County survey shows changing perceptions of schools

Positive responses on annual survey drop since 2006

Posted 6/1/14

A county-sponsored survey about a variety of quality-of-life issues in Douglas County shows that perceptions about schools are changing.

More than 80 percent of residents surveyed earlier this year agreed that the county has good schools and …

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County survey shows changing perceptions of schools

Positive responses on annual survey drop since 2006

Posted

A county-sponsored survey about a variety of quality-of-life issues in Douglas County shows that perceptions about schools are changing.

More than 80 percent of residents surveyed earlier this year agreed that the county has good schools and educational opportunities — but that's down from 90 percent in the survey's first year.

“It's trending in the wrong direction,” researcher David Hill said about education-related responses taken since his company began the bi-annual Citizens Survey in 2006. “There is (about) a 7-point decline in positive impressions of the county as a place where there are good schools.”

Hill said the decline in perceptions about schools is in contrast to steadily improving positive responses about other aspects of life in Douglas County.

The question is not specific to K-12 education, Hill pointed out, and doesn't provide enough definitive data to reach any solid conclusions.

“One thing I would be cautious about is that as Douglas County has grown and become more diverse, part of the reaction here may not be just to K-12 schools, but that they want more access to community colleges, or some other kind of educational products that might be more available in downtown Denver,” said Hill, who founded Hill Research Consultants in 1988. “It indicates there's something going on there that's worth considering.”

The question posed of about 600 people in an April phone survey asks whether or not they agree Douglas County “has good schools and educational opportunities for all ages.”

In 2006, 90 percent of respondents agreed this was an accurate description. In 2014, 82 percent did — the lowest number of positive responses recorded since the question first was asked in 2006.

In 2006, 6 percent agreed this was not an accurate description. In 2014, 17 percent did — the highest number of negative responses recorded since 2006.

The Douglas County School Board began implementing education-reform policies in 2009 that have sparked resistance from some staff and community members.

An emailed comment provided by DCSD spokeswoman Paula Hans said, “What Douglas County parents, students, and taxpayers are interested in are results. The Douglas County School District continues to deliver top results for our students.”

Hans cited statistics that show DCSD has one of the highest graduation rates in the Denver Metro Area, rising from 81.9 percent in 2009 to 88.8 percent in 2013, and the fact that the recently graduated Class of 2014 earned more than $65.5 million in scholarships.

The county survey overall showed the majority of residents are content with the direction the county is moving in and optimistic about the future.

“We are thrilled to learn that 98 percent of respondents believe Douglas County is a good place to raise a family, and that 92 percent of respondents believe Douglas County property values are strong,” Hans' email read. “These are both strong indicators linked to K-12 education and local school districts.” 

Community members have for months requested the district re-initiate its annual school-specific survey; the survey hasn't been done since 2012, and DCSD discounted those results as too small to be statistically valid. Board president Kevin Larsen said during a March meeting the board would consider a survey.

In both 2006 and 2014, 601 people responded to the county's citizen surveys.

Douglas County spokeswoman Wendy Holmes said county officials did not wish to comment on the school responses, instead deferring comment on the subject to Hill.

Hill Research Consultants has a national client base that includes public officials, schools, state and local government agencies, major corporations, chambers of commerce and public relations firms.

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