As summer begins to wind down, it’s time to start solidifying your plans for the upcoming school year — including your 2021-22 surveys.
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, school districts made countless changes to continue to serve their students, and stakeholder feedback was essential to each decision along the way. This year, community input will be even more critical.
As you plan your school district’s research efforts for the coming school year, it is important to address two critical elements — stakeholder communications and a well-planned timeline — to ensure success and combat survey fatigue.
Communicate consistently with stakeholders
Clear, consistent communication is vital to building trust and relationships with your stakeholders. As you plan and implement surveys, remember to prioritize communication. Keep your stakeholders informed about when you’re planning to send out a survey, why they should participate, and when it needs to be completed.
It’s also important to let stakeholders know when they can expect to learn more about the survey results and how the district will use them to drive meaningful change.
Over the past year, many decisions had to be made quickly and without much notice. Communicating with your stakeholders in advance will give them time to reflect — leading to richer data — and help them feel confident that the district is making decisions that are in the best interest of the school community.
Create a strategic survey timeline
Low response rates and overall survey fatigue are challenges many districts face — especially when they don’t have a thoughtful surveying strategy in place.
Early on in the pandemic, districts experienced an increase in survey participation rates across all stakeholder groups. Many community members — parents, students, teachers, and staff — were at home with increased access to technology and eager to share their experiences and feedback with school leaders.
But toward the end of the 2020-21 school year, response rates decreased due to a serious case of survey fatigue. Districts, schools, and departments, as well as teachers and other key stakeholder groups, were peppering the community with surveys. Without any real structure or calendar, people quickly became tired of receiving — let alone completing — surveys. And, absent visible meaningful change, it’s easy to see how stakeholders could question if they were really being heard.
As we go into the new school year, it’s critical to create a strategic timeline for survey administration across the district — including schools, departments, and other groups. Pay special attention to who is being surveyed (what stakeholder groups?), when, and why. Look for opportunities to combine multiple surveys or stagger them throughout the school year to ensure your district does not fatigue your stakeholders with too many surveys. You may also find that some research endeavors can be supported or better accomplished through other means, such as focus groups, structured interviews, or always-on listening channels.
To keep response rates high, it’s also important to consider your stakeholders’ schedules. For example, if you want to survey teachers, sending out a survey the week before school starts would likely negatively impact your survey engagement because they’ll likely be preparing to welcome students back to their classrooms.
Through thoughtful planning and communication, you can ensure your district’s school surveys help move your district forward while building trust in your community.