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Parents, students asked to help rate school climate
Safety, maintenance, student behavior surveyed
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Not to be confused with the efficiency rating on air conditioners, the School Climate Star rating is a grade of each Georgia public school’s safety and physical and social conditions that students, parents and school employees help determine.

The 2015-16 parent survey is now available, and the Bulloch County Schools are asking parents to complete it online before a Feb. 26 deadline. They can find the Georgia Parent Survey at www.bulloch.k12.ga.us in English or Spanish. Meanwhile, the schools will administer separate surveys to students and employees.

“We use those results to look at what type of drug and alcohol prevention programs might be needed at certain schools, what kind of climate improvements need to be put in place,” said Hayley Greene, public  relations and marketing specialist for the Bulloch County Schools. “So it’s very valuable information for us to look at how students perceive the safety of our schools.”

The Climate Star rating, derived from all three surveys, also becomes part of the College and Career Ready Performance Index, or CCRPI, Georgia’s overall measure of school performance, Greene said.

Measures such as test scores and graduation rates, and demonstrated growth in these, make up the majority of the total CCRPI number. But the Georgia Department of Education, in a statement on www.gadoe.org, states that “in response to the compelling body of research that underscores the importance of school climate, Georgia is the first state in the nation to include school climate as an early indicator in its academic accountability system,” the CCRPI.

Participation in the surveys is voluntary for students, parents and school employees. However, for a school to receive a Climate Star rating, at least 75 percent of its employees and 75 percent of its students must participate in their respective surveys.

 

Parent surveys

There is no similar required percentage of parent participation. But a Department of Education message to the school districts stated that any school that had no parent participation on the Georgia Parent Survey would also receive a zero score.

All responses are anonymous and go directly to the Georgia Department of Education, Greene noted in the local school system’s press release.

The Georgia Parent Survey contains 24 questions. By selecting the appropriate school from the survey’s menu, parents can complete one survey for each of the schools their children attend.

The survey asks parents to rate on a scale, from “strongly agree” to “strongly disagree,” statements about teaching and learning, school safety, interpersonal relationships, institutional environment and parent involvement.

“Teachers at my student’s school have high standards for achievement,” is the first of the teaching-and-learning statements. “School rules are consistently enforced at my student’s school” is one of the school safety statements. Another is simply “My student feels safe at school.”

 

Student surveys

Collectively, the surveys of students, to be administered at school, are called the Georgia Student Health Survey II. These have three different versions, for grades 3-5, 6-8 and 9-12.

“These are brief, 15-minute surveys, but students should take the questions seriously,” states the Bulloch County Schools release. “The results are used to guide Bulloch County Schools’ climate and counseling initiatives, health curriculum, drug prevention education goals and more.”

As with the parent surveys, many of the student survey questions are actually statements that students are asked to respond to with levels of agreement or disagreement. The statements eliciting feedback begin with simply “I like school.”

But questions on the middle and high school versions become much more topical, asking whether students have ever used, and when, tobacco, alcohol, and various other drugs, such as marijuana, steroids and ecstasy.

In the examples available through www.gadoe.org and www.bulloch.k12.ga.us, the elementary school version does not include questions about drug or alcohol use. However, it does include questions about whether students are being bullied.

The high school surveys contain questions about bullying too, and also questions about driving behaviors, nutrition, whether students have brought weapons to school, unsupervised Internet time and whether students have had thoughts of suicide.

Parents who do not want their children to participate in the survey can contact the school and complete an opt-out form, also available on the school system website.

 

‘Passive permission’

Schools are expected to notify parents before they administer the survey to students. The Georgia Department of Education website includes a “passive permission letter” for parents. It is worded so that not returning the form constitutes permission for students to participate.

An example of the Georgia School Personnel Survey is also available through the Department of Education website. Bulloch County’s 2014-2015 Georgia Student Survey results are available at www.bulloch.k12.ga.us/gaclimatesurveys.

The parent and employee surveys also contain questions about school maintenance and cleanliness. Past results led to the creation of the Clean School Awards program in the Bulloch County Schools, Greene said.

School climate, including data from the parent, student and employee surveys, is one of four components used in the School Climate Star rating. Each counts equally. The others are average daily attendance for students, teachers, administrators and staff; student discipline; and a safe and substance-free learning environment.

In the 2014 Climate STAR ratings, released in March 2015, five of the Bulloch County Schools’ 15 campuses achieved an “above-average” rating of four stars out of a possible five. None of the local schools received a five-star, or “excellent” rating, and none a one-star, or “unsatisfactory,” rating. But William James Middle School received a two-star, or “below satisfactory,” rating, and the remaining nine schools were rated three stars, or “average.”

Al Hackle may be reached at (912) 489-9458.

 

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