What do 100k people say about Philly schools?

Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. said the feedback on topics ranging from school food and building conditions to how often students complete work and how respected children feel would make a difference.

They love their school. They have concerns about safety. They feel supported; they need more help.

The results of the Philadelphia School District's 2015-16 citywide survey are in - over 100,000 of them - students, teachers, parents, and principals sharing their thoughts about what works and what doesn't in the city's traditional public and charter schools.

Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. said the feedback on topics ranging from food and building conditions to how often students complete work and how respected the children feel would make a difference.

"As we work toward having a more equitable system of schools, the 2015-16 survey results are extremely valuable," Hite said in a statement. "We are reviewing the responses carefully and will incorporate this understanding into some of our efforts to improve each community based on its specific strengths and challenges."

Participation was up, with roughly 105,000 surveys completed, compared with 65,000 the prior year.

But the data are still snapshots, not a complete picture. Fifty percent of eligible students and teachers submitted surveys and 77 percent of principals, but just 13 percent of parents weighed in.

The data, presented in a searchable public website produced by the district and the University of Pennsylvania's Graduate School of Education, are expansive.

Most students - those in grades three through 12 were eligible to respond - said their teachers want them to succeed and have high expectations for them. But just 30 percent said their schools were clean most or all of the time, and only 37 percent said they enjoyed being in school most or all of the time.

Among teachers, most said they felt respected by their principals, but 76 percent said they felt "not at all respected" by the School Reform Commission - not surprising given the ongoing teacher contract stalemate and recent attempt by the SRC to cancel the pact - and 44 percent said they felt "not at all respected" by district or charter administrators. Most say that their students are motivated to learn and are interested in class.

Nearly 70 percent of principals said a lack of adequate funding was "a great challenge" to student learning. Almost half said the lack of support staff was a great challenge. Over 70 percent said they felt respected by their assistant superintendent and their teachers; just over half said they felt not at all or moderately respected by the SRC.

Responding parents largely said that they feel they are treated with respect and welcome in their child's school. More than half said they "strongly agree" that they are pleased with the quality of their child's education.

Some respondents also left feedback ranging from glowing to pleading.

"Our students and staff all agree and strive for excelling in learning for both teachers and students," a teacher at Penn Treaty in Fishtown wrote.

"My school is the best school in the world but it needs some changes in the cafeteria and some more paintings in the hallways and classrooms," a student at Cramp Elementary in North Philadelphia wrote.

"Teachers are always helpful when my child needs it," a parent at Baldi Middle School in the Northeast wrote.

"I really enjoy my school and feel valued," said a teacher at Memphis Street Academy at J.P. Jones, a charter school in Port Richmond. "Our students have made tremendous strides socially, emotionally and most importantly academically this school year."

"We need more resources to help students," one Bartram teacher wrote. "Please stop cutting programs. Many people are discouraged. Teachers need to feel respected."

"We need qualified staff in the building, and if they cannot be here, we need someone who can be. It is unfair to the entire staff, administration included, that we do not have a full staff, but we are expected to meet the expectations for testing and behavior," a teacher at Benjamin Franklin Elementary in Crescentville said.

"I would like to say that we need cleaner bathrooms and more dress-down days. Also more parties," a student at Emlen Elementary in East Mount Airy wrote.

Tonya Wolford, the district's chief of research and evaluation, said the school system had already effected change based on survey sentiments. It has, for instance, invested in technology after a number of principals said a lack of computers was a real barrier to student learning.

Students had plenty to say about school food. Many said they did not eat it because it did not look good.

("This school give us bad food," a student at Hartranft Elementary wrote.)

To help address concerns, the district held a food show shortly before Thanksgiving, allowing students from nine high schools to taste-test dishes that may end up on school menus.

Wayne Grasela, senior vice president of food services, watched as students sampled dishes including cheesy meat loaf, hummus, falafel, and ramen.

"What better way to decide what we serve than to have the students we serve try things out?" asked Grasela.

Cara Reilly, a senior at Franklin Learning Center, said students are fed too many hot dogs, too much pizza.

"I feel like we don't have enough condiments in school," said Reilly, 17.

But she liked the teriyaki chicken. And she liked, she said, that her voice was being heard.

Access the school survey at https://sdpsurveys.gse.upenn.edu

kgraham@phillynews.com

215-854-5146@newskag

www.philly.com/schoolfiles

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