May 19, 2017-- As part of the Board of Trustee’s belief in continuous improvement, the school has been soliciting feedback from students and parents through annual satisfaction surveys since 2010. This year, more students and parents participated in the survey than ever before. The summary can be found here.
The purpose of the surveys is to provide students and parents a voice so school leaders can learn what is working and what is not working. The board uses the surveys to identify strategic issues and track progress over time. The administration uses the survey data to determine where to focus time and resources in order to improve the school.
Here are my observations of the data, which I shared with the Board.
Parents are pleased with many aspects of the school. Ninety-four percent of the parents agreed that their child’s overall school experience has been positive. Ninety-five percent agreed that ISD provides a safe and secure environment for their children to learn. A significant percentage of parents feel the buildings and grounds are clean and well-maintained and think ISD is a friendly environment for students, parents, and families.
Both teachers and students were asked to identify their three favorite things about ISD. Teachers are students and parents favorite thing about ISD. While the percent of parents who agree that ISD employs highly competent teachers has remained relatively stable over the past four years, ranging from 83% to 88% agreement, the percent of parents who list teacher quality as a top five concern has decreased over the past two years from 26% to 13%.
Overall, ISD parents are satisfied with the direction of the school’s academic programs. Ninety-percent of parents agree ISD parents provides the right amount of emphasis on the core academic skills and 85%, an increase of 5% from last year, say the proper emphasis is placed on grades. A small percentage of parents indicated that ISD needed to improve core class instruction.
The student surveys show they are working hard and being challenged by their teachers. Ninety-two percent of the students report they are consistently trying to do their best work at school and 90% agree their teachers challenge them to do their best. Ninety-four percent of the students have made friends at ISD.
Overall, parents are pleased with communication, however there are still some concerns. Eighty-nine percent of parents agree they are well informed regarding ISD’s activities and procedures and 90% of parents say the communications are easy to understand. When parents were asked what they least liked about ISD one of the top five responses was lack of communication.
Student discipline is still an issue, but there are positive signs. Students rank disrespect and harassment as one of the top five things they would like to change about ISD. Less than half of the students agree that students respect other students. There is evidence of progress. High school parents who identified discipline as a top five concern decreased from 36% last year to 18% this year. School-wide the percent of parents decreased from 18% to 11%. While students did list student behavior as one of the things they would like to change, the percentage of students citing the issue declined from 8% to 4%. Finally, the percent of middle school students who agreed students respect students increased from 43 to 60 percent.
The ISD teachers, administration, and Board have been working to improve student behavior. As the survey indicates, we have made progress. The new policies the Board approved last spring have allowed us to put students with the most serious offences on behavior probation. These students, knowing the next step could be expulsion from ISD, have shown improvement. Lorne Bird, our new Secondary Principal is bringing in a fresh perspective and is committed to making sure students are held accountable for their actions.
Long standing issues with food service quality, French instruction, after-school activities, traffic congestion remained top concerns of parents. The administration and teachers have been working on these issues throughout the year and will continue to do so next year. Below is a summary of what was done in each area and what we will be doing next to improve the situation.
Food Service Quality As previously noted in the JAG Journal, we solicited bids from food service providers. A committee of students, parents, and teachers reviewed the bids, sampled food from the vendors and voted unanimously to offer a contract to our current vendor on the condition that there is an increase in healthy food options. Next year, there will be a student, parent, teacher advisory committee who will meet weekly to review menu options and provide feedback to the vendor. Parents will still be welcome to organize food delivery from other vendors if they prefer.
French Instruction Last spring and this fall, the French teachers met with parents to share information about the program and gather feedback. They implemented a number of the parent suggestions. Given the continuing concern with the program, I will be inviting all parents to complete a survey, in either French or English to gather specific feedback on the areas they would like us to focus on improving. In the annual survey, the typical response is “improve the French program”, but does not provide specific concerns. This additional survey will hopefully provide that information.
After-School Activities Every year, the Activities Coordinator looks for individuals from the wider Dakar community to run activities for the students. The quality and availability of people to supplement our staff can vary. This year, to improve student management and language issues, we paid some of our teaching assistants to work alongside the outside vendors. We have also been fortunate to have parents sponsor some activities. Next year, we will be looking at the length of time the activities run to see if we they can continue for more weeks per session.
Traffic Congestion Last year, there was significant traffic at EAB on the Corniche, which added time to the drive from Almadies. With the help of the U.S. Embassy, we put pressure on EAB to hire a Gendarme to help control traffic. While it has not solved the problem entirely, parents report the drive is faster this year.
For a couple years, the school has been talking with the Senegalese government about using some of the land in between the school and Ouakam Road so we could have a second entrance and more parking. This week, there was a meeting on campus between high-ranking Senegalese government and security officials, representatives from the university worker union, who live in the apartment buildings next to school, representatives from the Senegalese road authority, and ISD administration. We toured the site and discussed possible options. We do not have an immediate solution, but the conversations will continue.
The school’s administration and teachers take the parent and student feedback seriously and use the information to improve our school.
ISD is a true community. It is one of our strengths. By being open with each other and constructive in our feedback, we can develop plans to improve our program and better meet the needs of our students.
Click HERE to access the survey summary.