Red Apple Mom

November 21, 2011

FCPS Survey

Here is the FCPS survey released today – would love to know what you think!


FAI2 Trust and Confidence Survey Results_2011-11-15 SB



  1. I have a comment on this question:
    “FCPS principals and asst. principals are effective instructional leaders for teachers and staff.”
    The multiple choices the respondents are asked to select from are strongly agree, agree, disagree, strongly disagree, or not enough information. The survey measured the answers from parents and non-parents. Earlier in the survey there was an explanation of other categories: former parent, private school parent, alumni of FCPS, parent of future student, grandparent or student of FCPS. I assume that the survey results for “non-parents” includes results for “former parents,” i.e. parents of former students.
    In any case, I do not see any point in asking community members whether they agree that principals and assistant principals are instructional leaders for teachers and staff. How would people who do not work for the administrators know whether they are effective instructional leaders? Why should we care what percentage of community members think principals and assistant principals are effective instructional leaders? This is a good question to ask teachers and staff members, not the general public.

    Comment by Virginia Fitz Shea — November 22, 2011 @ 6:18 am

    • Great point you raise regarding asking the public for their opinion about administrators as effective instructional leaders. It demonstrates the ineffectiveness of this survey. Any legitimate polling firm would have considered these factors when devising a professional survey.

      Comment by Red Apple Mom — November 23, 2011 @ 9:22 am

  2. I agree with Virginia. I also think that the issue of trust will be moot once Dale exits.

    Comment by redmomma2 — November 22, 2011 @ 7:46 am

  3. i agree with Virginia and redmomma2. I participated in one of this survey’s focus groups. We represented a cross section of citizens who love our schools and want them to be the best–continuous progress and improvement is a worthy goal. I encourage every Fx County citizen to take 10 minutes to read the survey, especially the focus group comments section. I see by the compilation of focus group comments that our group was in keeping with the other groups in that we expressed common concerns, including: 1) lack of true partnership with interested and knowledgeable citizens 2)lack of access to full data regarding budget, student achievement and other issues (thus the call for an independent audit by school board candidates) 3)the constant PR spin on the part of FCPS

    Comment by pommefrites — November 22, 2011 @ 9:13 am

  4. I am a retired FCPS teacher and do agree with the above comments. There are many strong principals and assistant principals in our schools, yet I was unfortunate enough to be at a school where the leadership was extremely poor. School board members and the cluster superintendents were aware of staff and parental concerns but the principal was publicly protected. Many in the community without children in the school were unaware of how difficult things were. Eventually, as a result of the Sean Lanigan case, the principal was finally removed but the problems at this particular school remain…as does the continuing saga of an innocent teacher. It is interesting that when teachers fill out surveys on their principals, we never seem to be able to access them. redmommafan

    Comment by Kathy Morton Young — November 22, 2011 @ 9:27 am

    • Thank you providing an insider view as a former teacher. We need more FCPS teachers willing to speak out!

      Comment by Red Apple Mom — November 23, 2011 @ 9:23 am

  5. While it would be hard for a parent to know how effective an administrator is at instructional leadership, there are some tell-tale signs you might look for:
    1. Is there instructional consistency in the school, or are children whipsawed back and forth among teachers with wildly varying approaches to education?
    2. Do you get any instructional information in school-wide newsletters or websites?
    3. What types of things are shared at PTA meetings?
    4. How useful are your students’ blackboard pages?

    Parents at least should be able to answer these questions, and read between the lines. Strong instructional leadership will lead to satisfactory responses on all of them.

    Comment by cosmic93 — November 22, 2011 @ 9:24 pm

    • These are helpful points for parents to consider Cosmic93. But I think the point Ms. Shea was making is that for the majority of taxpayers in this county without students in the FCPS system (75% of Fairfax County residents), this was a pointless question to ask.

      Comment by Red Apple Mom — November 23, 2011 @ 9:35 am

      • I also question whether it is a useful question to ask parents. What is the point of asking parents this question? If a certain percentage of parents answer negatively, is the action required in response simply to improve the PR capabilities of both the local administrators and central administrators so that more parents sing the praises of principals and assistant principals as instructional leaders? That seems to be the conclusion drawn by FCPS in regards to non-parents:
        “We have opportunities to inform in several areas:
        Principals’ and assistant principals’ role as instructional leaders for teachers and staff (50% of non-parents indicated not having enough info)”
        In other words, lack of sufficient positive responses doesn’t indicate that there might actually be a problem that needs to be addressed, it simply means (in the view of FCPS) that more people need to be told that the principals are terrific.
        Let’s consider the other points:
        1. instructional consistency. This seems to imply a very high degree of knowledge about how all the teachers work in the classroom. Even if enough parents knew the answer to this, I question whether they would be in a position to say that the principals have to give more direction to the teachers.
        2. I was the editor for a PTA/principal newsletter for several years. Sometimes a curriculum-related article might be included, but this falls into the category of principal-parent communications rather than the principal’s leadership of the staff.
        3. What types of things are shared at PTA meetings? Obviously the relatively small number of parents who attend monthly PTA board meetings listen to the principal and then draw conclusions about the principal’s ability. These parents may extrapolate their impressions to figure how a seemingly quite capable principal is probably capable in the area of instructional leadership of the staff. However, I still question whether they truly have enough information on this subject.
        4. How useful are your students’ blackboard pages? Actually, I have heard of instances where there is an over reliance on blackboard pages. Sometimes students are penalized for not knowing of an assignment that was mentioned only on the blackboard page and not in class. Is this really fair?

        Comment by Virginia Fitz Shea — November 23, 2011 @ 10:23 am

      • Okay, I can see where they would have trouble with that. BUT, on the other side of the coin – every year we get to hear people with no connection to FCPS complain at budget time about how principals (and teachers) are weak or ineffective. How are they coming to that conclusion, if they would have no way of knowing?
        The one good thing about the question is that it points out the true function of a school-based administrator. Often principals get their reputations on politics alone – refusing an unreasonable request from a single powerful parent has been enough to undo some principals’ reputations. Maybe the survey planted the seed of a more fruitful discussion: “which principals drive positive results for students,” instead of “which principals play the game and placate the right people.”

        Comment by cosmic93 — November 30, 2011 @ 10:21 pm

  6. A couple of things I noticed:
    1. 10% of parents and non-parents alike think FCPS is untrustworty – this is actually a remarkably low number, and an excellent predictor of election results.
    2. 14% of parents and 11% of non-parents think FCPS is on the wrong track educationally. Again, a very low number, given the ‘culture wars’ waged over the direction of education in the US. I find it interesting that parents are marginally less satisfied on this measure. The results are almost identical on the question of whether FCPS teachers are doing a good job – which makes the anti-teacher rhetoric in every budget cycle a fascinating topic.

    2. 89% of parents think they get enough info from FCPS. Since some want to micromanage every single aspect of the schools, down to the number of peas in each elementary school lunch, this is also a pretty high number. Non-parents are significantly lower – but how hard do they really try?

    3. 28% of parents and 21% of nonparents think FCPS does NOT act in the interests of all students. This is almost double the percentage who think FCPS is on the wrong track educationally. Does this mean that people accept the notion that FCPS should pay extra attention to those students who have nobody pushing their interests? Or does it simply reflect a lot of people who are bitter that they didn’t get their own way on some issue at some point in the past?

    4. Lots of people are unhappy about the budget. Well, what else is news? Welcome to government.

    5. People want more access to data, at the same time some would advocate slashing the central-office staff who can provide it to them.

    6. A lot of what people ask for in their comments will cost money: smaller classes, more attention to ‘middle of the road’ students, updated technology, pre-k skill development, etc. These things won’t pay for themselves but the community’s willingness to invest is questions by the BOS every spring!

    Comment by cosmic93 — November 22, 2011 @ 10:06 pm

    • If money were always the answer Cosmic93 – then public schools in the District of Columbia would be the best in the nation. DC public schools spends more per student than any other public school in the nation (except NYC) and they basically rank at the bottom of the list in terms of student success. ( Access to data doesn’t require more central-staffers. If FCPS was willing to post all their public documents online as a matter of professional practice, any inquiring parent, taxpayer or reporter could access the information with one click of their computer mouse. FCPS has a $2 million PR department headed up by Barbara Hunter. As a parent and taxpayer, I’d prefer to see her and her staff posting all FCPS documents online rather than spending $10K on a poorly designed survey that was designed in reality for one purpose only: to solicit headlines about trust in FCPS.

      Comment by Red Apple Mom — November 23, 2011 @ 9:33 am

      • You seem to have read a much more ‘liberal’ view than what I was actually stating, so let me clarify: At NO point did I say that money was ALWAYS the answer. There are, in fact, many ways in which FCPS could probably me more efficient.
        However, you have to realize that children don’t educate themselves for free – if they did, there would be no schools! I was simply pointing out that people are demanding things that cost money. If they are willing to go without those demands, they are welcome to save the money: that’s just how the math works. How you got from that simple truth to implying that I wanted unlimited spending on everything, I just can’t figure out.

        I actually agree the PR deparment is pretty much a waste of time and money. FCPS budget documents are one hot mess, too. I personally spend hours trying to work out the basics. BUT: 2 million dollars, while a significant sum of money, works out to only $10,309.28 per school/center. You are a long, long way from making a dent in the budget, and light years away from providing additional staffing for higher-income schools, or any of the other things people say they want.

        Comment by cosmic93 — November 30, 2011 @ 10:15 pm

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