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More Than 119,000 Stakeholders Participate in SurveyWorks

Educators, Students, and Families Provide Valuable Feedback on Rhode Island Schools

PROVIDENCE, R.I. – The Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE) hosted a roundtable conversation today to release the results of the 2018 SurveyWorks, Rhode Island’s school culture and climate survey. More than 119,500 educators, students, and families participated in the survey, giving valuable feedback on their experiences in schools across the state.

SurveyWorks results help inform RIDE policy, and the agency continues to emphasize the importance of school culture and its impact on educator satisfaction, family engagement, and ultimately, student achievement.

“In education, the student needs to be the center of everything we do, and that’s only possible when you listen to and elevate student voices. SurveyWorks allows us to better understand the student experience, as well as what is working and what can be improved from the perspectives of our key partners: the educators doing the work on the ground, and the families supporting our students at home,” said Ken Wagner, Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education. “We know that school culture has a considerable impact on student achievement, so we need to put this data into action to maximize supports for educators, and better serve students, families, and communities.”

SurveyWorks participation increased in every survey category, and included a new building administrator survey and the Special Education Family Survey, which was combined as part of SurveyWorks for the first time this year, providing schools with transparent data on family feedback in a single, accessible platform. Survey results at the state, district, and school levels are available on the RIDE website, broken down by survey group and topic.

RIDE partners with Panorama Education to administer the survey, which allows us to compare Rhode Island to survey respondents nationally, and to analyze year-over-year changes at the state, district, and school levels. The survey is administered primarily online, with a limited number of paper surveys available to schools.

At today’s event, Commissioner Wagner gave a high-level overview of the statewide results, followed by a roundtable discussion on several key data points, including:

  • Valuing of School: The majority of students in both surveys (80 percent for grades 3-5, and 64 percent for grades 6-12) said that they believe school will be either “quite” or “extremely” useful for their futures, underscoring a collective belief and understanding in the importance of education for postsecondary success.
    • Attendance: In contrast, however, only 38 percent of students in grades 6-12 think that missing at least two days of school each month would impact their chance of graduating high school. Two days per month accounts for 10 percent of the total school year, which is how we measure chronic absence. When asked the same question, 61 percent of teachers and 55 percent of families said it mattered "quite a bit" or a "tremendous amount."
  • Engagement: There is a 29 percentage point gap between the grades 3-5 (55 percent favorable) and grades 6-12 surveys (26 percent favorable) when it comes to how attentive and invested students are in their school. Panelists discussed why that is, and how RIDE, schools, and districts are working to better engage older students with personalized instruction, hands-on learning, and career pathways.
    • Climate and Culture: Similar gaps emerge between the grade levels in the school climate, school belonging, and teacher-student relationship categories of the surveys.
  • Safety: While this year’s survey results did not vary widely from last year’s statewide data, one noticeable swing came in the school safety category of the family survey. The majority of parents – 72 percent – responded favorably in that category. Despite the generally positive response, that represents a 9-percentage point decrease from last year.
  • School Facilities: When asked how often their schools need repairs, the majority of teachers – 79 percent – said it is a regular occurrence, with 51 percent saying repairs are needed either "frequently" or "almost all the time."
  • Professional Learning: On the teacher survey, 66 percent of teachers responded favorably when asked how helpful it is for educators to have the opportunity to collaborate and share ideas to improve practice, a telling figure when it comes to how quality professional learning can be designed with teachers at the center. In comparison, only 33 percent responded favorably when asked how valuable the professional development opportunities at their school are.

RIDE also added several new survey questions that are aligned to agency priorities, particularly around career education and the kinds of hands-on learning opportunities in which students are most interested.

Elizabeth Burke Bryant, Executive Director of Rhode Island KIDS COUNT, facilitated the conversation, which included each of the key stakeholder survey groups:

  • Judith Paolucci, Superintendent of Smithfield Public Schools
  • Steven Morrone, Principal, Dunn’s Corner Elementary School, Westerly
  • Abbie Groves, Special Education Teacher, Clayville Elementary School, Scituate
  • Michelle Davidson, Parent, Providence
  • Taliq Tillman, Student, The MET School
  • Christopher Bove, Student, Middletown High School

“The data that Survey Works provides is a very important complement to all of the other education data that the State and Rhode Island KIDS COUNT tracks because it provides information on critical issues like school climate that have an impact on education outcomes. It includes critical perspectives from students, parents, teachers and administrators that can help schools improve," said Burke Bryant.

To promote the survey and increase participation, RIDE asked every school in the state to assign a SurveyWorks site coordinator, tasked with engaging school communities on this initiative. RIDE provided coordinators with resources and support, including marketing graphics, social media toolkits, and sample outreach letters. Effective promotion strategies were highlighted weekly in the Commissioner’s Field Memo throughout the survey administration window. RIDE also mobilized its Student Advisory Council and Parent Outreach Design Team, providing them with promotional materials so they could act as SurveyWorks ambassadors in their respective communities.

Later this year, Rhode Island will release newly designed school and district Report Cards under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the federal education law. Report Cards will include school accountability data, such as assessment results, but will also include SurveyWorks, allowing families and communities to view performance and school culture data in a transparent and user-friendly platform.

“We’re elevating school climate and culture not only by making the data more accessible and transparent, but also by incorporating measures like chronic absence and suspension rate into our system of accountability. Test scores are significant measures of performance, but they’re not the only measure that deserves our attention,” said Wagner. “SurveyWorks is an important initiative, and we want all educators, students, and families to know that your voices are being heard and your feedback is critical to improving Rhode Island schools.”