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Survey says Glendale Unified students are less confident in district compared to last year

Survey says Glendale Unified students are less confident in district compared to last year
A recent survey showed that GUSD students see themselves as less safe as they have been in the past and without proper counseling. (File Photo)

Glendale Unified School District students see themselves as less safe and without proper counseling, according to results from a district "culture" survey reviewed during a school board meeting on Tuesday.

A questionnaire was sent out via email and hard copy to district parents, students and employees between January and February.

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The goal of the census was to analyze how the district was performing in regards to its Local Control and Accountability Plan goals for maximizing student achievement, creating a culture of learning and increasing engagement.

"This is part of the data that we're gathering to promote this culture of care, trust and inquiry," Glendale Unified Supt. Winfred Roberson Jr. said. "This data really informs us where we need to concentrate our professional development."

Student percentages declined nearly across the board in comparison to answers from last year.

Overall, 11,394 students from elementary schools to high schools participated in this year's survey, which was a 14% decrease from the previous year's total of 13,270.

Students were asked 15 questions, with an affirmative response registering as "yes, all of the time" or "yes, most of the time" to questions such as whether or not a student felt safe on campus.

A neutral or negative response was "yes, some of the time," or "no, never."

"This was our second consecutive year conducting a similar survey, so this is the first time we've been able to compare data year to year, which has been really great," said Glendale Unified communications director Kristine Nam, who assembled the data and presented the findings Tuesday.

Of the 15 questions, 12 responses received worse or lower results than in 2017, with three either being neutral or better than the previous year.

One third of the survey results saw double-digit drops in confidence with a 15% decline being the biggest when students were asked the question, "If you have a school counselor at your school, do you have access [to] him/her if you have a personal issue you want to talk about?"

Only 16% of Glendale Unified students marked affirmative answers, while the vast majority checked a box that read either "Sometime," "never" or "I do not have a counselor at my school."

A year prior, 31% of students selected an affirmative answer.

The results were particularly noticeable at the youngest age levels, where only 4% of elementary school students said they had access to a counselor "all of the time" and 5% stated they had access "most of the time."

On the flip side, 49% of primary-school respondents were unaware of any counselors on their campus.

A lack of confidence and guidance went hand in hand for Glendale students.

There was a 13% drop, from 64% to 51%, when students were asked if there was an adult they could talk to when they were in need.

According to the survey, 63% of students felt the school staff cared about them, which fell from 75% last year, while only 20% of pupils felt they had access to talk to a counselor regarding academic issues. That number decreased from 31% the previous year.

In terms of overall school security, 78% of Glendale Unified students said they felt safe at school, which was down from 88% last year.

In comparison, when parents were asked if they felt their children were safe in school, 86% responded in the affirmative, which represented a 1% dip.

Those results raised concerns for board member Armina Gharpetian, who wondered why parents and students hadn't expressed their safety concerns more.

"We do everything in our power to invite parents to send notifications," she said. "We have the apps and emails and texts and you name it, and when you go to these community meetings, I'm sitting there and I'm looking and, 'where are these parents? Where are they?' That's one thing that really bothers me. I don't know. I don't know if there's something that we have to do differently. I really don't know how to address this."

Board member Jennifer Freemon said the survey results can be difficult to understand.

"It's not always easy to look at data when it doesn't always give us what we were hoping for," she said.

"I'm appreciative that are we willing to really take a look and say, 'hey, we did not get the response we want.' There are a couple of areas… and we're seeing some dips that are a little bit bigger than just current events that we need to take a look at. I appreciate that we're willing to do that," she added.

Nayiri Nahabedian, board president, said she wasn't sure if the information, in particular in terms of safety and security, needed more context.

"This is one source of information, but I'm wondering if, on the same topics, there are other places to go to supplement the question or the answer," she said.

Parents and school staff responded much more positively to the survey.

Parents were given 30 questions, while district employees answered 24.

The biggest jump for parents was from 28% to 37% when asked if school staff helped children understand college and career opportunities beyond high school.

Glendale Unified staff, which consists of certified and classified employees, along with management, responded around 79% to 81% positively that there was a clear mission that gave meaning to their work.

One area that alarmed board member Shant Sahakian was the 49% decrease in parent participation — 3,465 parents took part in this year's survey, which was down significantly from the 6,756 total last year.

"Three thousand parents didn't just fall off somehow. We have to figure out why the number dipped," Sahakian said.

"When you look at our student survey, it's roughly about half the student body takes it and when you look at our staff survey, it's roughly half the staff population. Six thousand parents last year, three thousand parents this year out of 26,000 student families does not give a fair picture of how we're doing. We're asking a very small percentage of our parent population about engagement, but I take it as we're asking our most engaged parent population about engagement," he added.

Nam said the distribution plan will be reviewed.

"Unfortunately, despite using the same communication strategy that we did last year, we did get a lower response rate on our parent survey," Nam said. "So, we're currently working with our school sites and with our [Local Control and Accountability Plan] committee to assess why that might have happened and change our strategy for next year to make sure that we get a lot more responses."

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