Research indicates that partnerships between home and school improves student learning outcomes. It can be difficult to get parents and guardians involved in activities happening at school, and especially challenging to gain feedback through surveys. Social scientists conducting research strive for a 25-30% response rate, with the literature indicating that 15-20% is typical. This provides an indication of how hard it can be to engage survey takers!
The following strategies can help schools maximize participation in the OurSCHOOL parent survey.
Promote the Initiative to School Staff
- Ensure teachers know when the survey will be taking place so they can remind parents and guardians ahead of time.
- Inform school staff about the importance of the survey. Designate specific staff roles, outline responsibilities, and describe the benefits of survey participation as well as potential barriers to recruitment. Having designated roles will ensure that staff can speak confidently to parents and guardians about the importance of the survey.
Communication with Parents
- Inform parents and guardians of the initiative before the survey is expected to start.
- Use multiple mediums to notify parents and guardians of the survey. For example:
- social media
- parent-teacher interviews
- school website
- a direct request from principal or teacher
- school-to-home communication notebooks
- connect with parents at drop off or pick up time, or even at school sporting events
- print and send the Parent Survey - Letter to Parents Template
- Ensure parents and guardians understand the purpose of the survey and let them know you will be sharing the results once the survey has closed.
- Have the survey available for parents to view and ask questions.
- You can also try text message notifications or reminders. Some parents may not have computers at home, but have cell phones with text plans and can access the messaging via their cell phone.
- Ensure any paper-based messages are short and easy to read. Also, try to use a large font size. Alternatively, use voicemail where possible.
- School Coordinators can access current response rates using the OurSCHOOL ‘monitor progress’ function and report the results progressively throughout the survey window via text messages, newsletter, etc.
- Ask disengaged parents for their ideas on strategies to encourage participation.
- Be sure to follow up to remind parents and guardians of the initiative and encourage those who have not yet made a decision on participation.
- Arrange a fun challenge with your school. For example, if the school reaches a certain number of parent surveys completed, students get a free period on a certain day, or an extra long recess. This will help students remind parents and guardians to complete the survey.
- Develop grade level challenges among students. The grade level with the most surveys completed wins a pizza party or other reward.
- Let parents know that you will be sharing the results of the survey with the parent committee. In your communication be sure to note that the school uses the feedback to make improvements. You can also invite parents to participate in the schools planning process for using the results.
- Hold focus groups with parents and present the results. Leave time for open discussion. Be sure to note that the school takes the survey seriously and that you are genuinely interested in their feedback and will be using it to make changes. Running focus groups can help raise the participation rate in the following year. You can also use this as a chance to discuss and link the results from the student survey.
- School functions provide an ideal opportunity for survey participation. For example provide a chance for parents to complete the survey during information meetings, breakfast or BBQ events, trivia night, band concerts, sporting events, and drop-off or pick-up time. Provide an incentive for participation such as a chance to win a prize.
…an elementary school principal:
“We’ve opened the computer lab before and after school for one week. Whoever is on morning or bus duty directs parents to the lab to complete the survey there. We’ve advertised that the lab is open. I’ve been in the lab and so has someone else from the [survey] committee to support parents in logging on and resolving any issues. In three days we’ve had over 40 parents…from a school of 99 kids.”
- You could also arrange for the survey window to take place during parent-teacher meetings. Set up computer stations in the waiting areas, or direct parents to a computer lab where the survey is already loaded on the screen. You can even have someone on hand to assist parents who struggle to read or parents whose first language is not English.
…a secondary school teacher:
“In high schools use parent teacher nights and funnel parents into computer labs to do the survey. Provide a ticket to each parent who takes part and draw a prize the next day. Also put tea and coffee in the computer room to get [parents] in there…older students can assist with the computers.”
- Schools can bolster participation by pairing survey information with other school documents sent home through students, such as a report card requiring a guardian’s signature.
View our Raising the Bar video for more information on parental involvement. You can also check out the article on Preparing Staff, Students and Parents for the Survey. The video resource can be accessed here.
By planning ahead and preparing parents and school personnel, you can bolster survey participation. This will help parents feel connected to the school and can lead to improved student outcomes.