Top Five Reasons to Survey Your Students Every Year

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We’re often asked about the tangible value of surveying students each year. The truth is, there are a wide variety of important reasons why school surveys should be conducted on an annual basis, and each community has reasons unique to itself. Today, we’re focusing on five main reasons to survey students annually that, in turn, will help set students, schools, and communities up for success and positive change.

1. You don’t know what you don’t know. Trends and the students themselves are constantly shifting and evolving, and surveys are a critical component in learning and evaluating what is happening within the community. They create a scientific platform to help identify positive and negative behaviors that students have in your area. This knowledge can give you a basis for implementing change. Without a valid and reliable way to examine student behaviors, you are basing decisions on guesswork and anecdotal evidence. The more you learn about what is taking place at the schools, new challenges, and new successes, the more you can work toward positive change. There are many components of surveys ranging from questions about bullying to safety to student-teacher relationships to substance abuse, and without asking a wide variety of questions each year and adapting your questions with key learnings from the previous year, you truly don’t know what you don’t know. Surveying students in many grade levels year over year as they get older allows for trend data so that you can determine if the programs that you are implementing are working to the benefit of your students or not. Trends can appear quickly. For example, vaping is currently (2018-2020) increasing among students almost 10% a year and if you only survey once every three years you could miss your best opportunity for intervention and support for those students at risk.

2. With data, you can apply for funding. When you conduct surveys annually, you have new data to support requests for funding programs within the schools. Survey data can help tremendously during the application process for federally-funded grants by showing the baseline data. In other words, you can prove that you have a need for funding. These grants require that funding is conditional on continued evaluation of the programs that are being paid for and a piece in that puzzle is data collection. Aside from the large federal grants, data can be a useful tool for smaller grants and funding from local and national philanthropic organizations. Additionally, survey data can help encourage increased community support through matching funds and participation in programs.

3. Data can engage the community. It is significantly easier to enlist community support when you have data that backs up your request(s), provides transparency into the state of the youth in your community, and demonstrates where the school and/or community coalition can fill in the gaps and be a driving force for change. Data collected from student surveys can be used in social media outreach, infographics, press releases, and advertising to drive community engagement in the issues and get more people working together for community-wide change. Don’t forget that students are a part of the community as well and getting them to engage is important. There are many uses for the survey data in the classroom from math to social studies to science to engage students with real-world information that they have a direct connection to. Our survey data goes beyond the direct local communities as well. Pride Surveys have been used in more than 74,000 schools to help influence policy changes and are often used as resources for public relations efforts.

4. Data can show if your programs are making a difference. Once you establish a baseline with your first survey effort you can begin to make decisions on programming for your youth. Those programs should be evidence-based (backed up by science) and proven effective. Having a good and faithful implementation of those programs is also a huge driver of success, but without continued evaluations and student surveys, the success can be difficult to track. With surveys, you can look at each year of data and evaluate the impact that a program is having on your targeted area. Pride Surveys offers areas for customizable questions on our surveys for organizations that have very specific initiatives that are not included on our surveys, giving schools and coalitions the ability to track specific areas. Some examples of custom questions include coalitions asking students if coalition messaging is reaching them, another is coalitions who have an interest in social hosting laws, both of whom have all been able to track their successes.

5. Data can help you focus your objectives. Often, once you survey your students, you will find that what you thought was the most important issue is the second or even third most important issue facing your students. This just helps demonstrate the importance of having valid and reliable survey data. Coalitions are hardly ever focused on a single issue since youth are all different. The data can show differences between middle and high school needs and even differences from grade to grade. For example, in the 6th grade, you may need to focus on inhalants while the 12th graders show a high percentage of alcohol or vaporizer use. This allows you to find out what objectives you should have as well as to focus on the most pressing issues for each group of youth in your community.

Pride Surveys has been successfully creating school surveys for more than 30 years. Please browse through the different types of student surveys we offer and let us help you select the appropriate survey for your students. Call us today at 800-279-6361 or fill out our quick online contact form with any questions you may have.

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