How to Choose the Best Student Surveys | Middle & High Schools

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How to Choose the Best Student Surveys for Your Middle or High School

Student surveys are a powerful and popular way for middle and high schools to evaluate a variety of educational factors, such as school climate, drug and alcohol abuse, mental health, and more.

How do you know you’re picking the right survey for your school, your goals, your students, and your programs? How can you be sure that the student questionnaire gives you valid and reliable data that will be immediately useful for your school and its programming?

Check out the tips below to find out what you should be looking for in an educational questionnaire and how to choose the best student surveys for your school.

Choose Scientifically Tested & Researched, Evidence-Based School Surveys


When you’re evaluating many different student surveys for use in your school, it’s important to know that, objectively and scientifically, the questionnaire you use is accurate and will provide correct, statistically relevant information. To find a survey that meets these high requirements, administrators and school boards should look for measures that are:

    • Anonymous – Surveys and questionnaires that are not anonymous are likely to be less accurate as participants may adjust their answers for fear of targeted consequences. As a result, data will be skewed and, thus, will be markedly less effective. Guaranteed anonymity assures students that there will be no repercussions from their answers and “can lead to higher response rates because the respondent knows his/her identifying information cannot be tracked.”[1] For more information on why survey anonymity is critical to attaining accurate data, check out this article on The Importance of Anonymous Surveys.
    • Reliable: Survey reliability is defined as “the extent to which a scale performs in consistent, predictable ways.”[2] Having a student survey that is proven to be reliable is critical, as it ensures that the “surveys provide stable and consistent results over repeated measures, allowing for results to be replicable across different testing situations.”[3]
    • Valid: Survey validity concerns “whether the surveys measure what they are designed to measure and [whether they] provide evidence that supports inferences about the characteristics of individuals being tested.”[4] Choosing a student survey that is valid makes certain that you are accurately measuring precisely the factors and perceptions that you are interested in.
    • Tested: The student survey you choose should have undergone rigorous real-world testing in a variety of environments. This testing process helps to identify any potential issues with the questionnaire so that they can be remedied before they are used in your school. Specific elements that the best school surveys will test include: instructions to survey respondents, question clarity, underlying assumptions that may be untrue, knowledge or memory limitations, sensitive or biased questions, problems with question response categories, and formatting or question ordering problems.[5]
    • “Lie-Proof:” Not every student is going to be completely honest in their survey responses; some may “Christmas tree” their responses by randomly selecting answers, while others may intentionally provide false ones. In order to weed out these potentially problematic responses, the best student surveys include specific lie detector questions. These specialized questions are designed to identify potentially false responses and exclude them to prevent incorrect information from impacting response data.
    • Timely: If you have to wait months or a year for your data to get back to you, you risk missing an opportunity to address the most pressing issues as they are occurring.


Choose the Best Student Survey for Your School’s Specific Goals


Once you have selected a survey measure that fits all of the above criteria, you should evaluate it based on a different set of factors, to ensure that it fits your school’s goals for the survey process.

    • Program Evaluation. If you’re looking for a survey to evaluate a specific educational program, such as an anti-bullying initiative or drug and alcohol prevention curriculum, pre-, post-, and longitudinal surveys can be especially helpful. These specialized questionnaires “can measure change-over-time when used to monitor pre-program conditions against post-program conditions; they can be used to gather extensive data regarding perceptions of participants when it is important to judge a participant’s motivation during a program; and they can ensure the consistent collection of data because all respondents receive exactly the same questions in exactly the same way.”[6]
    • School Climate Assessment. “School climate is best evaluated with surveys that have been developed in a scientifically sound manner and are comprehensive in two ways: (1) recognizing student, parent, and school personnel voice and (2) assessing all the dimensions that color and shape the process of teaching and learning and educators’ and students’ experiences in the school building. Although there are hundreds of school climate surveys today, there are few that meet these two criteria.[7] Thus, when choosing your school surveys to measure school climate, it’s important to take these factors into consideration.
    • Student Perception Measurements. If one of your school’s surveying goals is to evaluate student perceptions of a particular aspect or behavior, such as bullying, mental health, or substance and alcohol abuse, you should “[s]elect a tool that focuses on the specific issues within your school and community.”[8] For example, if your administration is interested in evaluating bullying in the educational environment, it’s important to know that most bullying “assessment tools measure all forms of student involvement in bullying. However, certain assessments are designed to target specific groups, such as lesbian, gay, bisexual, questioning, and transgender students or other minority groups.”[9] Thus, if your school’s interest in bullying perceptions focuses more specifically on LGBT bullying, you may want to select a more specialized survey.
    • Grant & Supplementary Funding Applications. Are you looking to apply for a specific grant or government funding program? Before selecting a questionnaire, you’ll want to make sure that the student survey you choose is approved for use in the application. For example, applicants for the Drug-Free Communities (DFC) Support Program grant must present results from approved survey measures as part of the application process. And, while “DFC does not require that you use a specific survey… if funded, surveys used to measure the DFC 4 core measures must be approved by the DFC National Evaluation Team.”[10]


Choose a Partnership to Get the Best Student Surveys Available for Your School


Deciding to conduct a high school or middle school student survey is a relatively easy task. However, knowing which survey measure to choose can be a much more daunting endeavor. Naturally, you want to select the best student survey to get the best results to attain a clear picture of your educational environment. But, because of all the factors you must take into consideration, oftentimes that’s easier said than done.

That’s why it can be helpful to partner with an experienced, proven survey company you can trust. Find out more about how Pride Surveys can help your school choose the perfect student survey here. Or get in touch with us via phone at 877-957-6870 or by filling out our short online contact form.

[1]Conducting the Survey: Ensuring Security. University of Minnesota: Survey Connection.

[2]Sriram, Rishi. Five Things NOT To Do In Developing Surveys for Assessment in Student Affairs. NASPA Research and Policy Institute Issue Brief. Retrieved from on September 28, 2016.

[3]Kim, H. H., & Lalancette, D. (2013). Literature review on the value-added measurement in higher education. Retrieved from on September 28, 2016.


[5]Willis, Gordon. Developing and Testing Survey Questions. NIH: NIDCR: Division of Extramural Research: Behavioral and Social Sciences Research Branch: Survey Research Methods Series: Powerpoint Presentations. Retrieved from on September 29, 2016.

[6]Parnaby, Patrick. Evaluation through Surveys. Retrieved from on September 28, 2016.

[7]Cohen, J., McCabe, L., Michelli, N. M., & Pickeral, T. (2009). School climate: Research, policy, practice, and teacher education. Teachers College Record.

[8]School-Based Bullying Prevention: Conduct a Needs Assessment. Model Programs iGuides. Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. Retrieved from on September 29, 2016.


[10]FY 2016 Drug-Free Communities (DFC) Support Program Frequently Asked Questions. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Retrieved from on September 30, 2016.

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