School Surveys for Parents: Challenges, Importance, Purpose, and Tips

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Student surveys are a fairly common method by which schools and education boards gather accurate representations of school climate, student perceptions and beliefs, and issues affecting the learning environment. Faculty, staff, and teacher surveys are utilized for a similar purpose, as they enable administrators to gain perspective from adults interacting with students individually and in groups on a daily basis.
However, a third involved party—namely, parents and guardians—are sometimes overlooked during the process of conducting school surveys. This is problematic for several reasons, including the fact that school-aged children typically spend more time in their home environment than in school and that research suggests that parental attitudes have a significant impact on academic performance.[1]

What Parent Surveys Measure

Depending on the goals of the survey and the specific factors that it focuses on, school surveys for parents may include questions and measurements covering a variety of different topics, such as:

    • School Engagement: “My child goes to school prepared to put forth the required effort to learn.”
    • Family Engagement: “I assist my child with his/her homework.”
    • Academic Achievement: “My child’s school has plenty of textbooks and other supplies for lessons.”
    • General School Life: “At my child’s school, there is an atmosphere of trust and mutual respect.”
    • Student Safety: “My child’s school sets clear rules about bullying.”
      • Impressions about Drug Use: “How wrong do you feel it is for your child to use prescription drugs not prescribed to him/her?”


Challenges of Parental Surveys

Whether because of historically low response rates, logistical issues surrounding dissemination and collection, or even a lack of understanding about their importance, parent surveys can be a difficult process and “numerous studies have demonstrated that school-based recruitment [for survey participation] is challenging.”[3]
Because, generally, parents are not available for survey participation within the traditional school environment like students and teachers, ensuring adequate participation rates is not easy. “It can be difficult to achieve the high participation rates crucial for ensuring the generalizability of research findings.”[4]
Having a less-than-ideal response rate can lead to a host of other roadblocks, as “suboptimal results can extend recruitment periods, presenting budgetary and logistic challenges.”[5]

The Purpose and Importance of Parent Surveys:

Regardless of the hurdles and roadblocks inherent to the process, it’s impossible to ignore the proven importance and benefits of parent surveys.
While every school system is different and each educational program has a variety of unique goals, the overall purpose behind parent surveys (and their subsequent importance in the learning environment) is relatively consistent. The primary goal of many parent surveys is to collect and understand parent opinions, perspectives, attitudes, and perceptions towards the school, their students, and education in general in order to improve the learning environment in general or specific ways.
“By assessing both parents’ current thoughts on the climate of the school and staff feelings about parent involvement, schools can get a better idea of how they need to improve.”[6] This is a critical step because, as many studies have proven, parent involvement in schools has a significant impact on student performance.
In fact, “[o]ngoing research shows that family engagement in schools improves student achievement, reduces absenteeism, and restores parents’ confidence in their children’s education. Students with involved parents or other caregivers earn higher grades and test scores, have better social skills, and show improved behavior.”[7]
Similarly, “[w]hatever the educational background or social class of their parents, research has shown that students at all grade levels experience increased academic success when their parents participate at school and encourage education and learning at home.”[8]
“The act of conducting a survey is itself a parent-friendly message to parents that a school cares what they think. It gives both parents and staff a voice in articulating what works and what does not work in the particular school community as related to parent involvement.”[9]

Tips for Better Administration of School Surveys for Parents

    • Disperse Widely: One of the best ways to encourage widespread participation is to ensure that as much of the parent population at your school knows about the survey. Post information on the school website (including a link if it’s an online survey) and on specific teacher/classroom websites and blogs. Send information about the survey home with students. Mention it in any relevant school communications—PTA meetings, newsletters, e-mails, parent/teacher conferences, etc.
    • Be clear & concise (and don’t forget to incentivize): Explain the purpose of the survey, how it will benefit the school at large and them (and their student) specifically, and delineate how much of their time the survey will likely take up. Incentives, such as a drawing or giveaway for prizes, can also boost participation rates.
      • Establish a parent survey liaison


    : This person can be a PTA representative, member of the front-office staff, or some other designated individual who will largely act as a go-between for parents and the survey administrators. Depending on the amount of responsibility designated, this role could entail simply the collection of surveys or it could require involvement in all aspects of the surveying process.
    • Follow-Up: It’s no secret that parents are strapped for time and their attention is often divided in many different directions. Therefore, sending reminders about survey deadlines can be a helpful way to promote increased participation and response rates.
    • Share the Results: Once you’ve collected and analyzed the data from your parent surveys, one critical factor to ensuring continued support for and future participation in the surveys is sharing the results. Whether you disseminate the results via e-mail or publicize notable findings in a press release, sharing the information attained helps parents recognize the importance and results of their responses.

Partnering with an Experienced Survey Company for Your Parent Surveys

Clearly, conducting school surveys for parents can be both a daunting and a rewarding experience for schools. There are a number of intrinsic challenges, but the impact and importance of these surveys cannot be ignored.
If your school isn’t quite ready to approach parent or school surveys on its own, partnering with a reliable, experienced school survey provider can make the process easier and more effective. Read more about Pride Surveys and our various proven, scalable measurements for parents, teachers, and students to find out how we can help your school meet its surveying goals today!

[1]Timkey, Stacey. “The Influence of Parent Attitudes and Involvement on Children’s Literacy Achievement.” May 5, 2015. Education and Human Development Master’s Theses. The College at Brockport: State University of New York. Retrieved from on September 6, 2016.

[2]Parent Perception Survey and Questionnaire on School, Family and Engagement. Sample Survey Preview. Retrieved from and on September 7, 2016.

[3]Schilpzand, E. J., Sciberras, E., Efron, D., Anderson, V., & Nicholson, J. M. (2015). Improving Survey Response Rates from Parents in School-Based Research Using a Multi-Level Approach. PLoS ONE, 10(5), e0126950. Retrieved from



[6]“Engaging Parents in Education: Lessons From Five Parental Information And Resource Centers.” U.S. Department of Education. June 2007. Retrieved from on September 7, 2016.

[7]Garcia, Lily Eskelsen & Thornton, Otha. “The Enduring Importance of Parental Involvement. neaToday. November 18, 2014. Retrieved from on September 8, 2016.

[8]Dauber, S.L., & Epstein, J.L. (1989) Parent attitudes and practices of parent involvement in inner-city elementary and middle schools. Center for Research on Elementary and Middle Schools. 1-29.

[9]“Engaging Parents in Education: Lessons From Five Parental Information And Resource Centers.” U.S. Department of Education. June 2007. Retrieved from on September 7, 2016.


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