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Survey: Education low, adequate in county

By Greg Gelpi

The quality of education is low in Clayton County, according to a third of those responding to a survey. Another half of the respondents feel Clayton County education is merely adequate.

The Clayton County school system commissioned a survey of the county as a means of following up on the series of public forums it held previously.

Although the forums collected feedback and data from all areas of the county, it was not scientific and didn't collect a random sampling of county residents, Clayton County school Superintendent Barbara Pulliam.

JWA and Southeast Research Solutions, LLC, conducted a telephone survey of 350 Clayton County registered voters from Aug. 4 to Aug. 19 with assistance from the University of Georgia.

"I believe the school system is in forward motion," said Mary Baker, president of the Clayton County Coalition for Quality Education. "I think it's going to improve now that we have a new superintendent."

According to the survey, about half feel morale is high in the school system, while the other half feel morale is low.

"These are troubling statistics," Pulliam stated in the executive summary of the survey. "The overall numbers across all groups are not good. However, the fact that families that currently have students in the system view this item more positively than those that don't is positive. This may represent the fact that recent changes in the school system are yielding positive benefits as evidence by the fact that those community members closest to the system would be the first to perceive changes."

Academically, the survey found that 42.9 percent "strongly" feel that test scores should be a priority and almost 83 percent feel classes should be more challenging.

Although a majority of the survey respondents said the school system is as safe as other school systems in the area, Baker said she is concerned about gang activity in schools.

"I don't drop (my two children) off scared to death," she said. "But, I think there is a lot more talk in my household about awareness than when I was growing up."

There needs to be more parental involvement and communication to create safer schools, Baker said.

The survey didn't support the findings of the public forums on three issues. The accreditation of the school system is of high importance, according to the telephone survey, although that wasn't found by the public forums.

More than 68 percent of those surveyed "strongly" agreed that accreditation should be a priority. Another 30 percent agreed it should be a priority.

The survey also reported higher interests in making after school programs and English as a second language programs more of a priority, despite the feedback given at the public forums.

The Clayton County Board of Education reviewed the information and used it to list its priorities, a move toward data-driven decision-making, Pulliam said. Under the direction of the school board with the survey as guidance, the school system will investigate ways to address the priorities.

Of the 350 who responded to the survey, about 41 percent currently have students in the Clayton County school system, 27 percent had students in the school system at some time and 31 percent have never had students in the system.

About 55 percent of the respondents were black, 34.6 percent were white and 1.7 percent were Hispanic.