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Using surveys to drive continuous school district improvement

Teachers, staff, parents, and students have a lot to say — especially after growing accustomed to virtual learning and other changes due to the pandemic. And district leaders are faced with a monumental task: improving school quality during unprecedented changes in schools and increased expectations from parents. 

The best way to drive continuous school improvement — which affects culture, quality, and engagement — is to open the lines of communication, listen to your stakeholders, and dig deeper with your research. And here’s how:

Welcome feedback.

Parents, guardians, teachers, and staff have feedback — a lot of it. Providing an outlet for them to share their thoughts, feelings, and perceptions shows your school district values their input. Be sure to communicate to all stakeholders that your district is committed to improving, and their feedback is welcomed and needed — even if it’s not all positive. 

Be intentional with your questions.

As you seek to improve school quality, place yourself in your stakeholders’ shoes and think about the input they want to share. What are they worried about? What needs aren’t being met? Is your district missing the mark in certain areas, such as equity or social-emotional learning? Are there groups that are underserved and need additional resources? If you aren’t asking the right questions, you might not get the data you need to drive a school district improvement plan. 

Put your data to work.

Administering a survey is just the first step. You also need to digest the data, learn from it, and take action. Review the data thoroughly, looking at the responses all stakeholder groups provide. The survey results will shed light on where problems lie. Let the quantitative and qualitative insights guide your school district to dig deeper. Hone in on the areas your stakeholders identified as areas for improvement and then get down to the root cause of the issues that are uncovered. 

Create a plan.

Use the insights and information you’ve garnered through research-backed surveys, focus groups, listening tours, and other strategies to create a plan. These plans can be done at the district, school, and department levels to make meaningful change within your community. Once you have action plans in place, be sure to conduct routine reviews of these plans, so you know where you’re reaching your goals and where you may need to make adjustments to the plan. 

Close the loop.

Just as it is important to solicit feedback from your stakeholders, it’s also important to share with them what you learned and how you’re going to use the data. Share survey findings, celebrations and areas for improvements, with your community, as well as share with them the action plans you’ve created. Your community will be more willing to share their feedback when they know it’s being used; this will also help to build trust within your community and with your stakeholders. 

Surveys serve as the backbone for school improvement. Sign up for a free consultation to learn how K12 Insight’s Managed Research team can help you create a plan for action.  

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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