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Will school get passing grade?

Will South Whidbey High School receive a passing grade from the parents of its students? That's a question a committee is asking in a survey sent home with students this week.

The survey is part of the Washington State Office of Public Instruction's School Improvement Program Technical Assistance Program (SIPTAP). Using 53 multiple-choice questions based on the characteristics the state associates with successful schools, the survey will ask high school parents their opinion of the school's curriculum to quality of teachers and the learning environment.

Some parents are looking forward to filling out the survey. Elizabeth Felt, a parent who homeschooled her sophomore daughter until this year, said she wants to voice her opinion.

"I was glad to see the survey," she said. "It means they care and are willing to improve."

Felt said she wishes the form allowed for more elaborate answers, especially about the quality of instruction and teachers. In the survey's current form, parents are able to give their answers only on a fill-in-the-circle rating scale. That doesn't allow room for lauding good teachers, she said.

"SWHS has some real gems, but they need more," said Felt.

Dan Blanton, the school district's assistant superintendent, said this week the survey is a tool the district can use for self -improvement.

"It is a continuation of the district's self -study program, an attempt to see where we are and how parents think we are doing and what needs improving," he said.

But the survey form may not meet with universal approval. Parent and former school board member Steve Scoles said it looks like a standard form that could be used for any school in the country.

"The questions have an absolute tone to them that make it hard to respond to," he said. "I would not want to see it used to punish teachers or administration."

A SIPTAP committee at the school has completed several months of training to begin developing a school improvement plan. As part of a $6,000 grant through Educational Service District 189, the team of high school Principal Mike Johnson and school staff members Jamie Boyd, Mark Hodson, Steve Clark, Angela West and parent Peter Wolf will steward the staff in the development of an improvement plan with student achievement as its primary goal.

The questions they will ask about how the school does its work will be many.

"Where do we want to go? What do we find in research?" Blanton said. "How will we get there? How will we know if we are getting there? And most importantly, how will we keep improving?"

Students were asked to complete a survey similar to that sent home to parents.

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