Survey shows confidence in SDoL remains high among parents, students

Nine in 10 parents say they have confidence in the School District of Lancaster, according to the results of the district’s biennial survey.

More than 1,600 parents and 6,200 students responded to separate surveys, conducted in the spring by the Center for Opinion Research at Franklin and Marshall College, measuring community perceptions of things like educational quality, academic rigor, school safety, and postsecondary aspirations. The center presented an overview of the results to the SDoL school board on Nov. 6.

Some two-thirds of parents grade the overall quality of education in the district an “A” or “B,” and nearly half say the quality of education has improved over the past two years. The district receives some of its highest marks from parents in the areas of school safety, where 91 percent of parents “agree” or “strongly agree” (69%), and school climate.

“The majority [of parents] feel welcomed to participate in decision-making that affects their child’s school,” according to Berwood Yost, the center’s director. “Most parents say within the last two months, a teacher or someone at their child’s school informed them of how their child is doing in school.”

Along the same lines, three out of four parents say the district’s communication with families is excellent or good, up from 2017.

Among students, 85 percent of elementary students, 82 percent of middle school students and 78 percent of high school students agree that they feel safe at school. (The survey only tracks data by grade level spans, not aggregate.) Large majorities also say they like their teachers and believe their teachers care about them and believe they will be successful.

On the flip side, a growing number of students say their teacher gives them work that is “too easy.”

“There are a lot of positives in the survey data from students and families, particularly in their relationships with teachers,” said superintendent Dr. Damaris Rau. “I also think students and families recognize that our teachers are working to increase the rigor in our classrooms, but that we still have more to do in that area.”

Rau said the district is concerned about the low percentage of students who say they know how to manage stress in healthy ways (less than 70% in middle and high school). School counselors are looking at ways to supports students in that area, she said. This was the first year the survey included a comprehensive look at social-emotional learning in the district.

The district uses results of these surveys, including a biennial staff survey, to inform its instructional practices, curriculum development, building-level initiatives and strategic planning.