Studies show that children with parents who take an active role in their education do better both academically and socially than their peers.
This is one of the many reasons why parental involvement can be a great thing for many schools. But the real question is not, “Should parents be involved?”; It’s, “How should parents be involved?”
One of the best ways to get parents to engage with education is through surveys that capture their feedback.
This feedback not only helps parents contribute positively to their children’s learning experience, but it also can be an indicator of a school’s overall success. By sharing their opinions, parents provide useful insights that may otherwise go unnoticed.
Why Parent Feedback Matters
According to a 2002 paper by Dr. Karen Mapp, parent involvement in schools helps students earn higher grades, boost test scores, improve social skills, and, perhaps most importantly, graduate.
Asking parents’ views on school issues also improves communication that can benefit your school in many ways. For example, parents who provide regular feedback are also more likely to understand and support any unique approaches to education or problem solving. They also are more likely to have a higher opinion of the staff and faculty.
This is important not only for the wellbeing of the students, but also for student retention and recruitment. Many schools that struggle with low attendance may wonder how to attract new families. Positive perception can drive word of mouth, so it becomes all the more important to provide ways for parents to speak.
But how should educators begin receiving feedback? Surveys are one of the best methods for collecting this type of feedback.
How Surveys Can Help
Many industries and businesses rely on surveys to uncover the answers to important questions. While surveys are a great way to do that, they can also provoke important discussions and provide objective information helpful for making decisions.
In terms of your school, surveys can also be helpful in allowing parents to share input on specific programs, practices, or policies.
Surveys can help your staff assess needs, wants, and overall satisfaction from both parents and students. Surveys also shed light on any expectations a parent might have for their child’s learning experience.
Using surveys, you will be able to determine in advance which policies and decisions parents will not support, saving you time and energy down the road. Parents are also able to stay informed of changes that may affect them.
You may be able to gather insight in a few key areas, including:
What type of parental support students receive at home?
What barriers to success are parents noticing?
What habits or behaviors are helping students succeed?
How confident are parents in the support their child receives at school?
How do parents view their school regarding academic and social standards?
How well do a school’s academic program and structure meet their child’s needs?
How do parents view teachers’ roles in different aspects of their child’s schooling?
In essence, surveys are a window into the attitudes and behaviors of the families of your school. The more information you have to work with, the better you can implement strategies to help them achieve a better educational experience.
How to Get Parents to Take Surveys
Of course, creating surveys won’t do you any good if no one fills them out. So how do you get parents to actually take your surveys?
Ask the Right Questions
There may be many different topics of concern for which parental feedback may be necessary, and that’s okay. Just don’t expect parents to answer them all on the same survey.
Keep surveys short and focused on a specific issue. If there is more than one concern, it’s okay to send more than one survey.
You also want to ask open-ended questions so parents can share their opinions without restraint. If the focus of your survey was on satisfaction, for example, you could ask the following:
What do you hope your child says about his/her experience in school by the end of the year?
What was your experience like in this grade? How do you remember that year of school?
What are your fears or concerns about your child in this year of school?
Is there anything else you can tell me about your child that you think would help support his/her learning?
Is there a question you hope I’ll ask you about your child?
Surveys are designed for open dialogue. Asking open-ended questions around specific topics will not only help you get productive feedback, but also provide an incentive for parents to fill them out.
Keep Things Anonymous
If you’re looking for honest responses, anonymity is key. Parents are generally more likely to fill out a survey that allows them to remain anonymous, though it’s still a good idea to include an optional space for parents to provide a name, email, or phone number just in case.
However, if you feel like questions will need to be related back to specific students, you can also assure parents that the results of the survey will be confidential.
Be sure to provide a follow-up number they can contact if they have more questions.
Choose the Right Delivery Method
No matter what, it’s important to limit any obstacles for parents to submit a survey.
Giving paper surveys to students to bring home is a recipe for lost or incomplete surveys (only later to be found crumpled up in a backpack or locker). Instead, consider sending an email with a link to an online survey.
It is much easier to administer, analyze, and track online surveys, and parents will be more likely to complete an online survey that can be finished quickly.
Send a Thank-You Note
Finally, it’s important to thank parents for their time in some way, whether through an incentive like a prize or giveaway, or through a simple thank you note.
Many online surveys will send an automatic response and allow you to personalize the message to come from a specific person.
Showing that you value their feedback will help parents feel involved and appreciated, which is exactly what you want.
Keeping parents involved in your school isn’t always the easiest thing, but you can make it both fun and informative by providing surveys throughout the year that encourage feedback.
Be sure that your surveys are short and to the point, and encourage parents to fill them out by using open-ended questions that give them freedom to respond.
Make sure you’re using a format that gives them easy access to complete your surveys, and no matter what, thank them for their time.
All of these things will help you not only gather data to improve your programs and policies, but build a foundation for trust with parents and students alike.