During the fall, we see an uptick in research on district perception and public opinion from our secondary education clients. It’s common for school districts to gauge the community’s perception on proposed curriculum, budget, and instructional changes prior to the public vote the following spring, or prior to implementation. By conducting the research, the district has an opportunity to determine whether the proposed changes meet the needs of residents, and if not, how the district can update the plan to garner public support. The research is often carried out through the implementation of online surveys, in-depth interviews, or focus groups and includes a myriad of district and community members. To gain a wealth of valuable insight from various stakeholder groups, districts should plan to speak with community members, parents, district staff, and alumni. The stakeholder groups of interest will provide a wide variety of perception vantage points and present the district with a comprehensive view on the topic being researched. Below are some additional thoughts on how district perception and public opinion research can help your school.
Test Proposed Changes
Curriculum has been an increasingly hot topic for our K-12 clients in recent years, and many districts have either undergone or are considering substantial changes to the content being delivered in the classroom. Curriculum realignment continues to be a trending topic in the industry, as states and districts assess the success of the Common Core while attempting to administer a curriculum that prepares students for the changing workforce needs. Although in many instances major curriculum realignment in public schools is mandated by the NYS Department of Education, we’ve found that the districts who engage the community, parents, and staff during the preparatory phase often have a more supportive network during the rollout stage. We’re also keeping an eye on the emergence of the concept of year-round instruction. One such approach is the 45/15 calendar option. With this approach, classroom instruction begins in late July and students begin a cycle of approximately 45 days of instruction followed by 15 days of school vacation. Supporters hope the approach will address the issue of content loss by reducing the amount of consecutive time off from instruction. Prior to implementation of these changes, the district has an opportunity to reach the community and discuss their approach, promote the benefits of the new curriculum or calendar, and ensure that local voices are heard.
District perception research is also a valuable tool for gauging community support for proposed budget changes. Perhaps the district needs new turf for the athletic fields, or computer labs need to be updated. Reaching community members through an online survey is a great way to reach pockets of the community the district may not have been able to contact through traditional methods. This provides the district with the ability to discuss the proposed changes, identify the impact on the average taxpayer, and explain how the project will be subsidized if funding beyond taxpayer dollars is expected.
Identify Community Perception of the District
Another benefit of conducting district opinion research is identifying the strengths and areas of opportunity within the district. The research should involve parents, community members, staff, and alumni in order to capture a representative view of stakeholders. The market research firm should collaborate with the district to identify potential research topics, which may include questions pertaining to the community perception of how the district excels, what makes it unique, and how it compares to other local districts. Perhaps administration would also like to gauge what influences someone to move to the district – this is the perfect medium to identify that information. Resulting research data will provide the district with the insight needed to determine where they’re already raising the bar, but also where improvements can be made to make the district more competitive.
RMS is a full-service market research firm and has a long history in conducting K-12 district opinion and public opinion research. If you are interested in learning more about our research capabilities, please contact Sandy Baker, our Senior Director of Business Development & Corporate Strategy at SandyB@RMSresults.com or by calling 1-866-567-5422. Visit our website at RMSresults.com.