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The Significance of Research in Every School District

COVID-19, safety concerns, book bans, and curriculum debates have left public schools in a wake of crises and many are struggling to maintain enrollment, ensure student safety, and engage their communities in meaningful dialogues. 

“If school districts don’t take time to identify issues, problems will likely grow — sometimes into difficult-to-manage crises,” said Amy Boehl, Ph.D, K12 Insight’s Senior Research Director.

Boehl, who works on K12 Insight’s Managed Research team, works with school districts to build, promote, administer, and analyze purposeful research. The team, which has worked with over 100 districts across the country, helps school districts use data to identify gaps and opportunities impacting the school environment. 

Every school can benefit from research data 

Boehl encourages every district to take advantage of data collection and analysis tactics. 

“At work, it’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day,” Boehl said. “A dedicated research team has the time and resources to manage districtwide surveys resulting in actionable data. Bringing in a professional team can help your district get the most from your research.” 

Because so many districts are facing similar challenges, K12 Insight’s Managed Research team provides possible solutions to common problems uncovered by survey data.    

“Districts always ask for benchmark data to compare their results to other similarly-sized districts across the country,” Boehl said. “We have a bird’s-eye view of education so we can provide insight on trends, specific markers, and other information. Learning about how other districts manage issues makes it easier to find the first steps for your own situations.” 

Using longitudinal studies as baselines for strategic plans 

K12 Insight releases nationally benchmarked survey reports each year, enabling annual comparison between districts on topics like employee engagement, school and district quality, and student engagement.    

“Longitudinal surveys — where we collect the same data points annually — help show districts how they’re improving year over year,” Boehl said. “That data is so important for strategic plans or school improvement proposals.” 

In districts where a lack of trust inhibits positive growth or engagement between schools and their communities, a third-party survey facilitator can increase stakeholder buy-in for new strategic plans. 

“The more district stakeholders feel heard, the more participatory they’ll be in the future. It’s a positive cycle — especially when they see changes are happening because of their feedback,” Boehl said. “It’s the perfect recipe for trust, community-building, and staff and student retention. Stakeholders won’t leave a district that is willing to grow and be flexible for their needs.” 

By K12 Insight
Originally published July 1, 2022 Last updated January 6, 2024