Families weigh in on engagement level with schools

Published 9:55 am Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Most Austin families are pleased with their level of engagement with their students’ schools at Austin Public Schools District.

The district’s parent/guardian survey showed about 85 percent of families feel their engagement level with the schools is working well, Director of Human Resources Bradley Bergstrom told the Austin Public Schools Board during Monday’s meeting.

“I’m very encouraged with the amount of people who responded,” Bergstrom said. “I think we had a good cross-section of the community. I think No. 2, they gave us some very good feedback in terms of things we are doing well as well as areas we could show improvement in.”

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The survey, which was distributed mainly through Survey Monkey and was based off a survey from the Harvard Graduate School, asked families about the level of engagement they receive with their children’s schooling. About 700 families responded to the survey, which was sent out electronically, as well as through the district’s success coaches, who helped people complete the survey over the phone or on paper.

Though the response only represented about one-fourth of the district’s 3,100 families, Bergstrom was happy with the number of respondents.

“Hopefully, by sharing this information and letting people know what’s going on, that next year we’ll even get more people,” he said. “Because we want to know how we’re doing and I think we’ve got the tool that’s going to allow us to do that.”

The survey featured 37 questions, and Berstrom said through this experience administrators learned things that need to be changed as well as things families liked about the survey. One example was being able to fill out separate surveys for each child, which wasn’t an option this year. Bergstrom said the feedback will be a big help in creating the survey for next year. The last survey the district did was in 2013, and there was no survey for the 2013-2014 school year.

“Now the hope is we’ll do this each year in the spring,” Bergstrom said.

Bergstrom hopes to get more families to respond in future years, and administrators are working on ways to make that happen. For the first year of starting the survey back up, Bergstrom was pleased with the 25 percent of respondents. He noted a big part of the survey’s success was help from success coaches, who made phone calls and appointments to help families fill out the surveys.

“They did a lot of work to get that feedback,” Bergstrom said.

Bergstrom thanked the community and the people who responded.

—In other business, the board approved the district’s annual health and safety budget for the next year.