Surveying is an essential part of the referendum planning process, and using an inclusive survey can make all the difference in the world.
The tug-of-war between providing a quality education for students while being fiscally responsible and keeping taxes low is something school board members constantly confront. Moreover, the debate over how schools should be funded and how much should come from taxpayers is ongoing – at all levels of government.
School board members are being asked to provide quality and innovative programming for students, maintain facilities, and retain the brightest teachers to ensure that state and federal accountability standards are met.
No problem, right? If more money is needed, all you need to do is hold a referendum and ask your taxpayers for more support.
But how does the board know what the community wants and how much they are willing to pay for it?
If you were asked, you would probably answer, “Well, let’s survey them and find out!” However, the process of educating the community on the options and learning what they want is beyond the scope of a traditional sampling survey. Today, community engagement must be well-planned, ongoing, and, above all, inclusive.
Traditionally, school districts have surveyed a small sample of the population. Unfortunately, this approach leaves many people alienated and asking, “They never asked me what I thought!”
To be successful, you must understand the priorities of the entire community, especially those who don’t have kids in school. Districts are learning that allowing the survey to be biased by a single group of “influential” people is not only more predictive, it also leads to a more successful initiative.
Flawed from the Start
“Random sampling surveys leave nine out of ten people in your community wondering why no one cares what they think. These types of ‘scientific’ surveys also leave your most influential community members dangerously uninformed about issues important to your school district.”
Whether conducted by phone, online, or on paper, the traditional random sampling survey method has a number of flaws. Rarely is any sample truly representative of the entire population. Traditionally underrepresented groups can be tracked down in a door-to-door census campaign, but this is expensive and time-consuming. Even if you accomplish a perfect representative sample, is that what you want?
Surveyors know that all people in a random stratified sample are not equally likely to vote and will ask a number of questions to predict the likeliness of a respondent voting in an upcoming election. But is there a more important attribute?
We’ll cover this attribute next week. Stay tuned!
The School Perceptions Blog and Resource Center features the voices of our team members. This post was written by Bill Foster, President & Founder.