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Student behavior and teacher mistrust are issues in Hillsborough County Schools

At Kimbell Elementary, not a single teacher feels comfortable voicing concerns.
Kimbell Elementary School in Tampa [MARLENE SOKOL | Times]
Kimbell Elementary School in Tampa [MARLENE SOKOL | Times]
Published May 28, 2019
Updated May 28, 2019

TAMPA - Teachers at some Hillsborough County schools are frustrated with large class sizes, interruptions while they are teaching, children who do not behave and principals they cannot trust.

Those situations are especially bad at Spoto High School in Riverview and Kimbell Elementary School in North Tampa.

One sobering statistic in the recently released teacher survey results: The Kimbell faculty were asked if “teachers feel comfortable raising issues and concerns that are important to them.”

Not a single teacher - zero - said yes.

School-by-school data from the study that is now called ASQi were shared with principals earlier this month. Van Ayres, the district’s deputy superintendent, met with the Tampa Bay Times on Tuesday to discuss the results.

When he asked how the district responds and, specifically, what happens to principals when the results are poor, Ayres said:

“The data we use from the survey is a piece of the information that we utilize. It’s an important piece of the overall evaluation of how a school is doing. Perception matters to us in the district and if teachers feel, or students feel at a particular school that they are not being served, that goes a long way. But it’s not like we take this in isolation and make decisions solely on this.”

ASQi replaces TELL, which was used between 2012 and 2018. District administrators were in the process this week of getting the data ready to post on its website.

They also were analyzing results of a separate set of surveys given to students, parents and support employees. Those also will be posted on the district site, school by school, spokeswoman Tanya Arja said.

Among the findings:

* Thirty percent of high school and middle school students have experience racial harassment or discrimination at school. Forty-three percent have seen other students harassed or discriminated against at school.

* But 57 percent said the reports of racial harassment are taken seriously. And 67 percent said teachers do not tolerate racial harassment of discrimination. The same percent - 67 - said teachers respect students of diversity, including matters of sexual orientation.

* Only 57 percent of elementary and 45 percent of secondary students agreed that “bullying is addressed at my school,” a number officials will consider seriously - especially at individual schools where the number is low.

* Seventy-six percent of elementary students but only 56 percent of secondary students feel safe at school, which could reflect media reports about school shootings elsewhere.

* The percentages who say students treat each other with respect - 47 for elementary, 24 for secondary - are lower than district leaders want, but both improved over 2018.

The districtwide teacher survey results showed that teachers were pleased with their physical environment and supplies, and satisfied with support they were getting from their communities. Teachers support one another, they said.

But one question took a big hit: Whether they agreed with that “class sizes are reasonable” to allow them to meet all students’ needs. The agreement rate to that one dropped from 72 percent two years ago to 59 percent this year. Ayres said district leaders will consider that statistic as they continue to address reading proficiency, which has been falling in third grade, the youngest to be measured by state tests.

In the school-by-school teacher survey results, The Times paid close attention the 50 Achievement schools, a lower-performing group that have become a priority as the district tries to achieve equity.

Four in that group - James, Miles, Palm River and Sheehy Elementary - had response rates so low, the results were not considered reliable enough to include.

Of the other 46, there were 38 with problem areas, illustrated with agreement rates of under 50 percent to statements that included “teachers have sufficient instructional time to meet the needs of all students” and “the school environment is clean and well maintained.”

Some questions showed agreement rates of under 29 percent, signalling the problems were severe. Seventeen involved the statement “students at the school follow rules of conduct.” The lowest agreement rates for that question were at Spoto (6 percent), Jennings Middle (6.5 percent), Thonotosassa Elementary (8 percent), and Chamberlain High (9.3 percent).

Spoto recently was given a new principal, Jazrick Haggins. Its last principal, Glennis Perez, remains the subject of a professional standards investigation by the district.