If you want to create an effective survey, look no further than the Internet for some good advice. I starting searching today and found these suggestions:
• Keep it short.
• Use words with clear meanings.
• Don’t ask for two things at once.
• Let most of your questions be optional to answer.
• Do a test-drive.
When I posted a survey on our Facebook group page two weeks ago, I didn’t do any of those things.
• There were 50 statements to respond to.
• I didn’t define my terms.
“Children must have time to play.” didn’t specify the age of the children, how much time was needed, or what was meant by play.
• I asked for as many as four things at once.
“Art, music, dance, and theatre must be fundamental parts of basic education.” should have been four individual statements.
• None of the answer options included “Unsure.”, “I don’t know.”, or “Not applicable.”
• No one proofread the survey. There actually 49 statements because one of them was accidentally repeated.
I can blame 2020 for my carelessness or give you the backstory…
Here’s the backstory:
When I started this group last April, I began by posting a series of memes about what I thought schools should have when they reopened after the pandemic. My hope was that they would become conversation starters. Here are some examples:
Many of the memes got a thumbs up or a heart icon, but very few of them received any comments or started any conversations. The 50th (or 49th) meme was posted near the end of June.
I reposted a list of the statements in July and it received five “likes.”
I reposted it again in September and it received six “likes” and one “love.”
That was 3 months ago. Many new people have joined the Facebook group since then. I thought it was a good time to find out what people thought about them now.
Also, I had just paid for a one-month upgrade to my Survey Monkey account and I wanted to get my money’s worth.
So here we are. What did I learn from the responses?
74 people took the survey. That represents 6% of our Facebook page membership.
They live in 20 states in the US as well as Canada, Columbia, and Sri Lanka.
28 people identified as parents or grandparents. They rest are connected to the field of education. Only 16% were K-5 teachers. Several people identified with multiple job descriptions.
Everyone agreed or strongly agreed with 24 of the statements.
Here is the highest ranked statement:
(Notice the vague language.)
Here are the other totally agreed upon statements with their percentage of “Strongly agree.”
99% – School buildings must be clean, safe, and healthy environments
99% – We must “renew our efforts to fund [public schools] so they are able to meet the needs of students and to pay teachers as professionals.” – Diane Ravitch
99% – Children must have access to books with stories featuring diverse characters and experiences that are written by authors from different cultures.
96% – There must be equitable funding for all public schools.
96% – We must “ensure that disadvantaged students and those from ethnic minority groups receive the same standard of education that privileged students do.” – Nadra Kareem Nittle
94% – Secretaries, janitors, nurses, bus drivers, maintenance workers, tech support, school safety officers, crossing guards, and cafeteria workers to be treated with the respect they deserve.
94% – Decisions about our youngest learners must be based on early childhood research.
93 % – They must focus on children and learning, instead of testing and data.
93 % – Principals and teachers must be able to trust one another.
92% – Property wealth must not drive school funding.
92% – Budgets must have enough money to buy supplies for students and classrooms.
91% – Art, music, dance, and theatre must be fundamental parts of basic education.
91% – There must be full-time nurses, librarians, social workers, and guidance counselors in every building.
89% – There must be an equitable representation of teachers at the table where decisions are made.
88% – We must give teachers “professional respect, creative freedom, and autonomy, including the ability to experiment, take manageable risks and fail in the pursuit of success.” – Michael J. Hynes
87% – Policies regulating students’ dress and hairstyles must allow for cultural differences and gender expressions.
86% – Teachers’ time to be valued.
86% – Private foundations must not impose their mission on the educational system.
86% – Parents, students, and teachers must be on the task forces, committees, and advisory councils that are working on redesigning what learning will look like.
86% – We must remove racist songs from children’s music programs.
85% – We must stop “managing inequality.” We must abolish it. – Derecka Purnell
81% All public education employees in every state must have the right to unionize.
80% – We must eliminate “voter suppression through mayoral control and state takeovers, and support local, publicly elected school boards.” – Journey for Justice Alliance
The top statements everyone agreed upon centered around play, safety, equity, and culturally responsive materials. It would be easy to suggest that our future work focus on creating local, state, and national policy and legislation for those topics. And we probably should.
I have another idea.
We should also work on the issues that were less well-defined or where there was some disagreement. Systemic racism and educational justice come to mind.
The opening statement on the survey from the National Education Association is a good example. It said we must “acknowledge the existence of White supremacy culture as a primary root cause of institutional racism, structural racism, and White privilege.”
We don’t need better surveys for that. We need action. Now.
Peter Rawitsch, January 1, 2021
People offered many excellent ideas for additional survey statements. I will share those in a future blog entry.
A summary of the survey results can be downloaded below: