4 YEARS OF SILENCE FROM VALLEJO SCHOOL DISTRICT ON STATE SURVEY
By Robert Schussel, Ph.D
Did you know the State of California Department of Education conducts a survey of students in Vallejo schools every two years?
Below is a description of the California Healthy Kids Survey (CHKS) from the California Department of Education website:
“The California Healthy Kids Survey (CHKS) is a powerful tool for use in Grades 5-12 that can help schools and districts accurately identify areas of student and school strengths and weaknesses, and address related needs. It provides a comprehensive, data-driven, decision-making process to guide efforts to improve school climate, learning supports, and engagement, as well as identify and increase the quality of health, prevention, and youth development programs.
School connectedness, developmental supports and opportunities, safety, violence and harassment, substance use, and physical and mental health are some of the key areas assessed by the survey”.
FACT: For many of the categories, Vallejo schools rank in the bottom 5% statewide with the composite score in the bottom 1% for High Schools.
Sometimes facts just don’t dovetail nicely with district PR agendas and get quietly classified as “make it go away” or “need to know”. But if you live in Vallejo, whether you have kids in the district or not, you really do need to know the facts. Here are a few telling highlights drawn from the California Healthy Kids Survey:
- The majority of students don’t feel safe at Vallejo Schools.
Only 24% of 11th graders feel safe/very safe at school.
- About 40% of students ( grades 7,9,11) have seen someone at school with a weapon.
About twice as high as Fairfield and Benicia School Districts.
- Of the students who used Marijuana at school , 40% said their source for Marijuana was at school.
School as a source is significantly lower at Fairfield and Benicia schools.
- Less than 15% of 9th and 11th grade Vallejo students believe that adults in the school care about their learning and about them as individuals—some of the lowest ratings in the entire state.
Despite Vallejo’s anti bullying program, Bullying /Harassment has not improved in Vallejo’s High Schools since the program was implemented.
Vallejo City Unified School District (VCUSD) Superintendent Dr. Ramona Bishop and some of her staff have had access to the above results and more for over 4 years. Since Dr. Bishop’s hire only one chart with a single score from the CHKS was ever presented by District Staff to the Board of Trustees (according to a California Public Records Act request filed for this article) even though the survey is administered every 2 years on an ongoing basis.
The Fairfield-Suisun Unified School District (FSUSD) and the Vacaville Unified School District (VUSD) seem to be much more forthcoming and transparent. They publish the results of the CHKS on their websites. Fairfield also includes individual reports for each of its schools on its website (see links). The Benicia Unified School District also discusses the results with the Benicia Police Department. Vallejo is less proactive when it comes to openness and public discourse surrounding the facts.
Links to California Healthy Kids Survey published by Fairfield and Vacaville below:
Fairfield — http://www.fsusd.org/Page/6823
The CHKS is typically administered every 2 years to 5th, 7th, 9th and 11th graders. The survey consists of 113 core items. Often modules are added by a district. Some of the state’s funding to a district is tied to the District to ensure that high response rate (typically 60% or more) is obtained.
For Vallejo the CHKS was administered in 2009/10, 2012/13 and 2013/14.
The number of completed surveys in Vallejo for 2013/14 was 7th graders N=773, 9th graders N=665 and 11th graders N= 577. (N represents sample size.)
Where I disagree with VCUSD Superintendent Dr. Bishop is her one sided focus on only conveying “positive information” about the programs she has introduced. In fact Dr. Bishop has openly criticized members of the public for their “negativity” in bringing up issues about safety and academic performance, all the while she quietly held the disappointing results of the CHKS in the palm of her hand.
Core problems are rarely if ever allowed exposure or constructive public engagement and in my opinion, often swept under the rug. Other than the recently implemented Restorative Justice Program little appears to have been done by the district to solve the core safety problems highlighted.
The Grand Jury was Right after All?
When the first Grand Jury Report on Vallejo Schools came out (entitled Safety at Vallejo High school 2012/13) not one word was mentioned about the similarity with the findings in the CHKS by Dr. Bishop or any member of her staff. Dr. Bishop never pointed out that the CHKS contradicted, for example, Trustee Hazel Wilson’s repeated denial that the use of marijuana on campus was a major problem. Wilson also insisted that safety at Vallejo High School is NOT a major problem, indicating that she, “felt safe there”
As to whether this constitutes a planned act of deception on the part of Wilson, an intentional omission of information by Bishop or a complicit policy of public disinformation is something we will never know. We do know that there has been a clear failure in vital and highly relevant information about our schools reaching the public.
Our community was ripped apart by divisive comments about the Grand Jury’s Report because of this silence.
Is the California Healthy Kids Survey accurate relevant or worth paying attention to?
A bit about myself. In my over 30 years as a researcher and market research analyst I have designed and implemented studies and surveys for education, marketing and business for companies, non-profits and industry. In preparing for this article I even sought out, contacted and had detailed discussions with some of the key researchers involved in design, monitoring and analysis of the CHKS. My employers have included more Fortune 500 companies than there is space to list here. These are the sort of employers who don’t tolerate mistakes on multi-million dollar contracts. I feel my background puts me in a very solid position to evaluate the California Healthy Kids Survey:
It is my opinion that the California Healthy Kids Survey is one of the best designed surveys of its type in the United States.
Its time that the district address major problems with safety, bullying and academic performance with full transparency. Rolling out programs and only telling the public how wonderful these programs are will not result in progress. This is referred to as “optics” in the propaganda world.
If the administration has been keeping the CHKS results under wraps for years what else are they trying to keep from us? I think the public deserves to know.
Meet the Author
On Wednesday September 16th at 5PM at the School District Administration building 655 Walnut St on Mare Island I will be presenting results of the California Healthy Kids Survey
Summary of presentation: