Published Online: May 23, 2001
Published in Print: May 23, 2001, as Urban Education


Urban Education

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Polling Parents: Hoping to learn what's on the minds of New York City parents, Schools Chancellor Harold O. Levy sent surveys to the homes of 125,000 school children this month.

The two-page survey queries the parents on their satisfaction with their children's principals, how well they're treated when they visit schools, whether they attend parent-teacher meetings, and other topics.

Parents are asked to respond to 35 questions by filling in bubbles next to the appropriate responses. The questions are printed in English, Spanish, Cantonese, Russian, and Haitian-Creole.

"As the ultimate consumers of public education, the parents of our 1.1 million school children are in a position to evaluate how and what their children learn," Mr. Levy said in a statement. "I hope the parents will take this opportunity to tell me from their perspective what works and what doesn't work in our schools."

The survey is the most extensive citywide poll of parents ever undertaken by the nation's largest school system, said Margie Feinberg, a spokeswoman for the district.

Parents were asked to return the surveys in stamped, self-addressed envelopes by May 18.

A final report on the results is slated to be presented to the board of education in mid-July.

Most of the questions ask parents to answer on a five-point scale ranging from "agree" to "disagree."

For example, the board will find out if parents think their children's principals do "a good job" running their schools, and whether school, district, and board offices return phone calls "in a timely manner."

The survey also seeks "yes" or "no" answers about whether parents have met with their children's teachers, if they get report cards in the languages they speak, and whether they know about school activities.

In addition, the parents asked for their opinions on academic issues, such as what purpose homework should serve ("learn new material" and "keep children busy" are two possible answers), and the ideal length of time children should spend on homework daily. The possible answers range from none to more than two hours.

The city school board contracted for $605,000 with KPMG Consulting Inc. of McLean, Va., to develop, distribute, and analyze the surveys.

The results will be used to raise parent involvement, evaluate administrators, and improve communication.

"I'm hopeful the survey will go a long way to make the board more accountable to parents and to find effective ways to involve parents in education," Mr. Levy said.

—Robert C. Johnston

Vol. 20, Issue 37, Page 5

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