HARVARD -- Bromfield Middle/High School has had its temperature taken several different ways. One was a parent survey. Another was an in-house staff survey. And a third was the licensed staff's participation in a statewide survey. The numbers were presented to the Harvard School Committeelate last month.
Parent climate survey
Of approximately 500 Bromfield Middle/High School parents, 121 responded to the school's 2012 online "climate" survey this past spring. The questions closely mirror ones posed to parents in 2010.
Principal James O'Shea said the resulting data was like "a rollercoaster" ride. Of the results, O'Shea said, "We take them to heart."
There were some dips on the ride this year.
O'Shea said, "last year, it was a long, hard year" between school-wide preparation for the once-a-decade NEASC school re-certification process. There were also incidents of vandalism that "we don't want to talk about anymore."
As a result, "people were not in a good place" in May and June when the survey was conducted. "There was a lot of angst in the building," said O'Shea.
School spirit has been refreshed this year, said O'Shea. "We're in a good place."
There was slippage detected in several of 30 indicators. And that's raised concern, as O'Shea said the "parents' experiences reflect child experiences."
Seventy-three percent of parents agree that Bromfield's atmosphere promotes learning (that's down from 83 percent agreement in 2010).
Seventy-seven percent agreed that students take pride in their school. That's down from 89 percent.
Fifty-eight percent of parents agreed "students respect individual differences" -- that's down from 63 percent agreement in 2010. "This is an area we need to work on," said O'Shea.
Seventy-one percent of parents agreed "students treat teachers with respect" (down from 80 percent in 2010). Conversely, 68 percent of parents agreed "teachers treat students with respect" (down from 78 percent in 2010).
Sixty-seven percent of parents agree the "administration takes an active interest in the well-being of students" -- that's down from 84 percent in 2010.
Thirty-five percent of parents agree Bromfield teachers "care equally about honors and non-honors students" -- that's down from 46 percent in 2010.
Fifty-nine percent of parents agreed students are "comfortable approaching teachers for advice or help," down from 64 percent in 2010.
Thirty-six percent of parents report their child feels they "fit in" at Bromfield. That's down from 56 percent in 2010.
Forty percent of parents report bullying is "somewhat" of a problem, with seven percent say bullying is "significant." Twenty-eight percent of parents say bulling is "not really" a problem, while 24 percent of parents say they "don't know" if bullying is a problem at Bromfield.
Twenty-three percent of Bromfield parents agreed, "My child has been subjected to bullying." Another 3 percent specifically answered "My child has been subjected to cyber bullying."
Fifty-four percent of the parents responded that their child had not been bullied, while 21 percent of parents answered they didn't know if their child had been subjected to bullying.
Only 39 percent of parents agree that students of "all cultural backgrounds" feel comfortable at Bromfield (down from 44 percent in 2010). And 35 percent of parents agree that students of "all sexual orientations" feel comfortable at Bromfield (down from 41 percent agreement in 2010).
O'Shea said the results have prompted questions about how connected the staff is with students "as individuals and real people. ... Can we be more connected with them and have close relationships with them?"
O'Shea said he and assistant principal Scot Hoffman are "trying to become more visible" throughout the school. And the staff is working diligently to recognize student accomplishments.
Achievement remains a consensus point. Ninety-two percent of parents agree "the faculty has high expectations for student achievement." Eighty-one percent of parents agree that, regardless of their child's grades, "I feel that in most classes they have learned a lot" (that's up from 78 percent agreement on the same statement in 2010).
Ninety-two percent of parents agreed "the community is proud of our school."
Only a minority of parents, 25 percent, believed drugs pose problems in school, while 22 percent agree alcohol is a problem in school. The parent's read on the climate for substance abuse does not mesh with staff sentiment on the subject (that teacher sentiment is discussed below).
Forty-five percent of parents agreed there is an after-school drug (45 percent agree) and alcohol (48 percent agree) concern for Bromfield students. "That is a percentage that we cannot ignore," said O'Shea.
Only 12 percent of parents believe cheating is a problem in Bromfield. That figure also does not mesh with teacher sentiment captured in another survey.
Health curriculums are launching at both the middle and high school, which will help with some issues, said O'Shea. Parental dissatisfaction with five-minute teacher conferences was heard loud and clear. Feedback suggested the format "didn't help, and it was useless," said O'Shea.
Security and safety concerns at the school were "a big topic. Over the summer, a new security system was installed, including motion detectors, and the police have performed crisis response drills with the students.
School Committee member Keith Cheveralls said the parent survey was "fabulous" in terms of data collection, but he issued a "challenge" to the school council to boost parental involvement in the survey.
"What can we do to get the participation rate up?" said Cheveralls. "I guess 20 percent is statistically valid but I'd say barely."
O'Shea said the hope is to disseminate the survey in January to avoid the end-of-year crush of activity, which could be to blame for low response rates. Interim School Superintendent Joseph Connelly agreed. "In late winter or early spring, people are still focused."
School Committee Chairwoman SusanMary Redinger said "areas that jumped out at me" were regarding appreciation of diversity.
Cheveralls said "the soft stuff is the hardest stuff. The word 'respect' is huge." Cheveralls urged "whatever you can do to show your leadership on respect."
Staff climate survey
Only 13 staff members responded to the in-house Bromfield staff climate survey. Along the way, some respondents opted out of answering questions.
Most agreed (seven) or gave no opinion (three) when asked if students respect individual differences. Most agreed (eight) that the staff respects individual differences.
Most agreed (five) or gave no opinion (six) as to whether teachers treat students with respect. Most (eight) agreed that students treat peers with respect.
Most agreed (seven) that the administration and most agreed that the faculty (eight) takes an active interest in the well-being of students.
Seven of 11 respondents agreed that drugs and alcohol in school is a "serious problem." Three staffers disagreed.
Five staffers reported cheating as a "widespread" problem. Four offered no opinion, one disagreed it was a problem, while another one "strongly disagreed" there is a cheating problem at Bromfield.
Most (seven) staffers agree that students feel they "fit in" at Bromfield. Three offered no opinion on the point.
Nine of 11 staffers agreed on two points: (1) students of all cultural backgrounds feel comfortable at Bromfield; and (2) students of all sexual orientations feel comfortable at Bromfield.
Seven staff members agreed that honors and non-honors students receive the same quality education at Bromfield, while three disagreed.
Most (nine) agreed the administration gives them the freedom to "do my job creatively" and "does not micromanage or impose undue mandates."
Most (seven) agree they feel "undue pressure by parents to compromise my evaluation of students."
Most (nine) agreed that "I sometimes feel the parents run this school." Most (eight) agreed "I sometimes feel like the students run this school."
Most had no opinion or disagreed on the effectiveness of the Bromfield School Council.
Every four years, the anonymous statewide Massachusetts Teaching, Empowering, Learning and Leading survey is conducted. Conducted mid-March through mid-April, the survey polled licensed, school-based educators on teaching conditions.
At the Bromfield School, 43 percent of the teachers participated. Adding in administrators, the schools response rate was 59 percent.
Staff agreed they had appropriate instructional materials (85 percent agree), technology (85 percent) and professional support (85 percent). While 78 percent felt they had sufficient time to instruct students, only 33 percent agreed they had enough time to collaborate with colleagues.
Most agreed there's effective communication between the school and parents, but only 78 percent agreed that parents knew what's going on in school, and only 68 percent agreed parents support teachers and contribute to student success.
Staffers agreed (78 percent) that students are aware of and follow rules of conduct. However, only 39 percent of school staff agreed that the school administration consistently enforces rules of conduct.
On teacher leadership, most agreed teachers are trusted to make sound professional decisions about instruction (89 percent), about educational issues (85 percent) and are encouraged to take on school leadership roles (85 percent).
However, 44 percent of respondents agreed the faculty has an effective group process for problem solving. The same percentage agreed that teachers have an appropriate level of influence on decision-making in school.
Forty-eight percent of respondents felt there is an atmosphere of trust and mutual respect at Bromfield, 53 percent agree there's a shared vision for the school, and 45 percent agree the school improvement team provides effective leadership.
Assistant Principal Scott Hoffman noted the TELLS survey was launched first, and the in-house climate survey response rate suffered as a result. Hoffman said of the mixed reviews, "That's how we improve. Jim and I have worked hard to identify what we have to change."