The School District of Philadelphia
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Media Contact: Lee Whack



Higher rate of Responses helps District to improve Schools across Philadelphia in areas of Attendance, Technology, Support Staff and more

PHILADELPHIA — In an effort to boost transparency and improve school communities, The School District of Philadelphia, in partnership with the Penn Graduate School of Education, completed and released the results of the 2015-2016 District-wide survey on Friday. The District received approximately 105,000 survey responses the 2015-2016 school year, up from about 65,000 surveys in the 2014-2015 year. Approximately 300 schools participated during both school years.

School District of Philadelphia-Penn Graduate School of Education Shared Solutions (SDP-Penn GSE Shared Solutions) is the first-ever formal research partnership between SDP and Penn GSE. It was established in 2014 to get feedback from students, parents, teachers and principals about District reform initiatives, including school turnaround and new school efforts.

“As we work toward having a more equitable system of schools, the 2015-2016 survey results are extremely valuable,” said Dr. William R. Hite, Superintendent of The School District of Philadelphia. “Through our partnership with Penn GSE, this research and the data it has produced, are part of our overall effort to foster a feedback culture across the District. We are reviewing the responses carefully and will incorporate this understanding into some of our efforts to improve each school community based on its specific strengths and challenges.”

“We are happy to have deepened our relationship with The School District of Philadelphia, and the process of developing the survey was a true collaboration,” said Laura Desimone, Professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education. “We worked together on every aspect of the survey – from conceptualization, to design, working with Philadelphia teachers and principals for feedback, making revisions, and developing a website to provide results that were useful, transparent, and accessible.”

Surveys were made available to students in grades 3 to 12 attending District public and charter schools, their parents and guardians, teachers, and principals. The surveys are available each year from April through June. In order to keep responses private and for efficient collection, the surveys were primarily administered through SurveyMonkey, though paper copies were provided for those who needed or preferred that format.

Among principals, students and parents there were considerable increases in the response rate.  More than half of students in grades 3 to 12 participated in the 2015-2016 school year, which is a major milestone; increasing that percentage will be a big focus in the coming years. Teachers responded at a similar rate over the last two years.

The School District has made improvements to its schools based, in part, on the 2014-2015 survey results and those improvements were reflected in the 2015-2016 survey results. For instance, 39% of principals reported that student absenteeism was a "great challenge" in 2014-2015. The District took action to improve attendance, and over the 2015-2016 year, attendance improved by 3%. At the same time, there was a 7% drop in principals reporting student absenteeism as a great challenge to student learning.

The District also invested in new technology in its schools, in part because of survey results. In the 2014-2015 year, 24% of principals reported that lack of computers or other technological resources was a great challenge to student learning. That dropped by 10% in the 2015-2016 school year.

In addition, survey responses confirmed the challenges created by a shortage of support staff in schools, such as counselors and nurses. In 2014-2015, 50% of teachers reported this shortage was a great challenge to student learning, in 2015-2016 it dropped to 43%. For the 2016-2017, the District has taken action to address this — now there is a nurse and counselor in every school building.The surveys were designed to capture feedback from the school community on five key topics related to school improvement — climate, instruction, leadership, professional capacity, and parent/guardian-community ties. To learn more about each topic, click here.

The District will continue putting the survey results to good use in improving school communities. The results are open for all the public to see, can be sorted by school and several other variables on the user-friendly SDP-Penn GSE Shared Solutions Website.


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