When the New York City Education Department released the results of its annual schools survey this summer, it highlighted that more than a million people had filled out the surveys and described a high level of parent satisfaction with the public schools.
While there were positive results to report, on several of the survey’s most important measurements, scores fell.
The survey asks parents, teachers and students to assess six areas of school culture, which the Education Department describes as “essential.” Those areas are: rigorous instruction, supportive environment, collaborative teachers, effective school leadership, strong family-community ties and trust. Those particular categories were first used during the 2014-15 school year.
Four of the six measures declined in the 2015-16 surveys. The percentage of respondents who said their school had a “supportive environment” fell the most — to 69 percent in high schools, a decline of 14 percentage points from last year. In middle schools, the share responding positively in that category was 75 percent, a decline of 10 percentage points; and in elementary schools, it was 80 percent, down 12 percentage points. “Collaborative teachers” and “rigorous instruction” each fell by at least four percentage points. The category of “trust” fell by two or three points, depending on whether elementary, middle or high schools were being judged.
The department said it had made changes to a majority of survey questions this year in an effort to extract more precise information. In particular, the department said the “supportive environment” category, which had the steepest drop, had the most revised questions.
“When questions are changed on a survey,” Devora Kaye, a spokeswoman for the department, said, “you simply can’t compare year to year.”
The annual surveys, introduced by the Bloomberg administration, are used to evaluate schools, and the results are posted on school websites as a guide for parents. At the elementary level, they are filled out by parents and teachers; in middle and high school, students complete them as well.
Over all, respondents said they were happy with the city’s schools. For example, 95 percent of parents said they were either satisfied or very satisfied with the education their child received during the 2015-16 school year, the same percentage as the year before. And 92 percent of parents said their child’s school kept them “on track for college, career and success in life after high school,” down from 93 percent last year. Scores on “effective school leadership” and “strong family-community ties” went up.
Ms. Kaye said some “more rigorous” questions were introduced in an effort to “provide better information to schools on how to improve.” In the previous year, she said, “we asked teachers whether they ‘give specific suggestions about how my students can improve their classwork,’ and 100 percent of teachers responded positively.”
She said that on the teacher portion of the survey, the department did away with 42 questions that tended to glean positive responses, with only an average of 6 percent of people responding negatively. In their place, the department added 10 questions to which an average of 15 percent of people responded negatively.