Many school districts will take annual climate surveys or use tools to assess their school culture and climate on an ad hoc basis, but these surveys do not reflect a true perspective on school and classroom life. Feedback from the end of year can be misleading and creates a bias as participants will remember selective parts of the year and may forget other issues within that year.
Continuous feedback is essential for all schools and districts, recognizing the benefits of having an ongoing feedback system rather than the traditional once-a-year evaluation. When done correctly, regular feedback can help you create an improvement driven culture that is proactive and predictive.
Builds a positive school culture and climate
A study on students’ perceptions of school culture from a YouthTruth survey, highlighted that
“Only 1 in 3 students rate school culture positively”. This clearly shows that there is room for improvement especially with the ESSA (Every Student Succeeds Act) including non-academic metrics of school success such as school culture and climate. To improve the students' rating of school culture school leaders need to fully understand how their students feel about the school environment. Ask them if they rate their school culture positively? Do they feel listened to?
Encouraging communication within the community by sending out regular surveys, will show that their feedback is wanted and welcomed. School and district leaders should request feedback from staff, students and parents about what they think is working and what is not working to keep schools safe and equitable. These on-going surveys will then create a consistent stream of feedback so that the school culture and climate has a chance to improve. Questions focused on culture and climate should be asked regularly so once feedback is received best practices can be put into place by school leaders. Informing the school community that their feedback has helped to drive actions for improvement will ensure that they continue to send their feedback because of its value. With the regular and anonymous feedback, the school community will feel empowered to speak out and are more engaged in their environment. Knowing that they are making a difference and their voice matters helps to drive a positive culture and climate.
A continuous feedback culture helps streamline communication to all members of the school community and collaborate to raise issues.
Improves staff retention
According to the National Education Association, around 50% of new teachers will leave the profession within their first five years of teaching. This is causing school districts to spend over $20,000 for each new staff hire including a large amount of their time to recruit and train these staff. So what's the reason behind teachers leaving the profession? There are a number of reasons why staff decide to leave their job but one of which is that teachers feel that their opinions are ignored. A report from Penn State University and the non-profit Robert Wood Johnson Foundation claims among professional occupations, teachers rate lowest in feeling that their opinions count at work and they have little say on any policies in the school. It has also been proven that teachers who are well supported and valued by school management are more likely to stay in the profession.
This issue can be solved through staff sending continuous feedback to the school leaders, by completing on-going surveys staff feel like they have an outlet for their opinions and that their voice does matter. Once the district leaders have implemented improvement plans based on the staff feedback, staff will feel engaged and involved within the school decision making. School leaders will have a continuous view of how staff feel throughout the year so they can rely on up-to-date feedback to drive improvement decisions and increase staff retention.
Boosts family engagement
A report by Dr. Karen Mapp reported that parent involvement in schools helps students earn higher grades, boost social skills and improve test scores1. By asking for regular feedback directly from parents on school issues this helps to improve their communication between the school and parents are more likely to support the different actions implemented following the feedback as they are involved in the process. The relationship between staff and parents will become stronger and parents will have a better opinion of the school leaders. With regular surveys, leaders can establish which policies parents support and which they do not agree with saving time and money in the future. Surveys give school leaders unbiased data from parents that present exactly how they feel and their attitude towards the school. The more of these surveys sent and feedback received the better, school leaders can push policies and actions to help improve culture and climate whilst also building trust with parents.
Increases student involvement
According to an extensive student voice survey, only 46% of students feel valued in their school2, they then become disengaged and achieve lower grades. Schools and districts must ensure that each student feels valued and listened to by elevating the student voice. Dana Mitra, a Pennsylvania State University scholar on education policy and student voice defines the student voice as “young people sharing their opinions of school problems with administrators and facility.”3 By responding and acting on the student voice this helps students to engage in their learning environments whilst supporting each and every student. Research shows that when students in grades 6-12 have a voice, they are seven times more likely to be motivated to learn. Therefore listening closely and consistently to what students say about their school experiences is important for understanding school-related topics and problems and for developing school policies.
An important strategy to incorporate student voice is through regular surveys, by collecting feedback from the entire target student population rather than a subset you allow every student to have a say rather than focusing on just one group; removing the bias other surveys may have. When feedback is delivered over time school leaders can use this data to set goals and measure and track the growth. Once issues are addressed and actions implemented, students will see that their issues have been taken seriously and they do make a difference in their school environment. In addition to this, the feedback can be used to compare different schools within a district and best practices shared amongst these schools.
A continuous feedback culture helps streamline communication to all members of staff, students and parents and also collaborate to raise issues; leading school leaders to resolve these effectively. Regular feedback helps to build a positive school culture and climate, increase staff retention and engage parents and students. All of these benefits will enable your school or district to continuously improve and become a safe, positive environment for all.
Visit our website to find out how Pulse can deliver continuous feedback and provide school and district leaders with powerful insights regarding the culture and climate of their schools.
Author: Navina Cheema
Posted: 14 Oct 2020
Estimated time to read: 5 mins