ROSEMOUNT, Minn. – The majority of residents believe District 196 spends tax dollars efficiently while providing a high quality educational experience in schools that are safe and secure, according to survey results presented to the School Board May 14.
The scientific survey was conducted by telephone in late April and early May by The Morris Leatherman Company, a Minneapolis firm that also conducted surveys for the district in 2013 and 2015. The 400 randomly selected survey respondents are representative of the district’s key demographics, according to pollster Peter Leatherman.
“There is a lot of good news in this survey,” Leatherman told the board. “(Since 2015) you have not only had increases in positive responses, but you have also had increases in the enthusiastic positive responses.”
On the quality of education provided by the district, 91 percent answered excellent or good. That is down slightly from 95 percent in 2015; however, respondents who rated the quality as excellent increased from 36 percent in 2015 to 57 percent this year, a 21-percent jump. “Very few districts get over 50-percent excellent rating on quality of education,” Leatherman said, adding that the 57 percent places District 196 in the top five districts with which they have worked.
When asked to rate the district on a variety of characteristics, residents responded excellent or good at a combined 89 percent for academic instruction by teachers, 88 percent for co-curricular opportunities, 86 percent for the overall condition of school facilities and grounds, 79 percent for access to technology, 78 percent for vocational programs and 77 percent for opportunities for academically advanced students. Respondents were less favorable on class sizes at the different levels, with 49 percent rating high school class sizes as excellent or good, 32 percent fair, 5 percent poor and 14 percent unsure. Responses were similar for elementary and middle school class sizes.
“People are well aware of what is going on in your schools and they are rating it very high,” Leatherman said. “I think that is also creating good value in their minds as they are thinking about the district as a whole.”
Respondents with children currently enrolled in District 196 schools were asked whether they strongly agree, somewhat agree, somewhat disagree or strongly disagree with several statements about their child’s school:
- – 99 percent said they feel welcome at their child’s school, with 83 percent strongly agreeing;
- – 97 percent agree their child’s school provides a quality education, with 82 percent strongly agreeing;
- – 97 percent said their child’s school has a good leadership team;
- – 95 percent believe their child’s school is safe, with 78 percent strongly agreeing, and
- – 95 percent agree teachers and staff care about their child, with the other 5 percent unsure.
Nearly three-fourths of respondents (71 percent) said they think the district is meeting the needs of all students, with 21percent saying most, 3 percent only some, 1 percent very few and 4 percent unsure. “You are the highest district we have had of people saying you meet the needs of all students,” Leatherman said. “That is outstanding. The norm is 45 percent. It’s a stringent standard to say you are meeting the needs of all students.”
Job Performance and Financial Management
Teachers led the list on job performance, with 93 percent of survey respondents rating the district’s teachers as excellent or good. The School Board received favorable ratings from 83 percent of respondents, up 5 percent from the survey three years ago and a 10-percent increase from 2013. Similarly, 80 percent of respondents rated the superintendent and administration as excellent or good.
“Really, residents are saying they see the governance and the administration side working together,” Leatherman said. “The ratings almost mirror each other and they have in the past.”
On budgeting, 68 percent of respondents rated the district’s financial management as excellent or good, up 11 percent from the 2015 survey and 13 percent better than the norm of 55 percent. “The district really is regarded as an excellent financial steward in the minds of its residents,” Leatherman said.
Respondents were asked if they agreed or disagreed with a series of questions related to the performance of the district, which were also asked in 2015. Sixty-nine percent agreed or strongly agreed that the district spends money effectively, up 7 percent from 2015 and 21 percent higher than the norm for this question. In addition:
- – 97 percent agree the district proves a safe and secure environment for students, up from 94 percent in 2015;
- – 96 percent agree the community receives a good value from its investment in the schools, up 4 percent;
- – 91 percent agree the district does a good job preparing students to be college and career ready, and
- – 84 percent agree the district does a good job of involving parents and citizens in decisions about the schools.
Possible Program Improvements
Respondents were asked what improvements they would support if the district had access to additional resources. They were presented with 10 options and asked to select their first and second choice:
- – Additional mental health support for students topped the list, with 37 percent ranking it first or second;
- – Additional elective courses for middle school students, 32 percent;
- – Activity centers at the high schools, 29 percent;
- – Transportation for after-school activities, 25 percent;
- – Expanded preschool opportunities, 21 percent;
- – Artificial turf at the high schools, 16 percent;
- – Lower middle school class sizes, 14 percent;
- – Lower high school class sizes, 14 percent;
- – Lower elementary class sizes, 11 percent, and
- – Other (additional technology), 3 percent.
Seventy-seven percent of respondents said they feel informed about decisions made by the School Board and administration, 9 percent higher than the survey in 2015. “What you have is a more informed resident base with much more positive feelings toward the district,” Leatherman said.