As part of the Promise Neighborhood grant, the United States Department of Education (DoE) mandates that all Promise Neighborhood grantees administer an annual school climate survey, at their target middle and high schools, to understand the impact of the initiative on students. Findings from the first school climate survey for the Mission Promise Neighborhood are now available in a just-released report, entitled Mission Promise Neighborhood (MPN) School Climate Survey: Understanding the experiences of students in San Francisco’s Mission District.
The lead researcher on this study was Dr. Monica E. Lopez, Interim Director of Evaluation at the Mission Economic Development Agency (MEDA), which acts as the lead agency for this federal initiative.
Monica Lopez, MSW, PhD
Interim Director of Evaluation
MEDA: When and where was the survey administered?
ML: The MPN School Climate Survey was administered at two Mission District schools, Everett Middle School and John O’Connell High School. Students were asked about their schooling experience, including feelings of safety at school and traveling to and from school, their use of technology in and outside of school and other issues related to their educational experience. This was a self-administered, 20-minute survey taken in the classroom, with MPN garnering the needed cooperation of principals, teachers and Community School Coordinators.
MEDA: What is the survey’s main purpose?
ML: Initially, the survey was conceptualized as a means of capturing data on population-based indicators (GPRAs) mandated by the DoE, essential to tracking the impact of the initiative at a national level over time. Some of these indicators include school safety, consumption of fruits and vegetables, exercise habits and internet access.
We expanded the scope of the survey to include questions about students’ college and career aspirations, perceptions of school climate and social support within the school, and the types of messaging about college that students may be receiving at home.
MEDA: How many students were surveyed?
ML: There were 699 students (82 percent) who responded to our survey. Administration was achieved with the collaboration of teachers, Community School Coordinators and principals at target schools.
MEDA: What statistics were most surprising?
ML: There were unexpected differences in students’ responses based on gender where I had not anticipated them. For instance, in terms of school safety, I had expected to find male students feeling less safe at school than females, based on data that tell us that male students in general engage in physical fights at school at higher rates than females. This was not the case, however, and females actually felt significantly less safe at school than males.
Another interesting finding was related to college and career aspirations. More female students reported that they planned to attend a four-year college than male students, yet there were no differences by gender in terms of the type of messages that students received from their parents about college or in their level of confidence in their ability to attend college.
I must note that our data suggest that there may be a gap between college aspirations and actual college attendance. Our survey shows that 57 percent of our target school seniors plan to attend a four-year college. Data from the 2012 National Student Clearinghouse (NSC), however, reported that only 36 percent of students from our target school actually enrolled in a four-year college. Although NSC data are from 2012, their data show that few John O’Connell students actually enroll in a four-year college. We will be able to compare our survey data with data from the 2014 NSC, when it becomes available, to see if there is indeed a gap as data seem to suggest. The next step would be to figure out the root causes for this gap and to see how these can be addressed by our initiative.
MEDA: What do you plan to do with this survey information?
ML: These data will be shared with principals, teachers, community leaders, parents and students. The plan is to disseminate the report in educational circles. MPN Family Success Coaches, who work closely with parents at our target schools, will be availed of these data so that they can assist families. The same holds true of the MPN promotora/es, who will be advised about the statistics and given flyers to distribute to families during grassroots outreach. When it comes to the families themselves, the plan is to create informational flyers, based on topic, with easy-to-understand action steps. These data mean nothing without appropriate action to remedy issues in the community.
MEDA: When is the next School Climate Survey?
ML: There will be another survey in spring 2015. This will provide an interesting comparison because John O’Connell High School has implemented a lab model, based on the Center for Advanced Research and Technology (CART) paradigm in Clovis, California. CART is organized around four career clusters: Professional Sciences; Engineering; Advanced Communications; and Global Economics. Within each cluster are career-specific labs, in which students complete industry-based projects and receive academic credit for advanced English, science, math and technology. John O’Connell High School has its own tailored version of this model and it will be interesting to see what has changed based on this new school set up.