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Every other year, the Defense Department school system seeks the opinion of its customers: parents, students and teachers.

But last time around, not many parents piped up — only 13 percent responded to a customer satisfaction survey about education quality.

The Department of Defense Education Activity is hoping many more than those 12,000 parents will respond to this year’s survey, which will be online starting Nov. 1.

“The higher response rate, the more mandate we’ll have (to make changes),” said Janet Rope, administrator for system accountability and research for DODEA.

The survey, which is based in part on the Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup Poll of the Public’s Attitudes Toward the Public Schools, helps DODEA identify areas that need improvement. Teachers, parents and students in grades four and five, six through eight and nine through twelve are given separate surveys. Questions focus on areas such as curriculum, instruction, standards, assessment, technology and student support, according to a DODEA statement.

The last survey, during the 2004-05 school year, garnered about 45,000 responses. Teachers and students participated in much higher numbers than parents, with 53 percent of students responding and 58 percent of teachers doing so.

A goal for this year’s survey is to increase parent participation, Rope said.

“We would be absolutely thrilled if the parents of each one of our students completed a form,” she said. “We think that parents have a lot to offer.”

The results will help the school system monitor whether it’s on track with its Community Strategic Plan — DODEA-wide goals for 2006-11 — and have the potential to directly impact policy.

For example, the last survey indicated there is a problem with counseling services, with only 56 percent of high school students giving their school’s counseling program a grade of A or B. The result was a surprise to officials, who thought the program was strong, Rope said.

To investigate the disparity, teams have been dispatched to two schools — Seoul High School in South Korea and Kubasaki High School in Okinawa — to evaluate and gather input about the counseling services, Rope said. In November, another team will survey two stateside sites and a third will visit U.S. Army Garrison Baumholder in Germany and Naples, Italy.

DODEA might make changes depending on what those teams find, Rope said.

Department of Defense Dependent Schools-Pacific spokesman Chip Steitz said the results easily can be tailored to each school, giving each the opportunity to address issues that are unique to their communities.

The surveys are anonymous, so people can tell it like they see it without fear of reprisal, Rope said, adding that constructive criticism would be most useful.

“We want them to be honest and do it in a way that allows us to take positive action,” she said.

The survey, which takes about 20 minutes to complete, can be found online at www.dodea.edu, but those without Internet access can fill out the form at school. DODEA will accept responses until Feb. 28.

Stars and Stripes reporter Kent Harris contributed to this report.

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