There may be nothing more frustrating than pouring time and effort into a survey only to have a disappointing number of responses. I have literally spent hours on high-visibility, strategic projects to achieve the perfect tone and wording of specific districts’ survey questions. Occasionally, we invite school boards and building administrators into the editing process to receive their feedback and win their emotional investment. But if, at the end of the survey, only a small percentage of the target audience takes the time to respond, it can feel disappointing.
This is why I was so pleased with the outcome of a recent Climate Survey I managed with Dennis-Yarmouth Regional School District in the Cape Cod region of Massachusetts. The survey asked students, parents and teachers for their views on issues like teaching, learning and school operations in each of the district’s seven schools.
The first day we launched the teachers’ survey, I was delighted to see an astounding 80% response rate! Frankly, we would have been thrilled to have that result at the end of the response period, so when we saw response rates that high after Day One, I congratulated Superintendent Carol Woodbury on the stellar performance and asked the secret of her success. “We administered the survey as part of the district staff meeting,” she explained. “We thought it was a good plan and emphasized how important teacher views were to us.” Since then, follow-up reminders have been sent, and more than 91% of teachers have responded.
I strongly recommend this approach. Allocate a portion of a Teacher Professional Development session or a staff meeting to encourage survey participation. You may also want to set up computers or kiosks during Back-to-School Night or Parent-Teacher Conferences in order to increase response rates. After all, if you devote a lot of time to the survey development process, you’ll want to maximize the return on your investment by aggressively promoting participation.