When running a school climate survey, family survey, or social-emotional learning (SEL) survey, it's important to make sure that the data gathered represents the voices of as many students and families as possible. Not only will a high response rate give you better data, but it will also decrease the risk of non-response bias (the error resulting from differences between the people who responded to a survey versus the people who didn’t respond).
In this episode of Panorama Q&A, I'm answering the number one question we get from school and district leaders: "How can we increase student and family response rates?"
1. Get students or parents involved early in the survey process.
My first tip is to get students or parents involved early. You’ll want to give them a chance to weigh in on the content of the survey so that you get feedback on the areas that matter.
For example, if you’re designing a social-emotional learning survey, you could ask students about the SEL skills that they think are most important to their success. If students care about the topics they’re reflecting on, they’re more likely to take the survey.
2. Launch an awareness campaign.
After building investment in the survey content, you could launch an awareness campaign in the weeks leading up to the survey. We’ve seen many schools hang up posters or hand out stickers to students to remind them that their participation in the survey is important.
For parents, we recommend leveraging the channels that your schools usually use, like newsletters, emails, school websites, and social media to get the word out.
3. Thoughtfully schedule times for survey taking.
My third tip is to thoughtfully schedule times for survey taking. With students, it’s usually best to have them take the survey during a specific class period, like homeroom. Keep the survey window open for at least two weeks to ensure 100 percent participation.
For busy parents, make sure that the survey-taking time is convenient for them. Try to get families to take surveys when they’re already at school. For example, you can open up survey-taking rooms during parent-teacher conferences, or open up computer labs for parents during pick up and drop off.
4. Offer a prize for the classroom or school with the highest participation.
A fourth tip is to offer a prize for the classroom or school with the highest participation rate. Maybe it’s an ice cream or pizza party; a little friendly competition goes a long way!
5. Monitor progress and give regular updates.
Last but not least, track progress throughout the survey window to drive participation. It’s important to let survey takers know when the deadline is approaching and to keep principals updated on their school’s response rates.
Some schools use progress thermometers on bulletin boards to track towards a participation goal. With families, send out regular reminders before the survey window closes—especially to parents who haven’t yet completed the survey.
What's the best time of day to send a survey reminder email? How many reminders should you send? To learn more about improving response rates, read our analysis of survey email open rates.