On Tuesday night, Havre High School science teacher Mike Leinwand gave a lesson in statistics to the Board of Trustees.
At the school board meeting, Leinwand was displaying some of the first round of results in a new system Havre High is using to gauge the school’s perception among teachers, students and parents.
“It started as an attempt to address a lack of concrete data in areas of planning and improvement,” Leinwand said. “A lot of the planning process relies on how people feel about what we’re doing, and we needed a tool to answer some of the these questions.”
According the Leinwand, about a year ago some teachers and administrators were trying to think of ways to develop that tool just as he was “finishing up my personal administrative work” for his school principal certification, and it all came together in this survey system.
The group decided on subjects to focus on, wrote a series of 42 questions, 10 for demographic information and 32 to assess views of the school, and then sought input from high school staff, students and parents.
About 75 percent of the survey’s nearly 460 responses came from students, with 15 percent coming from staff and about 10 percent from parents.
The latter portion of the survey, about the school, contained questions about subjects like whether class disruptions were a problem or if the faculty work as a team in helping students.
After explaining how the survey’s responses could be broken up into specific groups by how they answered the demographic questions, Leinwand went over the results to a handful of questions that he found particularly interesting.
On the question of whether faculty work together as a team, the group as a whole mostly agreed.
When broken up, however, Leinwand noticed a little less agreement among some parts of staff, notably teachers that had been working there for less than 10 years, which he said might indicate a greater need for professional development or mentoring opportunities in the school.
Looking at the question of whether students respect the high school staff, the responses were divided more evenly, where 196 people said they agreed and 182 disagreed.
Leinwand noticed that the school staff taking the survey tended more to disagree than any other group.
Staff also tended to disagree more with the assertion that parents are “providing the support needed for their children to succeed in school,” while parents tended to agree the most strongly.
One high school parent, Havre City Council member Pam Hillery, was curious about a question about “faculty does not treat all students fairly and consistently,” which seemed to draw the widest breadth of responses.
School staff thought the staff treated everyone fairly, with teachers agreeing the most strongly. Parents and students were less likely to think so.
After the presentation, Havre Public Schools Superintendent Andy Carlson said he was excited to see how this survey, and the others that will use the same system in years to come, could help make the high school a better place for all stakeholders.
“I think it’s important that we’re asking these questions,” Carlson said. “That’s a big step, to begin to look at those things and see how students and parents feel.”
The important part now is to get those groups together and look for solutions.
Leinwand agrees that that step will be important to using this data effectively, though it should be done right.
“Ideally, I feel if you wanted this thing to be as powerful as can be, it has to be open,” Leinwand said. “I think at some point though, if we want good dialog between the public and the school, we should do this, but do it responsibly.”