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Parental survey on schools raises concerns

Education officials brace for accessibility questions, possible computer errors

POSTED: October 30, 2013 12:37 a.m.

Parents, you have some homework to complete before Jan. 31.

The first Georgia Parent Survey went online Tuesday, intending to determine how parents feel about their children’s schools.

Data from the results will be used to calculate the School Climate Star Rating, which will be a part of the College & Career Ready Performance Index.

There are 20 questions, with declarationssuch as “my child’s school has high standards for achievement” and “my child’s school building is well maintained.” Parents can then choose whether they strongly disagree, somewhat disagree, somewhat agree or strongly agree.

The survey is linked through the Georgia Department of Education website. Parents will go to the link, select their school system and individual school via drop-down menus, and then go through the survey.

There is no paper option — a parent must be online to participate.

“We have limited funds and online is the easiest and most economic way to do this,” said Jeff Hodges, program specialist with the Georgia Department of Education’s Safe and Drug Free Schools program. He said the state is encouraging schools to provide access to in-school computers or educate parents about what community resources provide Internet access.

Representatives from both Hall and Gainesville school systems said they are using multiple channels to make parents aware of the survey, from newsletters to phone calls.

“Since this is the first year, we’d like to set the precedent that it’s important and we value the opinion of the parents, and this is one way to get (their opinions),” said Gainesville Superintendent Merrianne Dyer.

Additionally, Spanish-speaking parents will have to wait just a little bit longer to access the survey. A Spanish version should be available within the next couple of weeks, but Hodges said there is no specific date as to when that would be available.

For people with Internet access, the survey is easily accessible. Results are anonymous, and while it’s intended for parents with students in Georgia schools, anyone can fill it out. It can also be filled out multiple times from the same computer.

To combat that, Hodges said the state will monitor Internet Protocol addresses.

“Schools have also had concerns about this as well because of an irate parent they think is going to go in and take the survey 15, 20 times,” Hodges said. “We do monitor IP addresses to observe how many surveys are being submitted and the time frame they’re being submitted, and so we can see if a survey’s coming in five or 10 times with the same IP address five, 10 minutes within each other. We know to flag those. Those can be invalidated before the data is analyzed.”

There’s also the possibility of human error. Kevin Bales, middle grades school improvement specialist for Hall County, said a parent told him she had clicked on the wrong school by accident.

“I think if people are going to take the time to do the survey, you would sure like to think they’re going to provide accurate feedback,” he added.

Even with the state monitoring IP addresses, the lack of complete control has led to there being no mandatory participation rate for the Georgia Parent Survey. The comparable Georgia School Personnel Survey and the Georgia Student Health Survey II each require a 75 percent participation rate; they also will be calculated into the School Climate Star Rating. The state will compare parent survey results with how students and school personnel answered their respective surveys.

“Schools can’t control how many parents participate,” Hodges explained. “They can control the students and they can control how many personnel participate, but it’s unfair ... to expect 75 percent of parents to participate.
“We have to do the best we can on that one,” he added.


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