Learn how a school climate survey can help you gauge family satisfaction and improve your student retention.
There are two ways to increase total enrollment at your school: attracting new families and retaining your existing families. Schools spend a lot of time, money, and effort in attracting new families, but retention is often considered an afterthought.
The truth is it’s a lot easier to keep families than it is to attract new ones. And there is a significant cost benefit.
Different sources will cite different costs, but the standard I’ve found is that it generally costs five times more to attract a new customer than it costs to retain just one.
Ask yourself these questions:
- How satisfied are your parents?
- What is your student satisfaction?
- What is their risk of leaving your school?
- What parts of the school are they satisfied with and what parts do they find lacking?
The easiest way to understand this is to construct a school experience survey and ask them!
Bill Gates once said that your greatest source of learning is from dissatisfied customers. Asking your parents their opinion — even if you are a little nervous about what they say — needs to be part of how you run your school.
A simple school satisfaction survey (sometimes called a school climate survey), administered yearly to both your parents and staff, will give you a wealth of information and allow you to understand how the majority of your parents and staff feel about your school.
Should You Conduct Your School Satisfaction Survey on Your Own — or Should You Hire a Professional?
There are a number of free online tools that allow you to ask school survey questions of your entire school community.
But this DIY approach does have some drawbacks:
- Parents are often leery of being completely honest if they think that their answers to your school survey questions in some way can be tied back to them or their child.Even though you tell them it is anonymous, they may not believe you. You run the risk of getting watered down feedback.
- If you are doing this for staff, they will never be honest. Most likely, staff will feel your survey isn’t anonymous and that it will impact their job if they voice a negative opinion.
- Writing good school opinion survey questions is an art as well as a science. There is a skill in crafting school survey questions that can get at the underlying issues. You might be able to get there eventually, but you will find that this is taking more time than you wanted to spend.
- Analyzing school opinion survey results is another time-consuming task. Is this really where your time is best spent?
But if you want to do this on your own, here are the things you should think about when crafting your school satisfaction survey.
How Long Should Your School Satisfaction Survey Be?
If this is your first time, there might be a tendency to ask too many school climate survey questions. Schools often take the “kitchen-sink” approach in their surveys by including way too much.
Survey Monkey offers some interesting data about survey completion. They looked at surveys ranging from 1–50 questions from 100,000 random surveys. This research uncovered some interesting insights.
The above chart shows that the higher the number of survey questions, the higher the rate someone will drop off the survey before the survey’s end.
Generally, keeping your school satisfaction survey to 10–20 questions offers a good sweet spot. Question quality over quantity is the game here to avoid your survey takers experiencing “survey fatigue.”
Also, to increase the likelihood of someone sticking through the survey, offer them the ability to skip questions. A partially completed survey is better than an unsubmitted, abandoned one!
What School Satisfaction Survey Questions Should You Ask?
This will vary by school, but the most important question to ask is the Net Promoter Score (NPS).
Net Promoter is a satisfaction question widely used by private companies and universities. It is a simple question that was developed by researchers at Harvard. It asks, “On a scale of 0–10, how likely are you to recommend (your school) to a friend or colleague?”
Simply put, the NPS is a measure of people’s willingness to recommend you to someone else. You can score from -100 to 100, with -100 being the worst score and 100 being the highest.
According to Statista, here’s how different industries tend to rank. (Check out education and training at the very top!)
To gain your school’s own NPS, break your school satisfaction survey’s respondents into three groups:
- Parents who scored you a 9 or 10. These are your “promoters.”
- Parents who rate you 7 or 8. These are “passives.”
- Parents who rate you 0 to 6. These are “detractors.”
To get your score, take the percentage of promoters, subtract the percentage of detractors, and throw out the passives.
Voila! You have your NPS score.
However, understanding how your NPS score compares against other schools in your community is a bit tricky. After all, you’re not a business, and you don’t know how other local schools would score.
Is a score of 41 good or bad? Seeking the advice of an outside consultant or group can help you understand what your score means and put it into context.
But generally, if you find that your score is similar to a cable company that generally scores around -11, you now understand you have a challenge.
When Should You Conduct a School Satisfaction Survey?
Late winter is generally the best time to conduct a school survey. I always tell clients that the sweet spot is between Christmas break and spring break.
You want to give your new parents time to acclimate to the school and form an opinion, but you don’t want it to be too late when parents are thinking about summer and the next school year.
What Should You Do with the Results of Your School Climate Survey?
This is the most important question. The raw results of your survey won’t do you any good if you don’t know how to interpret them.
Your goal should be to use the data from your school climate survey to plan for improvements for next year and to track how well you are hitting your satisfaction goals.
But be very careful if you choose to not release the results of the school satisfaction survey to your parent base.
I always advocate that transparency on results is best, but only if you are also telling parents what your plan is to address their critical feedback.
If you choose not to release the results, don’t be surprised if parents don’t answer your next school satisfaction survey or if they assume that the reason you didn’t release the results is because the results were bad.
I hope that this helps you to understand the value of a school experience survey and why you need to do one every year.
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