Beyond collecting data and feedback, surveys can actually help school leaders communicate with their stakeholders.
As a school district leader, you are likely familiar with the value a survey can provide for gathering feedback from your stakeholders on a variety of issues.
However, school district surveys also give us an opportunity to communicate with parents, staff, students and community members. They enable us to engage stakeholders in a two-way conversation about a wide variety of challenges or opportunities in our schools.
For example, imagine your district is considering a referendum or bond to fund some important facilities upgrades in your schools. To start, you must ensure community members have a solid understanding of what those needs are and why a referendum might be needed to address those needs.
Through a survey, you can share details on the facilities needs and the potential solutions the district and/or school board are considering. Then, once respondents have reviewed the needs, they can provide their thoughts and opinions on how the district could move forward.
In this way, school district surveys not only provide educational leaders with useful data, but they also allow a district to share important messages and information with the people they need to reach most.
Creating a school district survey
Nowadays, nearly all school district surveys are available online. Our favorite tool for these purposes is Formsite, as it provides a super-secure platform and easy-to-access data from the survey in real time. This also allows for a robust analysis of the data once the survey closes.
Another good option is SurveyMonkey, which we have also used for some select school district surveys in the past. In general, we try to avoid Google Forms and similar free tools available online due to the lack of robust data collection and reporting they usually provide.
In most cases, we suggest establishing a custom domain name — such as AnytownSchoolSurvey.org — so that it is easy to access and recall for respondents. It’s also important to give individuals the option of completing a pen-and-paper version of the survey. You can do this by giving them a phone number to call to request that a paper version gets mailed to them.
Generating survey turnout
Once the school district survey is live and ready to launch, we can really start to ramp up our communication around it. Here again, this represents a great opportunity for engagement.
Some key items to include in this rollout are a news release (distributed to local media outlets), a letter or email to parents and/or staff and regular social media updates that link to the survey while it is live. The survey should also be placed front and center on the district’s website.
For some school district surveys, including those that are part of a referendum planning process, we suggest sending a direct mail postcard to every mailbox in the district. While this can get expensive, it goes a long way toward ensuring a good turnout — especially among non-parents and other residents who may not have a direct connection to the schools.
You can continue to communicate even after the survey has closed and the results have been analyzed. This can come in the form of presenting the survey report to the school board and sharing what the district has learned via social media, parent letters, a news release and other channels. Making the most of this communication opportunity signals to your stakeholders that you appreciate their feedback and you are making good use of the survey results in your decision making.
The next time you are ready to conduct a school district survey, think about all the ways you can use it to engage your community in a positive conversation about your schools. The value of a survey stretches far beyond the data you collect from your stakeholders.
The Donovan Group has helped plan, create, launch, promote and analyze surveys for dozens of schools, districts and educational organizations across the United States.