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Research-backed surveys critical for guiding superintendents in 2021-22

Head of research shares perspectives on K-12 equity, exit, social-emotional learning, and employee engagement surveys.

Sept. 25, 2021 — As district and school leaders continue to make plans for the 2021-22 school year, research-backed district surveys will play a pivotal role in helping superintendents across the United States make informed decisions and guide them in achieving their district’s goals.

“Data is one of the most powerful tools we have to help inform our decisions, engage our stakeholders, and create opportunities for our community” said Dr. Jennifer Coisson, head of research at K12 Insight. “District and school leaders need to use data to gain insight into the perceptions, feelings, and needs of their stakeholders and then make improvements as needed.”

Administrators should collect quantitative and qualitative data from every stakeholder group — including students, parents and guardians, teachers and staff, and community members.

While each district will have its own needs for data and feedback, Coisson recommends district leaders consider four key types of surveys this year:

  • School Quality and Equity Perception Surveys
  • Exit Surveys for Families and Employees
  • Social-Emotional Learning Surveys
  • Engagement Surveys for Employees and Students

“Every district and school leader is doing their best to ensure every student has equitable access to school resources, every teacher and staff member is engaged, and that they’re serving students’ social and emotional needs to support learning,” Coisson said. “A research-backed survey will help superintendents, school boards and their teams have a comprehensive understanding of the issues facing their district.”

Coisson encourages the use of surveys to help school districts identify the need for programs and resources to improve experiences for all students — particularly equity and social-emotional learning.

For example, with the help of a survey on equity in schools, superintendents can ensure all students in their district have equitable access and opportunity to succeed — no matter their race, ethnicity, immigration status, SES, gender, sexual orientation, academic ability, or language. SEL surveys help superintendents discover how students perceive district and school programming related to key issues — such as self-management and respect for others — and give them a sense of risky behaviors they may need to address.

“By gaining a better understanding of equity and SEL among your students, you can better develop programs and approaches that improve student success” Coisson said.

Teachers and staff will be a critical stakeholder group to survey this year.

“The biggest thing we’ve seen recently with school districts across the country is that teachers and staff are more overloaded than ever,” Coisson said. “Some districts have been able to navigate this pandemic more gracefully than others and keep their employees engaged and satisfied while others have been left with staff who are frustrated and overwhelmed. The best way districts can address this is to engage staff through surveys to collect feedback on their needs, wellbeing, and overall satisfaction with the district, their campus, and their job.”

There are a broad range of surveys districts can implement to garner feedback from teachers and staff, including employee engagement surveys — which measure the overall level of engagement and what aspects of the work environment drive engagement. Districts also can use surveys to measure employee perceptions about specific programs, such as new teacher mentoring and professional development. Some schools are even creating exit surveys to provide valuable insights into the experiences employees had before they left.

“This year could be a turning point for teachers and staff who may be considering leaving their district or leaving the education field altogether, and survey research can help district superintendents get a pulse on dissatisfaction before it results in turnover,” Coisson said.

For more information about K12 Insight or Let’s Talk Assistant, visit k12insight.com.

By K12 Insight
Originally published September 25, 2021 Last updated December 1, 2023