Independent School Surveys: What, Why, and When

Independent School Surveys: What, Why, and When


Welcome to today’s edition of ISM’s Quick-tips
Podcast Series. I’ Barbara Beachley, a research analyst and Associate Consultant with Independent
School Management. We conduct surveys for schools all over the country and today I’m
going to talk to you about why they survey and the benefits. Why Survey? So why do schools survey? Schools call us
for a number of reasons. Increasingly we’re finding that accrediting agencies are requiring
surveys. Some their own surveys, others allow internal surveys or surveys conducted by third
parties. Surveys are used for decision making and strategic planning, improving student
performance and satisfaction, identifying strengths and weaknesses, strengthening management
and leadership, testing the feasibility of an initiative, or making sure that your parents
are satisfied. By improving overall satisfaction among all of your constituencies you increase
internal marketing which is so important for recruitment and rerecruitment. Probably the
most important reason to survey is to confirm assumptions and unveil myths which can be
very costly. When schools make assumptions and then make decisions based on those assumptions
without confirming them with data mistakes can be made. So all of this helps you to deliver
your mission and ensure greater value propositions that keep your school sustainable in the future. Types of Surveys The most common that schools will conduct
internally may be one or two item poles through Survey Monkey within a department or to check
on an opinion having to do with the lunch program let’s say or athletics. When it comes
to overall satisfaction surveys those tend to be longer. For example the most common
one that we conduct is the parent satisfaction survey which looks at everything from academics,
social emotional satisfaction, parent demographics, and satisfaction with communication and leadership.
We also have student and faculty culture surveys which look at the connection between faculty
culture which influences student performance satisfaction and enthusiasm. And those are
benchmarked research surveys that we have data so that we can look at where schools
fall on the national norm. Faculty staff satisfaction surveys are also important—looking at all
sorts of things from job satisfaction to maximizing capacity to satisfaction with benefits. Board
of trustee evaluation surveys are useful in strategic planning and attrition surveys and
applicat surveys are two of the most popular surveys that we conduct. Schools are always
looking to see why people are leaving or mission appropriate students are leaving. And so attrition
get at that. Declined applicant or applicants that are applying to your school are accepted
at your school and then decide not to enroll. So looking at the reasons why they are choosing
other schools and possible reasons that they did not choose your school. Alumni surveys
are great for looking at value added so some of you may have a portrait of a graduate—you
have on your website what a graduate from your school looks like. So confirming that
with Alumni surveys particularly is important for marketing. Putting that in your school
newsletter can be a fantastic way to communicate what you are actually doing as opposed to
what you say you are doing. Having it in the word of the Alums is a great way to do that.
Campaign feasibility is another popular survey that we do looking at really can you manage
the campaign that you’re about to start. Campaigns are expensive so it’s important to make sure
that they are feasible before you begin that project. Program strength—just looking across
your academics, comparing your departments, comparing teacher, teacher care and concern.
And we really look at the aspects that according to our research are most important to independent
school parent. And it’s crucial that they are in the surveys so that you are basing
your questions on research. On a smaller level in schools—internally—teachers often conduct
classroom surveys so that they are conducting their own research action research and looking
at their own progress and the progress of their students over time. And then finally
standard research-based instruments that you can look at your progress over national norms
and compare them. Survey Methods So there are a number of questions to ask
when you think about how you are going to conduct your survey. First who is going to
conduct the survey? Will it be internal—conducted by the school—or will you hire a third party
to do the survey? And there are pros and cons to both depending on the kind of survey that
you’re conducting. Secondly, are you going to conduct the survey once and then look at
a cross sectional piece of time or will you conduct the survey over a period of time and
compare it for longitudinal data? Will you use a standardized instrument so that you
can use benchmarking on norms to see where you stand versus other schools? Or, will you
have a customized instrument that looks at your specific programs and needs? And finally
which medium will you use—phone, electronically, or in-person interviews? We’ve found that
we get the best data from electronic distribution. We have higher response rates and we get more
honest and complete feedback. When is the Best Time to Survey? So a lot of schools ask us when the best time
to survey would be. It really depends on who you are surveying but there are two rules
of thumb for this. First you want to look at the State of your participants who will
be participating in the survey. So for example, a faculty culture survey would not be ideal
right before comments are due. You would want to avoid times where they would be stressed
or in other states of mind that wouldn’t accurately reflect their culture. Parent satisfaction,
avoiding December or January, big Holidays, Spring Break, or any time when the parents
might be distracted or stressed because of student stress—for example around exam times
so we typically recommend the October, November, February, and sometimes late Spring for parent
satisfaction. Applicant surveys are typically done between March and May because that’s
when applicants are letting schools know that they will not be attending and that’s the
same for attrition. So doing attrition surveys soon after you know that families are leaving
would be the best time. The second rule of thumb would be to, if you’re going to conduct
a survey over a period of time to do it the same time every year. All of our data show
that surveying the same group in October would yield different results than in April let’s
say. So if you’re conducting surveys over a period of years, if you do it in April in
the first year then you need to do it in April in the second year so that you have reliable
comparative data. Thank you for joining me in this Podcast.
For more information about visit isminc.com/elearning. To stay connect to the latest from ISM don’t
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