The Buffalo News survey on the Buffalo schools and Board of Education was based on questionnaires mailed in late October to 365 people familiar with the school district.
The sampling was not intended to be scientific. It sought to provide a candid look at the district through the eyes of those who have first-hand knowledge of the schools and board members. To encourage candor, The News guaranteed participants anonymity and did not require them to sign the surveys.
Here's who received surveys:
One or two educators from each of the city's 72 schools. Every principal received a survey, as did one teacher on the site-based management team of every school that had formed a team by October. In all, about 135 principals and teachers received surveys.
One or two parent leaders from each school. The president of every PTA-type organization received a survey, as did one parent on the site-based management team of every school that had one. In addition, 16 parents who served on the Committee of Stakeholders that developed the plan for school-based management teams received surveys. In all, about 145 parents received surveys.
About 50 members of the school district's central administration, ranging from the superintendent and School Board members to department heads and supervisors.
About 35 members of the community, ranging from Common Council members and state legislators to union officials and government staff members who have dealings with the school system.
The News received completed surveys from 154 people, a 42 percent response. The response rate among the categories of respondents ranged from 38 to 44 percent. A response rate of 30 percent is considered good for a survey of this type. A similar survey on city government and the mayor and Common Council in 1993 obtained a 45 percent response rate.
The school survey had three parts:
All survey participants were asked to answer some 20 questions about the condition and direction of the city school district.
Principals, teachers and parents were asked to rate conditions at their school, ranging from safety and cleanliness to academic programs and availability of support staff.
All except teachers were asked to rate board members with whom they've had firsthand dealings. Few of the teachers surveyed were believed to have had direct dealing with board members, hence their exclusion.