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4 steps to better school climate survey outcomes

It’s that time of year. Everybody is rolling out their climate surveys.

Research tells us that climate, not test scores, is the single-best indicator of student outcomes. Every school climate survey has a simple goal: Use community insight to evaluate the overall school experience.

But here’s the rub: Most school districts don’t measure climate right. Or at all.

Before you send out your next school climate survey, here’s a couple of tips I learned while serving as a superintendent in Michigan and Louisiana. If you’re not taking these critical steps to measure climate in your schools, it’s time to rethink your approach.

  1. Climate surveys should be done at the central office and site level. Too many school districts seek feedback about their central office, but fail to ask about their schools. The questions you ask should be different for both.
  2. Inform and educate first. A well-thought-out survey is great. But it won’t work without the right context. Before you send your survey, make sure parents and students and community members know what you’re doing, and that they understand the “why.”
  3. Don’t just collect data. Win people over. Data is just… data. If you’re simply creating charts and graphs to share with your board, or in your parent newsletter, you aren’t doing nearly enough. Use the feedback you receive to earn the trust of families and staff.
  4. Make feedback matter. Nothing is more valuable than the feedback you ultimately receive from parents, staff and students. Make sure they know that. Have a plan for showing your stakeholder groups the different ways in which their input contributes to your success.

If someone in your school or district is working on a climate survey this spring, I’m happy to share what I’ve learned in partnering with more than 400 school districts to do this work. If you’re already doing a climate survey, but want to get more out of the feedback you are receiving, I’m happy to share my thoughts. Email me at gerald.dawkins@k12insight.com.

About the Author

Gerald Dawkins
Dr. Gerald Dawkins is a former school district superintendent in Louisiana and Michigan. He is currently senior vice president of superintendent and district relations for K12 Insight.

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