After four years in partnership with Panorama, Palm Springs Unified School District (PSUSD) has learned a thing or two about elevating student, faculty, and family voices to support their schools.
The southern California district serves over 23,000 students and strives to create a positive educational experience for each and every one. Building strong partnerships with stakeholders through surveys is an important part of their mission.
“Our partnership with Panorama has been great and always well-supported. Our questions and our next steps have always been very collaboratively done,” says Jim Feffer, Director of Assessment and Data Analysis at PSUSD. Below, Feffer shares key takeaways and advice on running a climate survey program that maximizes response rates and drives district-wide improvement.
Have one primary survey administration window to increase response rates
“We’ve learned after four administration cycles that one window is key,” says Feffer. “During the 2018-19 school year, we found out that multiple survey windows became a bit arduous for our teams.”
Courtesy of PSUSD
The district runs multiple surveys per year, but instead of administering student, faculty, and family surveys at different times, the district has one window to capture responses from all stakeholders. Having a single time frame to capture survey data at all the school sites has boosted response rates.
PSUSD has also been strategic in determining the best time period for surveys. By pairing the survey window with elementary, middle, and high school conferences, PSUSD has what Feffer calls a “captured audience opportunity” for getting family and community responses.
Combine family climate and LCAP surveys
PSUSD uses Panorama to collect LCAP (Local Control and Accountability Plan) feedback as well. The district made the strategic move to combine family engagement and LCAP metrics into one survey.
To make the surveys more accessible to family and community members, PSUSD included LCAP questions with Panorama family survey questions. This means that families don’t have to log into the platform multiple times, and while the survey is slightly longer, the district is able to collect both sets of data at once.
Before combining the surveys, engagement from families around the LCAP survey had been quite low. Since administering the surveys together, the district has seen huge jumps in LCAP feedback. Through better survey timing and merging survey content, the district was able to increase rates, peaking at 6,815 responses in 19-20.
Engage in site-based communication and designate survey coordinators
PSUSD appoints survey coordinators at each school site as opposed to having one centrally located team responsible for survey administration across the district. Site coordinators are responsible for collecting information and coordinating survey administration efforts. Feffer says that, with site-based survey coordinators, communication from each site is more effective and allows each site to express its own needs when it comes to survey administration.
"Our partnership with Panorama has been great and always well-supported. Our questions and our next steps have always been very collaboratively done."
—Jim Feffer, Director of Assessment and Data Analysis, Palm Springs Unified School District (CA)
Perform an annual survey topic review
PSUSD does an annual review of their surveys and the topics covered. The district looks to add or remove topics based on the current needs of the school communities. For example, while students were learning remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic, the district decided to remove questions around sense of belonging and school safety that reflected an in-person experience.
How PSUSD uses survey data to improve classroom instruction and inform district decisions
PSUSD infuses data throughout the district. From the daily life of the classroom to the Board of Education, survey responses from stakeholders inform practices and decisions at every level.
- Counselors and mental health teams use SEL survey data to meet students’ social-emotional needs and connect students to necessary resources.
- Classroom teachers are being trained in using SEL data to inform their practice and support students.
- District administrators use survey data to inform LCAP and Board of Education results reports.
How have they been able to infuse data throughout the entire district? Feffer says it’s been a group effort: “It’s been a credit to our administrators connecting very early with this data, and our student services department connecting with teachers and counselors, and the counselors taking a hold of it and running it through a lot of development work and different structures.”