Parents, grandparents, local business owners, community members, students and school staff were asked in a recent survey to weigh in on the direction Big Horn County School District No. 2 is taking to educate students. One hundred forty respondents in all participated in the survey. Thirty-three were students.
District Superintendent Rick Woodford summarized the results of the survey for the district’s board of trustees at its most recent meeting on Nov. 13 in Lovell. Woodford also shared his 20-page summary of the findings of the survey with the Lovell Chronicle.
“I think we have some quality information from this and it is representative of all of the stakeholders involved,” said Woodford.
“Our students will have the knowledge and skills to become ethical, responsible, productive citizens and life-long learners who have the foundation to compete in a global economy.”
For the most part, respondents agreed with the overall mission statement of the district, and thought it especially important for students to become “lifelong learners.”
“We asked people how they felt about different components of our vision and mission statements,” said Woodford. “If you look (at the survey) at that little segment about becoming lifelong learners, you can clearly see this generated the most response. What this means is that becoming lifelong learners is something that sparked interest. It’s something that resonated with our stakeholder groups. They said ‘yes, that is something important.’”
“Our vision is to foster a learning environment that will inspire all students to utilize (his or her) given abilities to their highest potential.”
The stakeholders liked the idea that students are encouraged to perform at their highest potential.
“When you look at this statement about students performing to their highest potential, that was also a statement that resonated with the stakeholders,” said Woodford. “That gives us an idea of what our current stakeholders felt about our current mission and vision.”
When asked about specifics, more than 87 percent thought it was very important for the school to provide a “safe and orderly” learning environment for students.
“One thing you see as you go through the survey results is that the stakeholders want to see a safe and orderly environment,” said Woodford. “That theme is represented as one of the most important for our stakeholders. We presented this in a lot of different ways in the survey and it was consistently one of the top most important things to our stakeholders.”
More than 47 percent thought it very important that students meet or exceed expectations of both state and federal learning requirements. Nearly 66 percent thought it is the responsibility for the district to improve achievement for each student. More than 80 percent thought it very important that teachers provide a learning environment where students can learn at high levels. Around 64 percent felt the district should provide a rigorous and viable curriculum. Roughly half the respondents thought the district should provide learning opportunities beyond the core curriculum, like gifted and talented programs, enrichment opportunities, remediation, after-school and extracurricular programs.
About half thought the goal of each student improving his or her achievement in reading math science and writing (as measured through state testing) was important. Fifty-eight percent thought a goal of 100 percent graduation rate was very important. Close to 60 percent thought it very important for the superintendent to provide resources needed to meet these rigorous expectations. More than 46 percent thought parent participation was very important and should be encouraged.
Around three quarters of the respondents believed that all students could learn at high levels, that teachers and other staff can and should inspire students and that teachers were committed to the collective goals of the district. More than 70 percent thought learning was the main purpose of school, that it is important to strive for excellence and that decisions should be made in the best interests of the students.
“Interestingly enough, wanting school to be ‘fun and enjoyable’ was not ranked very high,” said Woodford. “It doesn’t necessarily mean the stakeholders don’t think that is important, but it does mean they didn’t think it was as important as some of the other items.”
A safe environment didn’t necessarily mean a stress free environment to the respondents.
“We worry so much about stressing students out, but the stakeholders didn’t seem to worry about that as much,” Woodford explained. “It was almost as if they thought they should experience a little of that like the rest of us do.”
Standardized test scores were ranked as one of the lowest priorities.
“This (test scores) was also ranked low in the values section,” said Woodford. “So, maybe the community doesn’t value that as much as we thought. It doesn’t mean it’s not important, but the response does give us food for thought.”
Woodford noted that, later in the survey, when the respondents were asked to “rank” certain value statements in order of importance, again the concept of a “safe and orderly environment” was consistently ranked highest among the respondents. The respondents also thought it important for the curriculum to focus on “the whole child.”
“The value statement that all students can learn at high levels got the highest score,” noted Woodford. “This is obviously something they thought was very important.”
Though most of the survey asked respondents to answer specific questions, respondents were also allowed to submit written comments in a less structured format, as well.
Woodford said he thought the written statements “contained a lot of good thoughts and suggestions” and he encouraged the board to study the statements carefully in preparation for a special work session where the board would consider all of the information in the survey and adjust the district’s purpose and direction and vision statements where needed.
“Probably the first thing we’ll do in that meeting is look at our current statements and decide what is good and what we want to retain,” said Woodford, noting that the administrative team will not bring a recommended draft to that meeting.
“It will be strictly up to the board at that point,” he said.
The board of trustees met on Wednesday evening for a special work session to discuss the survey.
By Patti Carpenter