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updated: 10/1/2012 12:11 PM

Dist. 303 survey: 52% of students feel school connection

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A new St. Charles Unit District 303 survey shows 48 percent of students do not have a strong feeling of belonging in the schools they attend.

But the results aren't raising any alarms for district staff just yet.

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The survey was given to students at all grade levels for the first time during the 2011-12 school year.

About 52 percent of students responded that they "strongly agree" with the sentiment that they belong in the school they attend and have a strong identity as a member of that school's student body.

"I would like to see it be higher, but I don't have anything to compare it to because it is a new baseline," said John Knewitz, the district's assistant superintendent for student services at a recent school board committee meeting.

The district also can't compare the results to other districts because the survey was created by District 303 staff members and unique to its students.

The district employed similar surveys before 2011-12. Compared to that time period, student satisfaction today is at an all-time high, according to district staff.

School board member Kathy Hewell said she'd like to see the results broken down by elementary, middle school and high school levels.

Her belief is high school students are primarily those who might not feel a strong sense of belonging, unique to that time period in a young person's life.

"I'm just concerned we're giving a false impression with this number," Hewell said. "With our high school enrollment numbers getting higher, it might be pulling that number down."

The district will continue to track that satisfaction number through its annual self-score card. The score card is a list of goals the district sets every year with regard to student, staff and financial achievements.

The district hit several lofty targets during the 2011-12 school year.

For example, 76 percent of students going to college or a university said they were accepted by their top school choice.

A total of 72 percent of high school students also passed their advanced placement exams. And the overall ACT score of the district rose to 23.5, just one-tenth below the district's target goal of 23.6.

But there were also several targets where the district fell short.

Following a 30 percent increase in suspensions the previous year, the number of suspension days fell by nearly 400 in the 2011-12 school year.

But the 1,469 suspension days logged by students was still 100 more than the district's target. There also were 16 expulsion hearings, an increase from the prior year.

Overall parent satisfaction with their child's school remained at 80 percent, the same as the preceding year.

Staff satisfaction also increased, but not as much as district officials wanted to see.

Only 49 percent of teachers responded that they felt "respected to a great extent by their principal, district administrators, students and parents" in a survey.

That's an improvement from the prior mark of 46 percent, but district staff hoped to hit 51 percent.

School board members are likely to approve a 2 percentage point hike in the performance goals they'd like to see for the current school year. The only goals that won't increase are the suspension and expulsion rates since the district failed to hit the prior goals.

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