MACS survey reveals student opinions

By Jeff Linville - [email protected]

Mount Airy High School students overwhelmingly stated that they felt their teachers respected them and that doing well in school was important to them.

That’s some of the findings from a student perception survey given to teens over this past school year.

The students were given a survey in four classes in each semester, eight in the whole year, said Jesse Hiatt, director of accountability and student services. The high school had a total of 2,230 responses.

Back in 2012, the Department of Public Instruction piloted a student survey system, Hiatt explained to the city Board of Education this month. About a quarter of school systems across the state participated. While Mount Airy City Schools wasn’t one of those in the pilot testing, the district did look at how it could gather similar data.

Hiatt said he reached out to the Educator Effectiveness Division at DPI last year. The questions are broken down into six categories: class engagement, valuing, climate, rigorous expectations, teacher/student relations and pedagogical effectiveness. The survey created a couple of questioins for each category.

Hiatt reached out to the middle school, and administrators agreed to try the same questions on their students. That provided another 1,569 responses to gauge.

“The surveys were anonymous and should have only taken a couple of minutes to complete,” Hiatt told the school board. “The questions were multiple choice. … The last question was open-ended: Is there anything you wish this teacher would have done differently?”

On valuing, 87 percent (or about seven out of eight) high school students gave the answer Quite Important or Extremely Important to the question: How important is it to you that you do well in this class?

On teacher/student relations, 86 percent answered how respectful is the teacher toward you with Quite Respectful or Extremely Respectful.

On effectiveness, 79 percent said they learned Quite a Bit or a Tremendous Amount from this teacher on this subject.

On some other questions, it’s more important to see how many negative responses the students give.

How excited would you be to have this teacher again? Only 16 percent (one out of six) said Not at All or Slightly Excited.

How interesting did you find the things you learned in this class? Again the percentage was 16, or just one out of six teens.

How often do you get so focused on class activities that you lose track of time? For this, 21 percent said Almost Never or Once in a While.

Hiatt said that when a child is really engrossed in a topic, time really can fly by, even in school. If one in five students say this isn’t happening for them, then maybe there is room for improvement.

The numbers were more in the medium range for the middle school.

Teacher respect got 74 percent compared to the high school’s 86 percent.

How important is it to do well in class got 71 percent compared to 87 in high school.

How often do you get so engrossed in class that you lose track of time? That was 31 percent for never or only once in a while.

Excited to have the teacher again was 27 percent for none or slightly compared to 16 at the high school.

As for the open-ended question about what to improve, Hiatt said the answers were interesting. Sure, some kids either left it blank or didn’t take the question seriously, but others put some thought into their responses.

The surprising part was how many teens felt that their teachers didn’t push them hard enough. The kids wanted to learn more and felt like the class was holding them back.

“All teachers have access to their individual reports,” said Hiatt. “High school teachers have results from both semesters.”

High school administrators used the feedback from the surveys when discussing professional development plans with the teachers.

“The middle school is also discussing how they will use it in discussions with teachers,” he said.

Dr. Kim Morrison, school superintendent, told the school board that the state might one day make it mandatory to give out such surveys, and she was glad to see her staff ahead of the curve.

By Jeff Linville

[email protected]

Reach Jeff at 415-4692.

Reach Jeff at 415-4692.

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