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4 key surveys school leaders need to consider this school year

Man leading discussion group of adults and teens

It’s easy to make assumptions about how people in your community feel about critical issues — such as school quality and community engagement. But that’s risky business, especially for school leaders who want and need to make decisions that are in the best interest of their communities. 

It can be tempting to rely on anecdotal evidence of student engagement, employee satisfaction, social-emotional learning, equity and more, but you can’t truly understand — let alone measure — these issues without collecting feedback. They’re simply assumptions and gut feelings, which can sometimes be different from the realities and opinions of your school community as a whole. 

Data garnered from school surveys can help you understand perceptions of students, families, teachers, staff and your community. With insights from strategic, research-based surveys, you can translate data into action plans that drive measurable outcomes for your school district. 

As you build out your surveying strategy for this school year, here are four types of surveys to consider:

1. Equity perception surveys

We’re all doing our best to ensure every student has equitable access to school resources. But how do parents and guardians perceive equity in your school district? 

While some families and teachers may have shared ideas on how your district can improve equity, it’s important to get a comprehensive understanding of the issue. 

An equity perception survey can help your school district identify the need for programs and resources to improve experiences for all students. 

For example, a survey may uncover that families that speak Spanish at home don’t feel as welcome in the district. In this case, you might seek to provide Spanish options on your website, on-site translation services or even a Spanish chatbot

K12 Insight launches Spanish, live agent capabilities for Let’s Talk! Assistant — the first chatbot for K-12 schools

You also might discover students feel diversity could be better reflected in the posters and pictures decorating their school. In response, school administrators and teachers could work to make chosen pictures and posters more reflective of their school’s community. 

It’s important to listen to all voices to ensure your district is fostering a safe and welcoming environment for every student. With the help of a survey on equity in schools, you can help ensure all students in your district have equitable access and opportunity to succeed — no matter their race, ethnicity, immigration status, SES, gender, sexual orientation, academic ability or language. 

2. Exit surveys

One of your best teachers left for another district last year. Recently three families transferred their children to a local charter school. And your transportation department has had quite a bit of turnover over the past few years. What gives?

Exit surveys can help give you valuable insights into the experiences people had before they closed the door behind them. Why did they leave? Did they feel they had the resources they needed to succeed? Was there a lack of communication?   

For families, the reason they move on can be complex. Sometimes they’re moving to another state to be closer to family or they’re moving out of the district because of job loss. 

However, sometimes families leave due to issues that can be solved with five-star customer service. Whether they perceive a lack of academic opportunities or were influenced by their experience with school quality and culture, these surveys can help you identify the important factors families consider when choosing a school for their child.   

3. Social and emotional learning surveys

Social and emotional learning (SEL) impacts how students learn, manage emotions, set goals, feel empathy and maintain positive relationships. By gaining a better understanding of SEL among your students, you can better develop programs and approaches that improve student success. 

An SEL survey will help you understand your students’ self-awareness, mindset, social-awareness, relationship skills, responsible decision-making and self-management. 

You also can use an SEL survey to discover how students perceive district and school programming related to key issues — such as bullying — and give you a sense of risky behaviors you may need to address. 

4. Teacher and staff surveys

There are a broad range of surveys you can implement to garner feedback from your teachers and staff. One of the most popular is employee engagement surveys, which measure the overall level of engagement and what aspects of the work environment drive engagement. 

“The insights gathered from our employee engagement study and district comparison reports are invaluable as we work to sustain and improve employee engagement.” — Dr. Jennifer Parish, Superintendent, Poquoson City Public Schools, Virginia

The use of demographic questions can help you identify trends and gaps among groups of participants, such as school, department and job classification.

You also can use surveys to measure employee perceptions about specific programs, such as new teacher mentoring and professional development. 

The art of surveying

Data is one of the most powerful tools school leaders have to help inform decisions, engage stakeholders and create opportunities for their community. 

And by collecting and acting on feedback, you can build trust among your students, teachers, staff, families and broader community. 

As you develop your survey plans for the coming school year, think about the current state of your district and where you want your district to be in the coming months and years. This will help guide you in choosing the right surveys to help you achieve your goals. 

Build a surveying strategy that works for you — and your community. Let us help you engage your district’s stakeholders and collect valuable feedback to help achieve your district’s vision

About the Author

Jennifer Coisson, Ph.D.
Dr. Jennifer Coisson has extensive experience in education research, including college and career readiness; diversity, equity, and inclusion; employee engagement; school quality; student engagement; strategic planning; and superintendent searches. Dr. Coisson earned a Ph.D. in Educational Leadership from Florida Atlantic University. She also has a master's degree Counselor Education and a bachelor's degree in Communication, as well as a graduate certificate in Student Affairs and a certification in Appreciative Advising.

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