Food Choices, Advising Receive Low Marks on Survey

Even the numbers show parents just don’t understand. Preliminary results of last fall’s Parent/Student Survey were released to students this week. According to Jane Fried, Dean of Admissions, parents rated “everything a little higher,” than students did. “They’re current parents, but they don’t go to school here, so they’re looking at everything from home, and they have a wider perspective,” Fried said. The survey polled parents and students on their level of satisfaction concerning issues such as size of school, quality of faculty and opportunities for social life. Fried said that the Baker Group worked with Andover as a consultant on this survey and analyzed the results of the survey and created a report. While this report has not been completed, the school released certain figures, which were sent in the email to students. “We’re still sifting through [the reports] and trying to understand the implications,” said Rebecca Sykes, Associate Head of School. Full reports are expected to be publicized by early May. Results from the survey showed that, on average, parents and students are least satisfied with the quality of food, academic advising and teaching of time management and organizational skills at Andover. John Rogers, Dean of Studies, has been working alongside Paul Cernota, Scheduling Officer, Elizabeth Korn, Associate Dean of Studies, and the Technology Department to create a new electronic course selection program, which is expected to vastly improve the advising system. While Rogers was not surprised that the advising program received one of the lower ratings, a 3.95 from parents and a 3.51 from students, he anticipates that the new system will be better. “Something has to be last, and with the advising process, you’re going to have mistakes leaving parents and students disgruntled, which became apparent in the survey,” Rogers said. “The program is customized to fit our needs, and it should solve the frustration, and make the course selection process smoother and more efficient.” Students gave quality of food the lowest average rating, a 3.17 out of 5. Fried said, “Most students are going to feel that food at home is different than at school.” Sykes added, “The new Paresky Commons will give us the opportunity to serve and prepare the food differently.” One aspect of the survey that varied from parents to students was the opportunities for social life. While students gave social opportunities a 3.45, parents a 4.40. Kate Larson, mother to Dan Larson ’11, wrote in an email, “It seems to me there are a lot of interesting opportunities for PA students, but if it’s interesting to an adult, that does not necessarily mean that it’s interesting to students.” Sykes said that based on the advice of the Baker Group, the survey was sent to parents in the mail, and not online, since statistics have shown that participants are more cooperative in sending back a survey through the mail. The Parent/Student Survey had record participation levels, with 50 percent of the parents participating and 88 percent, or 948, of the students. “A 50 percent response rate from the parents is really strong. That is one of the great things about being a larger school, it’s a lot of people and a wider pool,” Fried said. “This survey was created for Andover, and we wanted to compare newly admitted students and parents’ expectations with the levels of satisfaction of current students,” she said. Each admitted student fills out a survey, which the most recent Parent/Student Survey was based on. “It was reassuring to see that parents and students are going to Andover with the same priorities,” continued Fried. With the survey, the school also wanted to see the impact of recently implemented changes. The overall educational experience, variety of courses and size of school were among the most highly rated aspects of Andover. Fried said that it was good for the administration to know that the values most important to the students and parents are those that the school is known for and were rated highly. During spring term, students will also receive the results from the Youth Behavior Assessment survey, which the student body took last spring term. The survey goes out to multiple schools and the responses are looked at from a national perspective. “The school looks at the Youth Behavior Assessment surveys in a different light then the Student/Parent survey, which we analyze with our own consultant. The Youth Behavior survey needs to be looked at in the national context,” said Fried.