In October 2007, Henry school parents Nancy Peter, M.Ed., and Lisa Kleiner, J.D., M.S.S, surveyed families in the Mt. Airy community to understand how they choose elementary and middle schools. One hundred ninety-two people responded to the survey. The full report is posted on the West Mt. Airy Neighbors website.
The most significant discoveries were the factors in which Henry and non-Henry families rated their perceptions of the school.
• Henry families rated teacher quality as very good, while most non-Henry families thought it did not meet their needs.
• Henry families rated student safety between very good and good, while most non-Henry families thought it did not meet their needs.
• Henry families rated curriculum as good, while most non-Henry families thought it did not meet their needs.
• Henry families rated reinforces family values as good, while most non-Henry families thought this factor did not meet their needs.
• Henry families rated school building and grounds as good, while most non-Henry families thought it did not meet their needs.
Asked to rate the importance of 25 factors in terms of choosing an elementary or middle school, Henry families and non-Henry families responded with similar priorities. The top five factors (rated “extremely important") in choosing an elementary or middle school for all families were:
1) Teacher quality (66%)
2) Socioeconomic balance (61%)
3) Curriculum (51%)
4) Enrichment activities (47%)
5) Class size (44%)
Seventy-eight percent of Henry families rated the school overall as excellent or very good. The five features of Henry School that were most often rated excellent or very good by Henry families were:
1) Opportunities for parental involvement (90%)
2) Location (84%)
3) Principal (79%)
4) Teaching staff (74%)
5) High school prep (65%)
Many non-Henry families answered that they did not choose Henry because “Henry school did not meet our needs.” The top five characteristics of Henry School that these non-Henry families thought did not meet their needs were:
1) Class size (90%)
2) Grounds (68%)
3) Curriculum (64%)
4) High School Preparation (63%)
5) Reflects family values (55%)
The Henry families’ personal experiences indicated that teacher quality, student safety, curriculum, reinforcement of family values, and the school building and grounds were assets. In contrast, most non-Henry families thought these same factors did not meet their needs. We wonder if the problem is one of perception rather than of reality. Although we do not know how non-Henry families reached their conclusions, we speculate that a more direct or thorough understanding of Henry School might demonstrate that these perceived weaknesses are in fact tangible strengths.
The people who responded to the survey represented a somewhat more educated and affluent group than Philadelphia in general, but the Henry vs. non-Henry respondents were demographically similar.
• Seventy percent of families who responded lived in the West Mt. Airy Zip code (19119). Seventeen percent of families lived in Germantown (19144), and the remainder lived in other areas of northwest Philadelphia.
• Fifty-three percent of the families who responded did not live in the Henry School catchment area (meaning that Henry was not their neighborhood school).
• Sixty-five percent of children whose families responded to the survey were white. One-quarter were African American, and ten percent were biracial or multiracial. Non-Henry parents were more often white (60%) than Henry parents (50%).
• Ninety-one percent of families who responded had at least one household member with a college education or higher.
• The most common annual household income range reported was between $81,000 and $100,000.
• Fifty-nine percent of families had children who did not attend Henry School. Twenty-three parents had children who were too young to attend elementary school.