CA surveys show positive and strong growth in key areas

I want to thank all the parents who completed our fall survey. Your feedback is important to us, and it helps us in our continual efforts to improve the education of Colorado Academy students at all levels.

Overall, survey feedback shows improvement from the same data collected in the spring of 2016, and very high scores for CA, including rankings in several key categories between the 80th and 99th percentiles when benchmarked against more than 6,000 schools nationwide. There are many areas in which the school has made significant gains since 2016, and no areas where the school scored lower than the last survey.

These surveys help guide me as school leader. It was affirming to see that the parent community gave Colorado Academy such high marks for having a positive school climate. We have worked hard to improve and sustain an inclusive and supportive school culture. Likewise, there was very positive feedback about school safety. Ninety-six percent of our parents noted that their children feel safe at CA. We also noted that there was a strong sense that CA is the right academic fit for children. Parent responses in this category put the school in the 99th percentile of national benchmarks.

For Colorado Academy, surveys serve as just one data point, as we solicit feedback in a variety of ways and seek to hear voices of students, parents, faculty, and staff. At this writing, there is a faculty/staff survey in the field, and student surveys of Grades 3-12 will be administered this spring. Additionally, there are many avenues for sharing thoughts and feelings about the school and clearly outlined channels for providing feedback, including division meetings with principals, through our active parent body and Parent Association, and through our open-door policies at every division level. Surveys also solicit open-ended responses from parents. Parents’ answers are always helpful, but I would encourage those with strong opinions or thoughts to contact me directly. I am always up for a direct conversation about school improvement.


Our survey partner is Panorama Education, where Dr. Hunter Gehlbach leads the development of the surveys. Dr. Gehlbach is an Associate Professor at UC Santa Barbara’s Gevirtz Graduate School of Education, a leading survey methodologist and education researcher, and a former high school social studies teacher. Dr. Gehlbach also serves as the Director of Research at Panorama Education. Joining the research team were Co-Principal Investigators Dr. Karen Mapp and Dr. Richard Weissbourd, both from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Development of the surveys used a six-step system that adhered to best practices in the science of survey design. This process included an extensive literature review, focus groups, synthesis, expert review, and cognitive pre-testing. 

Survey Details

Parent surveys were administered in October 2018. Surveys were sent via email to every parent and also offered via printed questionnaire. We asked parents to complete one survey for each of the divisions in which they have a student enrolled at CA. We had 668 responses, which reflects a 35 percent response rate, keeping in mind that each household received more than one questionnaire. Of the respondents, 74 percent were women, and 26 percent were men. 


The Panorama Student Survey is based on a set of survey scales, or groups of questions, that measure parent perceptions on a number of topics, including school climate, safety, fit, and school engagement.

Colorado Academy’s data is normed against thousands of schools nationwide as part of the Panorama dataset. CA’s scores are put in context when normed against other survey results from public, private, independent, charter, and urban and rural schools, and schools serving elementary, middle, and high school students.

  • School Climate: This set of questions measures perceptions of the social and learning climate of the school. Overall, CA’s score is near the 90th percentile on this topic. There is a favorable response of between 90 percent and 94 percent when we ask about the extent to which children enjoy going to school, whether administrators create an environment that helps children learn, and the mutual respect that teachers and students have. 
  • School Safety: This measures perceptions of students’ physical and psychological safety at school. Overall, CA’s scores are in the 99th percentile when compared to schools nationwide, and CA showed improvement in every question from 2016. CA received high marks across all grades for parents’ impression of students’ physical safety. Parents also expressed positive feelings about children’s ability to get help from adults when needed.
  • School Fit: This category measures families’ perceptions of how well a school matches their child’s developmental needs. Again, CA’s scores were in the 99th percentile when compared to all schools in our national data set. Parents gave CA 90 percent positive marks or higher when asked about how well the school is preparing their children for the next academic year. CA received equally high marks when asked about fit based on a child’s cultural background. 

Again, there were no sets or subsets of questions in which CA declined in its performance from 2016. There are many areas in which parent perception of CA’s performance improved. Favorable gains of 3 percentage points or more came in answer to the following areas:


Topic Area Percentage of favorable responses and

% Gain/Improvement from 2016

The school’s valuing of the diversity of children’s backgrounds 80% +8
The school’s creation of an environment that helps children learn 92% +6
The overall safety of children at CA 87% +6
The degree to which parents feel the school is preparing children for the next academic year 90% +3
The school’s approach to discipline 89% +4
The school’s fit for a child based on the child’s cultural background 90% +3
The degree to which teachers have respect for the children 94% +4
The availability of adults to help if a student feels bullied 88% +4
The degree to which the teaching style of teachers matches students’ learning styles 86% + 7


Free Responses

In several free response questions, parents were asked to provide answers to questions about what they value at CA and what they might change. Free responses by parents produced contradictory feedback in a number of areas, including nearly equal responses in parents calling for more academic rigor, but also less homework and more time for electives. Some free responses called for more diversity, and some said that the school puts too much emphasis on the topic.

Responses to “What characteristics of CA do you most value for your child’s learning?”

Energetic and invested teachers, small class sizes, curriculum/program/philosophy, safe community and environment, challenge/rigor, experiential learning, and access to help, extent to which students are known, meeting individual student needs, independence, support, encouragement, cultivating curiosity, diversity, integration of technology, variety of ways to feel challenged, feeling valued.

Responses to “If you could change one aspect of your child’s school to help your child learn more, what would you change and why?”

More writing instruction, less homework, less competition between students, more diversity among students and faculty, too much emphasis on diversity, too much technology, more foreign language study in earlier grades, more differentiation for individual students, more experiential education, more cross-departmental work, concerns about too much sports, requests for a broader range of team and individual sports, more arts, more after-school enrichment, more nutritional snacks, and more professional development for faculty on teaching introverts.


In one of my LISTEN events in mid-November, I met a number of parents, alumni, and parents of alumni in Cherry Creek for an open discussion on a variety of topics. The group asked insightful questions about maintaining a focus on core learning in addition to teaching a curriculum that is relevant and topical. Parents asked about potential causes of increased suicide rates nationwide among young people, and they asked for more parent education about technology and social media and its impact on children. 

Next steps

Surveys provide valuable feedback, and in my experience, they also validate for us topics already capturing our attention. Not surprisingly, surveys also tend to reflect current social and political issues and concerns. Constituent surveys are just one of many steps that make up our reaccreditation process. Among other tasks, we will conduct a curriculum review in the coming year, and we will invite a visiting team of educators from other schools to observe all aspects of our operation. Our end goal, of course, is using all of this information for the benefit of student performance and learning.