Thank you for your participation in our family feedback survey in December. We have carefully reviewed your responses and are happy to share a summary of the results with you. To begin, 75% of our families throughout the program participated in the survey. We appreciate the thoughtful feedback, both those that demonstrated a deep understanding and appreciation for the hard work of educators and staff in the program as well as those that help us focus on areas to improve. Thank you so much for your time and support!
We were delighted to know that 100% of the families agreed or strongly agreed that our teachers enjoy children and are approachable.” In a few areas such as “works well with student teachers, or accommodates individual differences” several families felt as though they didn’t have enough information to rate, which is understandable in our outdoor format. We are working on improving ways that more of the children’s experience is evident through documentation, photos, and verbal sharing of observations. 99% of respondents shared that they think their child’s teacher’s overall ability as an early childhood educator is Excellent or Very Good. Among the comments shared: “She is wonderful and I feel privileged to have her caring for my child,” “I’ve never met a teacher that is so transparent with her adoration for children and to help them feel comfortable in a school setting and succeed. So pleased she is our teacher!” “She’s very professional and compassionate towards the children. She understands my child’s needs and is willing to help us reach some developmental goals,” “We’ve been thrilled with our teacher and the way he interacts with our child and facilitates the classroom and peer relationships. We feel seen and heard and that our child is known and valued,” “We have been so impressed by the preschool curriculum and activities and the extent to which the teaching team has engaged and responded to the interests of the class to guide topics and explorations.”
With our changes during COVID-19, many of you shared that you were very happy with the changes our program has made. Some comments around the school environment included: “In our experience the school environment has always been warm, inviting, and centered around developmentally appropriate learning!”, “We love that their classroom is outside and there are so many different ways to explore. The variety of materials is incredible and love that the children can take walks around campus as well,” “We really appreciate how hard the staff and faculty have worked to make truly engaging outdoor spaces to pair with the lovely interiors,”
In the section of the survey focused on our curriculum, 100% of families agreed or strongly agreed that it provides sufficient opportunities for social and emotional development and is engaging for your child. Many comments expressed how much families appreciate our curriculum. Other families shared, “The way the teachers follow the children’s interests with their curriculum is really neat.”
A second family shared “We appreciate the lesson plans and documentation which help to make connections between the curriculum and child’s experiences,” “The weekly reports are so helpful in understanding the high degree of consideration and expertise that goes into the time the kids are at school. I am no early childhood expert myself, but the school helps me to develop in my own understanding as my child develops in this rigorous environment,” and “This school is such a gift to the community! We are so grateful that both of our kids have been able to learn and grow here.”
A few families gave a neutral or negative rating to “fosters pre-academic concepts such as math, science, literacy and social studies.” One family shared “I would love to see more music!” and another added “The question about math, literacy and social studies is hard to answer because I don’t believe it is meant to be taught in a traditional academic way at this age or with the program philosophy? But I think they are getting it in an age-appropriate way through natural explorations and access to manipulatives and stories, by following their curiosity and other opportunities which seems just right. It feels good, supportive, and intentional.” We are working hard to create clarity about our curriculum and your child’s development through our lesson plans and classroom documentation. We strive to make the pre-academic parts of our curriculum more evident in our documentation. Often we do this by highlighting the Minnesota Early Childhood Indicators of Progress on the weekly documentation so you can clearly link your child’s experiences with important growth benchmarks.
All respondents felt school communications are valuable and enhance your understanding of what is happening at school and why. While about 1% thought that conferences could be a little longer. There were several constructive comments that will help us improve our communication including “The curriculum grid is difficult to understand and has way too much information in it for my purposes,” “We would appreciate timely conferences to have a more in depth discussion of the child’s development,” and “only would need the daily journal notes if something specific and/or unique special happened during the day —notice generic comments more frequently “had fun playing outside” “had fun music time” — seems like just a chore for the teachers to complete these most days, maybe can reduce these specific daily notes to 2-3 times week and would be nice for more insightful comments, as opposed to very generic comments 5 days a week,” “The one area of improvement is having more clear communications. I am often left wondering what the expectations around some of the communications are. For example the communications around returning to school and needing to test prior to returning felt unclear,”and “Sometimes I am a bit overwhelmed by the quantity of emails and miss information that I should have acted upon because of the sheer frequency.”
Thinking about our program as a whole, for some families, the schedule changes have been another negative consequence of changes during the pandemic. Several families noted the earlier pick-up time negatively impacted their family and although support for the teachers to have a break in December was overwhelming, there was at least one family that struggled to make a plan with only three weeks’ notice. We are working on next year’s calendar now and will be building in more intentional days off for staff development and support so families will have time to make arrangements.
We know having classrooms closed due to staff shortages also negatively impacts families and we are working to get high-quality teachers hired and oriented to get back to regular enrollment within the next several months as staffing allows.
Families shared many feelings about the ways COVID has shaped our program over the past two years. We know the information is continually changing and we are doing our best to navigate this uncertainty with as much clarity and consistency as possible. Most families supported our current work around COVID-19 mitigation sharing comments such as “Thank you for what you are doing to help keep everyone safe and healthy” and “I am thankful that children are required to mask at school. I know of a few child centers where masking is not mandated and the families have had many more issues with COVID. I also appreciate the willingness to work with parents concerned about covid to support the use of higher filtering masks for children by offering options to purchase masks to find a good fit.”
A few families also shared some frustration with the policies and practices sharing “more frequent communication of policies would be appreciated; standards that go above and beyond national/state standards would also be appreciated as these are really a minimum level of protection; appreciate the mask requirements, would like to see more requirements for regular testing, and communication about environmental controls (eg filtration and ventilation) that are in place and how effective they are” and “requirements need to be consistent and make sense for MN.”
In the past year, we brought together two programs with long proud histories and vibrant communities into the new Child Development Laboratory School. Both communities have faced losses and both programs have gained tremendous assets in our new building together. Some families shared their perspectives on how this has felt for them including “There are times where the environment in the center doesn’t feel very welcoming. I think this is due to a lack of connection between the parents and the teachers (in the new program). I know that the staff is terribly stressed, overworked, and under-resourced. It is hard to see and not know what we can do to help,” and another shared “We don’t feel particularly connected to the community. COVID makes it really difficult to connect with others, and there haven’t been many opportunities to connect with other parents. At the camping trip, we were around families for both programs, which was nice!” Other families shared “appreciated the whole community zoom meeting and events like the bonfire to get a sense of the whole community,” and “I can see that the school is starting to try to create opportunities for the community to come together.”
In response to your suggestions, we are working on a program-wide communication plan to make all correspondence more timely and deliberate. Some of the comments that support our current work, but can also help us build a better plan include “Communication is excellent, thorough, and very frequent. If anything even less communication would be acceptable,” “I appreciate the thought and intention put into the weekly curriculum, including new provocations, building on activities/skills from weeks prior, and special events. I look forward to reviewing the journals every day. Most often, it is just one activity my child enjoyed during the day. I would love more insights on how my child is interacting with the class (quotes, stories, connections made, etc.),” and “we love getting the reports and seeing the photos in the documentation. They are the perfect amount and type of content. We so appreciate being able to email when we have pertinent info about our child to share and appreciate the collaborative and sensitive responses!”
Comments about the school in general shared “You all are the best. We are so grateful for all that you do every day! We know the circumstances of the past nearly two years have been particularly trying, but you really have been a constant source of support in such a wild storm of a global pandemic,” “This is a great find. We hope the program is able to help more families get a strong start. We really appreciate good guidance to the child in socializing and communication back to the family about progress increases parent confidence,” “Our child misses school already during this break and often asks to go to school on his days off! We are so happy he is getting this experience as a first introduction to school and learning.”
Thank you again for your time and attention in taking the survey. We appreciate your feedback and will continue to work to create a space that is safe, enjoyable, and engaging for all of our learners.