La Cañada Unified School District

How feedback surveys helped one district significantly improve communication with the community

La Cañada High School

La Cañada Flintridge, CA

Five years ago, the community and Board of Education wanted access to more data, more communications, and greater transparency from LCUSD.

Today, 85% of the community report satisfaction with communication from the district. Over 90% of parents of students in grades 7-12 would recommend LCUSD to other families.

What changed? Superintendent Wendy Sinnette and LCUSD made feedback surveys and reporting progress to the community “part of the DNA” of the district by:

  • Collecting and sharing stakeholder feedback from families, staff, and students
  • Reporting on survey data to the Board of Education
  • Sharing student feedback directly with teachers
  • Setting district, school, and classroom goals

Location

La Cañada Flintridge, California, a suburban community located 10 miles north of Los Angeles

About

Serves 4,100 students across 5 schools with mostly white and Asian student populations

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Pt. 1

The Challenge

The community made clear that they wanted more data, more communications, and more transparency from the district.
Wendy Sinnette Superintendent of Schools

La Cañada Unified School District is a high-performing district north of Los Angeles, California. Each of its five schools has been designated a California Distinguished School. Yet, five years ago when Wendy Sinnette joined the district as superintendent, relations between the district and the community were in need of improvement.

In order to foster better communication about the district's overall health and progress, LCUSD began using Panorama surveys to collect feedback from students, families, teachers, and staff. Superintendent Sinnette decided to provide survey results directly to teachers and administrators through Panorama’s online platform to support professional development and individual and schoolwide goal-setting.

Five years later, 85% of the community report satisfaction with communication from the district. In Superintendent Sinnette’s latest report to the Board of Education, she shared that over 90% of parents of students in grades 7-12 would recommend LCUSD to other families, and 90% of parents of elementary students believe LCUSD’s campuses provide a supportive environment.

“It was really great to hear the community say ‘You’ve met this goal.’ I think some of that is attributed to the surveying that we’re doing and that people see results. Having achieved something so systemic as being transparent and responsive allows us to focus on other goals that are really targeted toward students.”

Pt. 2

Using Feedback Across Schools

LCUSD has taken strides to ensure feedback collected through Panorama surveys reaches every educator in the district. By sharing survey results across the district, LCUSD focuses on the areas where stakeholders identify the greatest need for improvement:

Anais Wenn, Assistant Superintendent for Educational Services: “Data received from Panorama is extremely important. I never dismiss anything. What I learn from these surveys can only make me a better leader. Staff and parent feedback is very helpful, recognizing that most of it is perception data since they do not interact with district personnel frequently and are not aware of our day to day interactions and practices.”

Ian McFeat, Principal of LCHS: “Students are right on about their assessment of faculty, and we take their feedback very seriously. We sit down and talk to our teachers about what their goals are going to be every year, and we use student feedback to drive these goals and the instruction we're going to focus on. It helps us as an administrative team to calibrate where we see our faculty and where we need to put our efforts.”

Jim Cartnal, Associate Principal of LCHS: “By surveying our students, we’ve got this wealth of data we can turn back to. I begin goal-setting and evaluation conversations with teachers by saying that I believe there are things we can always do better. Now that we have several years of data we can ask, ‘Is this a pattern of what students have been saying?’”

Over the past four years, LCUSD has seen significant growth in students' perceptions of engagement in the classroom. The district uses Panorama surveys to collect and share student feedback directly with teachers for goal-setting and reflection.
Pt. 3

The Results

Having achieved something so systemic as being transparent and responsive allows us to focus on other goals that are really targeted toward students.

Five years after the initial strain in communication with the community, LCUSD has launched a strategic planning survey for California's Local Control and Accountability Plan (LCAP). “We saw north of 85% satisfaction from the community on communication,” says Superintendent Sinnette.

“Now, our stakeholders are satisfied with the level of communication, the level of transparency, and basically they said we don’t need this as a goal anymore. We are going to embed the actions and services we’re doing for communications into other goals, to make sure that there’s continuity and that we don’t drop the ball.”

LCUSD has focused improvements in district-wide communication and transparency. Superintendent Sinnette shares survey results with faculty, administrators, the Board of Education, and the community.

Key Results

Set instructional goals and track progress with teachers

At the beginning of the year, teachers at LCUSD sit down with principals to set goals using their student feedback results.

Delivered focused professional development to faculty

LCUSD looks to teacher and staff feedback to surface areas for targeted professional learning opportunities, including paraprofessionals seeking additional training and growth.

Informed teacher tenure recommendations

Student feedback is especially important to teachers in their first years of teaching at LCUSD, since the data is used in conversations and recommendations for tenure.

Discussed administrative goals with school site teams

Student and staff feedback has informed the agenda of the annual leadership retreat of principals with district administrators.

Allocated budget for school facilities

Based on student feedback on the upkeep of school buildings, administrators devoted budget to painting school buildings campus and adding custodians to certain school sites.

Added training for substitute teachers

After the district heard from families that they felt training for substitute teachers lagged behind the overall level of training and professionalism in the district, administrators created a more robust onboarding and training process.

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