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You identified areas for improvement. Now what?

You’ve surveyed your staff, students, and parents because you genuinely want and need their feedback. Celebrating and maintaining the positive areas is an exciting and essential part of the survey process, but acknowledging and addressing any areas for improvement is equally important.

So, how do you address those lower survey scores? It’s tempting to feel discouraged when you’ve worked so hard to achieve excellence in your schools. Those lower-scoring areas can be overwhelming when you aren’t sure what steps to take next. Knowing how to report them to your school community can also be challenging.

Acknowledging your areas for improvement is powerful.

  • It validates concerns.

    • People sometimes wonder if their input is really valued. Acknowledging those areas that need improvement is a clear signal to people that they have been heard, and it communicates to them that real action will be taken.

  • It opens doors for further communication, education, and understanding.

    • Sometimes, more information is needed to fully understand the perceptions of all parties involved. Acknowledging the areas for improvement allows you to have a meaningful dialogue with your school community to learn more about their experience, what is going on behind the scenes that others may not be aware of, and what challenges are contributing to the concern.

  • It encourages future input and engagement.

    • People are likely to disengage if they think their opinion doesn’t matter. Some of the comments that we see from staff and parents reflect frustration that their concerns are ignored, that district leaders or board members have their own agenda, and that dissenting voices are disregarded. So, they wonder, “Why bother?” Acknowledging their concerns increases the likelihood that they will contribute to future surveys, but even more importantly, contribute to finding solutions. In some cases, future scores will even improve simply because people know their input has been heard and efforts are being made.

Putting your scores into context is helpful.

  • Comparison reports provide context with other schools.

    • Obviously, a low score is not what you want, but it may not always reflect something that the district is doing poorly. Comparison reports are a key component in putting your scores into proper context. For instance, schools have limited funding for staff salaries, and compensation rarely gets rave reviews. While you wish you could pay your staff more, it may help to see where you stand in relation to similar school districts’ compensation scores rather than looking at your local scores in isolation.

  • Longitudinal reports measure local progress.

    • How have your scores changed over time? Longitudinal reporting is vital for assessing performance over time. If your score is lower than you would like but has improved over the course of a year, then you are on the right track. That’s cause for celebration!

  • Agreement % scores provide local urgency.

    • Some areas can have “tightly packed” scores, meaning it doesn’t take much to lower your comparison score. Considering what percentage of your respondents answered favorably can help make sense of that score and give you better context for how you are doing and how to prioritize.

Prioritizing your action planning priorities is essential.

  • Lowest Scores

    • The most obvious and easy starting point for action planning starts by studying areas where your raw scores and/or comparison percentiles are the lowest.

  • Most Urgent Concerns

    • Low scores can serve as a starting point. Still, some areas can take greater priority if they indicate safety is a concern or staffing could be an issue. All rating areas do not have the same level of urgency, and you may find that fixing one area brings another one up along with it. Priorities must be established based on the measured area and the feedback received.

  • Common Concerns Across Multiple Survey Tools

    • When studying the results of multiple survey tools, it can be challenging to decide where to start if several areas for improvement scored in a similar range. One piece of advice we often give is to look for common areas across the other surveys you have conducted. For example, if student conduct and behavior emerge as a concerning area for students, staff, and parents, then that would seem to be a better place to start than other areas isolated to one group or another. Action plans that can impact more than one group you serve at a time will give you a greater return on your efforts.

At School Perceptions, we would be thrilled to help you study your results so you can measure what matters and make improvement plans for the future.


The School Perceptions Blog and Resource Center features the voices of our team members. This post was written by Cari Udermann, Project Implementation Manager, and Daren Sievers, Project Manager.


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