participated the previous year and, generally, they had a slightly less favorable view of the children's schools and the school system's efforts.
And there was a wide gap in the parents' view of how fairly discipline is administered.
There were 14 questions on the survey, and Leann Schubert, coordinator of school improvement and intervention, presented selected survey results to the County Board of Education last spring.
Schubert said 93.2 percent of responding parents agreed that their child's school was clean, compared to 95 percent the previous year.
Eighty-six percent of respondents agreed that their child's school was safe, compared to 87.6 percent the prior year.
Regarding being kept informed of their child's academic progress, 85.7 percent agreed, compared to 87.6 percent in 2011-12.
More than 86 percent agreed that their children deal with high academic expectations, compared to 86 percent the previous year.
Schubert noted two "areas that indicated further reflection."
She said 80 percent of respondents agreed that their child's school kept them informed about the behavioral progress of their children, and 68 percent agreed that discipline was enforced fairly at their child's school.
Kranefeld said in February that parents participating in the 2013 survey were asked which school their child attended, a question that had not been included in previous year's surveys.
She said knowing the individual schools allowed school system officials to "easily disaggregate the data by school in order to share the information with each principal and their school improvement team."
Parents were not asked to provide their name, their child's name or his or her grade.
Kranefeld told school board members that 3,109 surveys had been completed, compared to 4,661 responses the previous year.
In the most recent Student Motivation Survey taken this past spring, students in kindergarten through 11th grade reported satisfaction with their academic environments, but many were dissatisfied with the temperatures inside their school buildings, and less than half of those surveyed stated they participated in clubs or extracurricular activities.
Harford County Public Schools officials plan to administer their annual surveys of parents and students around the same time in the 2014, in order to have more concurrent data sets.
In the past, the surveys were done months apart, so that in effect, the survey data for parents was not compared with the survey data for students in the same school year.
The most recent Student Motivation Survey was administered in the spring of 2013 for the 2012-2013 school year, and the results were presented during the Oct. 14 Board of Education meeting.
The most recent Parent Satisfaction Survey was administered in January of 2013 and the results were presented to members of the school board in late February.
For comparative purposes, however, the results of the of student survey from the prior spring, during the 2011-12 school year, were used by school administrators.
Kranefeld said school officials will be able to work with "the same time frame for both surveys" once the two are meshed, so that the data comparison for both will be from the most recent school year.