Parents and students overall are satisfied with Harford's schools, survey finds

Results from a Harford County Public Schools satisfaction survey show that students, as well as parents, are overall satisfied with their school's performance, according to information presented to the school board Monday evening.

More than 91 percent of parents surveyed are satisfied with HCPS' communication efforts. Students in grades six through 11, however, differed greatly when it came to cleanliness of schools and being informed on their academic progress.

Many students, in fact, gave low marks to the schools' cleanliness, a fact that clearly upset one board member.

In addition to going over the satisfaction survey Monday, the school board also decided to defer final action on the 2013 budget to have more time to consider the impact of state aid reductions. A final vote on the budget will be taken Jan. 30.

Students, parents respond to survey

All students through 11th grade were given satisfaction surveys to complete in April 2011 on their "perceptions about aspects of school climate, as well as academic interest and engagement," Teri Kranefeld, manager of communications for HCPS, explained during the board meeting.

Kranefeld, along with Leeann Schubert, school improvement coordinator, and Phil Snyder, assistant supervisor, presented the survey results, as well as those of a December parent satisfaction survey, to the board.

More than 90 percent of students responded to the survey, and 4,644 surveys were completely by parents. The school system has about 38,000 students.

The survey results from both groups were mostly positive and the goal of the surveys, Schubert said, explaining the purpose was to "assess perceptions" of the school system, not individual schools.

Kranefeld and Schubert noted they will give the results to principals, individual departments and their directors to apply to their individual schools.

For students in kindergarten through second grade, 93.8 percent felt that when their teacher spoke, they paid attention, nearly 94 percent felt they are treated fairly by their teachers and almost 95 percent agreed that when they try, they can learn.

In grades three through five, 93.7 percent agreed they learn a lot in school, 94.2 percent agreed with the statement, "In my classes we have to think and work hard," and 94.8 percent said they work hard in school.

Almost 90 percent of students grades six through 11 said they come to school regularly, while 87.7 percent said their teachers believe they can learn. Also, 82.1 percent of students said their teachers have high expectations of them.

The vast majority of parents, 91.3 percent, responded that they are satisfied with the school system's efforts to communicate, while 87.3 percent of parents said they were satisfied with their individual school's communication.

"From a communications standpoint, I'm very pleased with these results," Kranefeld said.

Where the two groups varied also showed on the survey results.

Parents overwhelmingly (95 percent) responded that they believe the schools are clean, while only 60.1 percent of students in grades six through 11 agreed. Elementary school students fell closer to parent results - 84.6 percent in kindergarten through second grade and 80.5 percent in third through fifth.

Board of education member Bob Frisch appeared to be disheartened by this result.

He said the expense the school system puts into keeping its facilities clean and the statistic from the survey were "out of sync."

Frisch then requested that the board look closer at each school and assess student perceptions in their specific buildings. He noted that a school's cleanliness has an effect on a student's performance.

Elementary school students, grades kindergarten through second, felt the safest in their school, with 91.2 percent responding that their school is a safe place. Almost 87 percent of students grades three through five said the same, with 72.5 percent of students grades six through 11 feeling confident that their school is safe.

Parents were somewhere in the middle, 87.6 percent agreeing they are confident their child's school is safe.

Sixth graders through 11th graders overwhelmingly responded that they are not kept informed about academic progress, with only 50.4 percent saying they are.

This is a huge decrease from students kindergarten through second grade (90.2 percent agreed) and 76.8 percent of third through fifth-graders agreeing they are informed.

Again, parents fell closer to younger students, with 87.6 percent responding that they are kept informed.

Elementary school students believe, more so than students in other grades, as well as parents, there are high academic expectations in Harford schools; 82.1 percent of students grades six through 11 fall in line with that statement, while 86 percent of parents agreed.

Budget delay

Board member James Thornton asked the board to postpone voting on the school's proposed budget to allow more time for the members to review it.

The board voted to delay the decision until Jan. 30 during a special session.

School board members were informed Monday by Assistant Superintendent of Business Services Jim Jewell that state revenue projections have been announced by the governor, and Harford County will see a total reduction in state aid of $3,955,486.

Board president Leonard Wheeler said that the board will need to take a "close examination" of the budget in light of this news.

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