Recently, I’ve been writing about ways to support, monitor and advocate for quality enrichment programs in our district. The discussion we’ve been having at my daughters’ site about various programs at our school has prompted us to do something we’ve never done before as a part of our BSC (Balanced Score Card) revision process: We are asking students what they think about the enrichment programs we provide!
So, Let’s Ask Them!
Just because my daughters were the first to make me aware of problems in their violin class, doesn’t mean that other kids feel there are problems with it. For example, I’ve heard some kids complain about gymnastics while other kids LOVE IT. As the chairperson for our school’s School Site Council (SSC) I want to advocate for quality programming in all areas of our school (not just English and Math) But as a representative of the school, I need to make sure that I am not only advocating with my experience or opinion in mind; I also need to tempered my perspective with the views of other stakeholders in our school community (e.g. other parents, kids and our teachers).
With this in mind, it only makes sense for our school to gather feedback from the Number One stakeholders of enrichment instruction– our STUDENTS!–to see what they like (and don’t like) about the extra-curricular programs we provide. What if they like theater better than dance? Or the art teacher doesn’t explain things well? Or, they’d like to do more gymnastics?
Some of the programs at our school are provided by the district VAPA (Visual and Performing Arts) department, such as chorus, instrumental music (4th and 5th graders) and art. Others, we pay for with consultants (at our school we pay for dance, physical education support and gymnastics.) If our kids don’t like the programs we provide, or would prefer other programs, we can’t advocate for changes or improvements, if we don’t have solid input to work from.
It’s kind of crazy that we didn’t think of this before, since arts and physical education is such a natural opportunity to engage students in school, especially those who may typically not be as engaged academically. (Like I was.) For kids that struggle with reading or math, enrichment programs like art and dance allow them to shine in front of their peers. For many children who struggle with academics, enrichment programs are the bright spots in their, helping them look forward to an otherwise challenging existence at school. And even for those students who are high academic performers, there is recent research that music education (and other forms of enrichment) are important ways to increase student learning. That said… this is really important!
Try Our Survey
So what did we do about this? You can’t just plop yourself down on the school yard with a pencil and notebook and ask a random kids questions. (Well, actually you CAN and I’m sure the ensuing conversation would be highly entertaining. That said, it wouldn’t do much for you when decision time came around.)
In order to gather student feedback in a more objective way, our school created student surveys for each program. We have at least six programs at our school (art, instrumental music, chorus, dance, gymnastics and PE), so we decided NOT to survey every kid about every program. (That would be crazy!) Instead, we decided to survey a sample of two classes per program. With an overall twelve classrooms at our school and six programs, this broke down to each class providing feedback for one program, for a total of two surveys per program. Students taking the survey answer several multiple-choice questions on their experience in the program, and then have a “focus group” type discussion with their teacher about what they like, don’t like and suggestions for improvement. (Click the link to the right, if you’d like to download a sample of the Student Visual Art Survey.)
We are also gathering informal questions/concerns/suggestions from interested parents and teachers using other online surveys and informal interviews. (If you’d like to gather input from for parent community on instrumental music, click here to learn more about my SFUSD Instrumental Music Survey.) Most of this will be done online using Survey Monkey (grades 2-5), with paper surveys available for kindergartener and first graders (Many of whom are still working on learning how to read.)
Results of our students surveys will be shared with our school community at our April School Site Council Meeting. (I’ll try to circle back here on my blog at that time to share some of our “lessons learned” in this process.)
If you’d like more information, I’d be happy to share tips and progress. I can also electronically transfer over my surveys to anyone who requests it (In order to do this you will need to pay for a Survey Monkey “pro plan” account.) Just make a comment below and I’ll connect with you directly via email. :)