Photo by Laercio Cavalcanti
Understanding your students’ families – and engaging with them effectively – has an impact on almost every aspect of school life and the success of your programs.
Family engagement begins with understanding, and an effective way to do this is through a take-home or emailed family survey. Do you already have a family survey? Is it telling you everything you want to know? Here is a free family survey (in several languages) you can use as-is or adapt to your needs.
Why survey your families?
Whether you want to encourage families to support school improvement efforts, volunteer in classrooms, or just to improve overall communications with them, it is important to get up-to-date data on how they genuinely feel about the school. If you are already doing this, then hats off to you! However, if you are uncertain about how your families feel about the school and would like actionable information about how they perceive the school and their role in the school community, then a survey is a great place to start.
Why is this information critical? There are two main reasons:
First, in order to get families engaged, they must feel that their school has their best interests at heart. My leadership experience has shown me that both students and families “don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care!”
Second, school leaders must know how students and families feel when they enter the school building, and whether or not their children feel safe inside the classroom. Moreover, this information is critical to building and sustaining real relationships with families, and goes a long way in encouraging them to engage with the school. In order for schools to reach the aspirational goals that they have for their students, families must be engaged.
Encourage your families to take this brief family engagement survey. When they receive the survey it will signal to them that you care about them and their children, and their responses will also provide you with an opportunity to improve how your families view your school.
How to use the data from the family survey
The most important step in using any survey is not collecting responses, it is what you do with the survey data! Here are some ideas of how you can use the data you collect to effectively improve family engagement (and by extension student engagement and academic success, teacher morale and retention, classroom management and discipline):
- Send participating families a “thank you” letter, email, text, etc. to show gratitude and appreciation for their participation.
- Review the results amongst your leadership team and create an action plan, to share with the school community describing the process of improvement
- Based on the survey data, prioritize a list of action steps that will happen immediately, mid-range, and over time.
- Identify changes that can happen immediately and communicate with teachers about how to institute the improvements throughout the school.
For example: If the survey data shows that families are not being welcomed into the school, form a “greeting committee” that will meet and greet families at the door as they enter the school. This can happen tomorrow morning. The greeting will be “Good morning, I hope you have a nice day!”
- Strategize on when and how the mid-range and long term goals will be accomplished and create a system of communication with families, to keep them abreast of the implementation process and encourage their feedback.
- Consider how your use of Classroom Assessment Cadences – and the data they produce – can be used to encourage families to engage in student learning.
Want more help?
Validated Learning Co. offers resources, leadership coaching, teacher professional development, and training on family & student engagement, social-emotional learning, and data-driven instruction. Our staff includes seasoned educators with decades of experience in the classroom and in leadership at the school, district, and state levels. Chat with us any time (click the chat icon below).
About the Author
Marlon Davis is a school turnaround specialist who trains principals on leadership, parent involvement, change management, and data-driven instruction. A former teacher, school principal and charter school executive director in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Mr. Davis holds an M.Ed. in education leadership from the Harvard University Graduate School of Education.