The New Westminster District Parents Advisory Council is on the warpath with a planned rally March 20 at City Hall and an online survey gathering opinions from New Westminsterites about our city’s school-building delays.
DPAC has consistently and aggressively pushed council, school board and even the B.C. Ministry of Education for resolution on one of our city’s thorniest problems: the building of the new High School and the linked construction of new and replacement schools in New Westminster. While gathering the concerns and opinions of parents in the school district can be a powerful measure of support and a reliable way to indicate a direction for our city’s decision makers, the survey recently released by DPAC falls short of a credible scientific standard and risks being dismissed as a partisan cudgel. Leading questions and clear examples of author bias make the DPAC’s survey effort just short of push polling.
Instead of asking to rate the standard “job performance” or their “overall” satisfaction of Parent Advisory Councils, School Board, City Council, Provincial Government, participants are asked to rate how these groups “listen to their concerns.” What percentage of residents have issued their concerns directly? Concerns raised include a variety of opinions. How does this question account for that?
Even more concerning was an almost impossible question: How satisfied are you with:
The city, provincal(sic) and federal governments for not stepping up to the plate and holding themselves accountable for building on top of a cemetery as well
Phrased this way, the question abruptly turns a survey of opinions into what feels like a weapon in a vendetta against the various governing groups responsible for our schools. It oversimplifies a complex issue. When leading questions are introduced like this, what value can the results have?
I am torn writing this post because I don’t want to vilify DPAC. It is possible that their passion for the children of SD40 and frustration with the ongoing delay in school construction has just seeped into the survey. And I do think that DPAC should be pressuring the school board and provincial Ministry of Education to step up and own their responsibility to the students of this district. While a survey can be an effective tool; this one unfortunately, may be hard to take seriously.