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Telling stories with data: How Managed Research helps districts dive into surveys and focus groups

Meet a k12 Insighter

Educator exhaustion. Social-emotional learning concerns. Teacher attrition. 

As school districts across the country experience monumental shifts, K12 Insight’s Head of Research Jennifer Coisson is on the front lines helping school administrators make data-driven decisions to improve the school environment. 

“I work with school districts across the country to identify their data and informational needs to help them improve their districts and campus plans,” Coisson said. 

Coisson, who leads K12 Insight’s Managed Research team, helps school districts build, promote, administer, and analyze purposeful school research — including surveys and focus groups. 

“We help district leaders look at both the big picture, as well as the small moving parts within the district — helping them figure out how they can make every aspect of their district work better together.”

The Managed Research team provides the expertise and tools to help school districts collect feedback and analyze data that identifies gaps and opportunities impacting the school environment and community. This helps districts prioritize resources, support and engage students, guide interventions, retain staff, and communicate with communities.

Expert-led research leads to improved district and school quality

Coisson says some school districts partner with K12 Insight for surveys and focus groups due to capacity limitations on their own teams. Others seek an expert partner to help guide districtwide research.

“There’s a lot of work that goes into crafting the right questions, managing survey administration, ensuring participation rate, and collecting diverse responses,” Coisson said. “I love working with school districts to help them understand and apply their data — seeing where they can celebrate and where they have areas for improvement, and how they can better understand their data to make action plans.”

K12 Insight’s team of expert researchers support districts every step of the way — from project planning and survey promotion to reporting and analysis — and provide access to benchmarking data that help districts compare and analyze their school to similar districts.

“It’s critical for school district leaders to be intentional about listening to stakeholders. It builds trust,” she said. “Surveys and focus groups can help validate what you know and uncover concerns you might have never expected.”  

K12 Insight’s robust survey instruments help schools discover disconnects, themes, trends and patterns; identify areas for improvement or that need investigation; validate the need for changes or additional resources in certain areas; and improve student outcomes.

“When conducting surveys, you have to ask, ‘Is this actionable data?’ There are a lot of things that are really interesting, but by working with expert researchers you can be sure your district is asking the right questions to get worthwhile data,” Coisson said. “Then it’s important to facilitate the right conversations around the data.” 

Using data to discover stories within your school district

After conducting surveys, Coisson and her team helps schools turn data into action.

“Research isn’t done when you’ve collected the data. We help school administrators understand how to apply feedback to improve outcomes through reporting, board presentations, and workshops,” Coisson said. “Because we have worked with over 100 school districts across the country, we can share insights about what other schools are experiencing and even share benchmarking data so districts can see how they measure up.” 

K12 Insight offers nationally benchmarked surveys on employee engagement, school and district quality, and student engagement. 

“Districts are often surprised at how much information they can get through surveys,” Coisson said. “There are so many different ways you can disaggregate and segment the data to tell stories, across the district, within each school, or across segments of your community. A data set is not just what you’re seeing at face value. There’s so many stories within that data. You just have to be able to slice and dice it the right way.” 

For Coisson, her role leading K12 Insight’s research team is most rewarding when she sees districts making continuous improvements year after year. 

“When we do longitudinal surveys — where we collect the same data points annually — we can see how districts are taking action to improve aspects such as student and employee engagement, equity, social and emotional learning, special education satisfaction, and more,” Coisson said. 

K12 Insight partners with school districts to provide better experiences, engagement, and education using a powerful customer experience platform and chatbot, research, and professional development. This helps districts deliver superior customer experiences — which builds trust, promotes family and community engagement, and fosters a positive school environment.

About the Author

Rachel Esterline Perkins
Rachel Esterline Perkins is the head of marketing communications at K12 Insight. She has experience managing PR, crisis communications, and bond renewal campaigns for K-12 school districts. She is the former director of communications for Davenport University and previously led social media strategy at Central Michigan University. She has a master's degree in higher education administration and a bachelor's degree in public relations from CMU.

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