Climate and culture a focus of Mexico Public Schools survey

Dennis Sharkey / Editor
Posted 12/2/23

Mexico Public Schools has sent out surveys to students, staff, and parents about the district’s climate and culture and all three groups had different feelings.

The survey asked several …

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in

Climate and culture a focus of Mexico Public Schools survey


Mexico Public Schools has sent out surveys to students, staff, and parents about the district’s climate and culture and all three groups had different feelings.

The survey asked several questions with three mandated by the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE). The DESE-inspired questions set out to answer the questions: Are students’ voices being heard? Is the district providing updates and communication about culture? And, is the district creating a positive learning environment?

The survey was given to eighth graders and juniors in high school along with parents and certified staff. District Superintendent Melissa Chastain presented the numbers at a regular Board of Education meeting on Nov. 22. Chastain said typically a good response rate is more than 30 percent. The student return rate was over 60 percent and close to 83 percent for some groups while nearly 60 percent of staff responded. The district was expecting a 10-15 percent response rate from parents and did better with 19 percent responding.

Of the eighth-grade students surveyed only 34 percent thought their voices were heard by teachers and staff almost always while 29 percent said sometimes. The numbers were lower for juniors.

Teachers had a different perspective. About 62 percent of teachers surveyed believed students’ voices were heard almost all the time while 30 percent said sometimes. Chastain noted the difference in numbers and said they will have conversations about the numbers.

“Obviously I think that’s an area we can improve upon,” Chastain said. “I know that all of our teachers want to hear their students, want to know what they’re thinking and what they have to say. I think the key to that is finding a way to do it where the student actually feels heard.”

About 53 percent of the school’s staff thinks communication about the school’s culture is almost always done while only 30 percent said sometimes. However, only 33 percent of parents surveyed think it’s almost always done. Chastain said she doesn’t believe the numbers just based on her assessment as the superintendent.

“Honestly I think it’s way lower than that,” Chastain said. “If it were me answering I would have said, ‘No, we haven’t done this before.’”

Chastain highlighted two questions that pertained to a positive learning environment including a question about teachers’ comfort level in dealing with non-English speaking students. Only 68 percent said they felt good.

“We know that’s an area we need to get stronger and better on so that we can serve all kids,” Chastain said.

Chastain was particularly puzzled by a response from teachers when asked if they think quality work is expected of students. Only 70 percent of teachers agreed that it is expected.

“There should be more conversations about why they think that,” Chastain said.

Chastain also highlighted a response from parents about a question on student behavior. Only about half of parents who responded think some students have little to no respect for their fellow students. Chastain felt justified in the district’s efforts and the hiring of an interventionist to deal with behavior issues.

“I think that goes along with what we’re seeing here,” Chastain said. “We know that and it’s something we’re focused on heavily.”

BOE President Keith Louder said he came away with a similar conclusion after reading the survey results regarding students’ respect for each other. Louder also said he got the feeling that many students don’t see the value in what they’re learning or making connections to what they’re going to be doing in the future.

“How do we connect kids, how do we utilize that resource so our kids get a sense of what’s available and what they’re doing and how do they choose?” Louder said. “Am I shocked that kids are saying they don’t like school? No, I’m not, but it would be nice to help kids get a sense to value education a little bit more.”

Board member Scott Nichols asked about future surveys and will the students be asked the questions again. Nichols said it would be okay to ask other grade levels the same questions but suggested they also stick with the same group.

“I don’t think you’ll ever improve anything unless you have that buy-in,” Nichols said.

Chastain agreed and said they may replicate the survey again at the end of the year. She also said this is the first time the survey has been distributed so they don’t have much to compare to. She did reach out to other districts who also distributed surveys and said they saw similar results. Chastain said they need to use the data and seek opinions outside of the building.

“It’s a lot of data and we need to talk to people about it and just sit around and ask each other what we think about it and then what are we going to do with it,” Chastain said. “Data is only as good as how you interpret it and how you really look at it and how it’s impacting. We don’t have anything to compare these numbers against. Next year we’ll be able to compare the numbers.