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Measuring Students’ Perceptions on Equity in our Schools

Addressing equity in our schools has become a greater priority in recent years as educators look to close the achievement gap, ensure a safe, inclusive, and supportive learning environment for all students, and graduate students who are not only culturally-aware, but committed to ending systemic racism. The pandemic and current economic state have further exploited the need for schools to address inequalities that are often associated with a student’s race and/or socioeconomic status.

For years, School Perceptions has been helping school districts gather data around the topic of student engagement. Research tells us that a student engaged in both their schoolwork and school community experiences greater success in and out of the classroom, as well as upon graduation from high school. Therefore, we set out to collect data on how students spend their free time, their perception of the rigor and relevance of their schoolwork, how they utilize various support systems, and the planning they have done for their life post-high school.

Last year, we had an increasing number of school districts asking if survey tools included questions specifically addressing equity. In response, we dutifully researched and expanded our survey to include a question set that allowed students to reflect on their feelings of being treated with respect and their acceptance for their values and beliefs. Schools gathered data regarding if students felt that there was equal access to resources and support, if all students were held to the same standards of accountability, and if they felt their culture and beliefs were represented at their school.

As we began to analyze the student engagement data for school districts, it become increasingly clearer that measuring equity was not isolated to the six or seven new equity-specific questions. Rather, we needed to consider all the data around the engagement indexes of connectedness, drive, citizenship, preparation, social/emotional aptitude, and wellness. Our system can align students’ responses with their demographic data. This allowed us to analyze students' responses by race, gender identity, free and reduced lunch status, and special education status – to name a few.

The conversations that can result from gathering and reflecting on student engagement data are powerful. According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, equity in education has two primary dimensions: fairness and inclusion. Schools must work to ensure a student’s personal and social circumstances are not obstacles in achieving their educational potential, as well as provide the necessary resources to help them succeed. Understanding where students struggle with engagement is equally as important a piece of the puzzle to ensure their academic success.

School Perceptions has a number of student engagement survey tools that can assist school districts in gathering this data. If we’re committed to doing better in our delivery of services and ensuring a successful future for all students, implementing a series of surveys throughout a student’s educational career is a good first step.

When we know better, we can do better.

To learn more about our student engagement surveys, please visit our website.


The School Perceptions Blog and Resource Center features the voices of our team members. This post was written by Sue Peterson, Project Manager & Strategic Communications Specialist.


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