2007-03-01 / News

Melrose Avenue school scores are posted in SALT survey

By Michaela Kennedy

On Feb. 14, the Rhode Island Department of Education began posting the Information Works! 2007 reports on public schools online. The reports are based on results of the 2006-2007 School Accountability for Learning and Teaching (SALT) surveys taken by staff, students and parents in the district and statewide last November.

As of this week, only reports on Melrose Avenue School are available for the Jamestown district. Results for Lawn Avenue and North Kingstown High School are not yet published. Initial reports posted include data from the annual SALT survey on school climate and on parental and family involvement. In addition, reports drawn from the survey of students about health risks is available for viewing.

At the Melrose Avenue School, teacher and parent communication efforts scored high overall, with well over 85 percent of both groups reporting satisfaction with parent-teacher contact. Feedback from educators regarding support for research and preparation in standards-based instruction scored much lower, less than 45 percent. Students reporting on overall school climate, including teacher support and positive commitment and interaction, showed satisfaction over 90 percent.

Information Works!, a joint project of the Rhode Island Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and the National Center on Public Education and Social Policy, at the University of Rhode Island, collects reports on public schools and school districts across the state. The program, now in its tenth year, also produces a detailed state report that contains data on assessments, school finances, and other aspects of instruction and school climate.

The goal of the SALT survey, known nationally as the High Performance Learning Communities (HiPlaces) Assessment, is to provide schools with reliable and systematic information for use in planning and monitoring school improvement efforts.

Critics of the survey complain that results do not accurately reflect a true snapshot of a school's atmosphere and take up too much learning time. Some parents, who prefer to remain anonymous, report that their children claim to fake answers on the survey. Some staff and community members say that not a high enough percentage of educators or parents make time to complete the survey.

Nevertheless, 60 minutes of classroom time on an average is dedicated for students to complete the survey in a given academic year, according to educators who administer the inquiry. Admittedly, students cannot be closely monitored to ensure honest answers. A handful of student surveys are chosen randomly in each classroom, however, and monitoring teachers fill out a short questionnaire on the integrity level of the chosen students completing the assessment. The random check is one way to evaluate the potential for accurate reporting, according to the department of education. Another way to encourage accuracy is through communication between staff, students, parents, and the community in general. A survey tool dedicated to school improvement is better than no tool at all, proponents say.

Over the next few months, more sections will be added to the school reports, including information about the statewide assessments, school finances, attendance and dropout rates, suspensions, and teacher qualifications. Statewide tables, including the complete list of school-performance classifications, and district-level reports, will also be posted. The department of education expects to have all reports online by June 2007, when the state report will be published in booklet form.

For more information about the SALT survey and access to district reports, visit the Information Works! Web site online at www. infoworks.ride.uri.edu.

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