Ninety percent of Palo Alto parents and 93 percent of high school students say they are "somewhat satisfied" or "very satisfied" with the education children receive in the Palo Alto school district.
Eighty-four percent of parents and 78 percent of high school students are "somewhat satisfied" or "very satisfied" with the "social and emotional experience students have" in the district.
Those are among the findings of an extensive survey of nearly 4,000 parents, high school students and school staff taken recently in connection with an update of the school district's five-year-old strategic plan.
The Board of Education will discuss the survey results in a study session at 12:30 p.m. Friday, April 12, in Conference Room A of school district headquarters, 25 Churchill Ave.
A strength of the district is that "satisfaction with PAUSD's overall academic experience remains very high," officials said in a section on "key insights" in the area of academic excellence and learning.
However, survey results indicate the district needs to improve in many areas, particularly regarding expectations and support for underrepresented and underperforming students; college and career counseling (especially at Gunn High School); in developing student skills in creativity and writing; and in improving content in English Language Arts, technology and career-technical education.
Parents also said they want more foreign-language instruction for students at an earlier age.
In the area of student personal development, a "strength to build on," is that "overall, the social and emotional experience for students in PAUSD is positive (83 percent)," the survey analysis said.
But "student stress levels are high, particularly due to academic performance concerns" and "students are more stressed out than parents perceive," the report said.
The analysis, performed by district statistician Diana Wilmot, also said that "parents are a strong source of stress for students but don't perceive themselves as such."
Eighty-four percent of parents and 87 percent of students agreed or strongly agreed that students are well-prepared for college.
Parents cited "overall quality of education" and "teacher quality" among the top-rated aspects of the district but were most critical of "consistency across teachers and courses," "level of academic support required or provided" and the "quality of college and career counseling."
Students likewise rated the "overall quality of education" highly but, like their parents, were critical of the district's "consistency across teachers and courses" and also of the district's support for underperforming students.
Eighty-nine percent of both parents and students said they are "very satisfied" or "somewhat satisfied" with the quality of teachers throughout the school district.
Yet in an analysis of open-ended responses, the most-commented-on topic, with 21 percent frequency, was teacher quality.
Among those commenting, 24 percent were "positive or very positive" while 59 percent were "very negative or somewhat negative."
The next-most-commented-upon category, at 7.3 percent frequency, was social-emotional health and stress as well as support for high-need students, with the comments overwhelmingly negative.
Only 58 percent of parents and 52 percent of students agreed, or strongly agreed, that "grading is fair across teachers and courses." Even lower numbers, 43 percent and 47 percent, said "curriculum and instruction is consistent across teachers and courses."
"Students enrolling in the same course could receive teachers ranging from bad to good, consequently resulting in inconsistent learning experiences," a student wrote.
In comparing this year's survey results with those in unspecified past years, opinions in most of 75 categories remained essentially unchanged.
However, this year's results showed a decline of more than 3 points in 18 of the 75 categories, including parent agreement with the statements "students are challenged to excel academically," "students are well prepared for college," "school has high academic expectations for all students, including under-represented" and "underperforming students are well-supported to improve academically."
Only one of the 75 categories showed an improvement of more than 3 percentage points since prior surveys. That was the percentage of students -- 69 -- agreeing with the statement that "students are excited about coming to school to learn."
The survey is part of the district's effort to update its 2008 strategic plan, which was broken into categories of "academic excellence and learning," "staff recruitment and development," "budget trends and infrastructure" and "governance and communication."
In this year's update -- with volunteer assistance from the consulting firm McKinsey, as in 2008 -- officials are considering tweaking the broad framework to suggest a more student-centered educational approach that will place "personal development and support" on par with the category "academic excellence and learning."