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SurveyMonkey and the Harvard Graduate School of Education’s collaboration to help schools improve parental involvement


For over a decade, tens of thousands of schools have used SurveyMonkey to listen to their parent communities.

But many of those surveys have missed key aspects of the relationship between parents, schools and students. To make sure parental involvement has an impact on education, we’ve teamed up with Dr. Hunter Gehlbach of Harvard Graduate School of Education to help K-12 schools ask the right questions. The result is an expert survey template that makes it easier to get reliable results and improve outcomes.

Create surveys, send them out, and get powerful tools for analyzing survey responses. From parental involvement to fundraising to course evaluations, we make it easy. Get started for free.

Parent involvement in schools helps students earn higher grades, boost test scores, improve social skills, and graduate, according to the 2002 paper titled A New Wave of Evidence, The Impact of School, Family, and Community Connections on Student Achievement, authored by Harvard Graduate School of Education Lecturer, Dr. Karen Mapp.

Findings from Dr. Mapp’s work and follow-up studies from the Harvard Family Research Project have been incorporated into a growing number of educational reform initiatives and funding opportunities, including the US Department of Education Race to the Top Fund.

Now, more than ever, principals, superintendents, and school boards need to understand their schools’ effectiveness in building parental capacity. But how should educators begin this daunting process?

Our partner, Dr. Gehlbach, and his team used a rigorous process to create survey questions to assess key areas of family/school relationships. Drawing from academic literature, parent interviews, focus groups, expert panels, and survey design best practices, the team developed questions that addressed the following key areas:

How much help are students getting at home?

What habits have students developed that shape their success?

How engaged are parents in their child’s schooling, and what potential barriers exist?

How confident are parents in supporting their child’s schooling?

How do parents view their school regarding academic and social standards?

How well do a school’s academic program, social climate, and organizational structure match a student’s needs?

How do parents view their roles as well as teachers’ roles in different aspects of their child’s schooling?

The typical survey design process relies on extensive research and expert analysis to come up with questions. But the survey designer must take care not to neglect respondents’ interpretations of questions.

Dr. Gehlbach used interviews, focus groups, and pre-testing techniques with potential respondents to focus on how parents of K-12 children understood what they were being asked. This helped the survey designers understand how ambiguity in language might impact respondents’ interpretations across key areas. For instance, do parents see “academic achievement” to mean solely test scores and grades, or do they feel that it covers reading proficiency and critical thinking skills? Is “improved school performance” viewed through the lens of traditional outcomes across subjects, or does it include social and psychological aspects of well-being? Nuances such as these were critical in creating questions that could effectively help schools assess parental involvement.

Principals, district staff, school boards, or parent/teacher organizations from any K-12 school — public, private, independent, charter, urban, or rural — should use this survey to understand how they’re doing with parents.

It can also be helpful to get context from your survey results by comparing them to results from other schools or organizations. Finding a benchmark to compare your parent engagement data can help you make actionable goals and better understand your strengths when it comes to school-parent interaction.

In the survey template embedded below, there are several groups of questions such as Parent Engagement, School Climate, etc. When creating your survey, choose groups of questions that make sense for your school. But we urge you to include every question in the groups that make sense. This will minimize errors in your response data and help you gather the best results.

In addition to the template’s questions, add any other questions that might help you gain insights from your parents that are unique to your school. Our Question Bank’s Education category has many pre-written questions to choose from. And if you’d like to write your own, refer to Dr. Phil Garland’s tips for writing great survey questions.

To use the template, sign up for a SurveyMonkey account, click on “Create Survey,” then select “Use an expert survey template,” and choose “K-12 Parent Survey.”

We have a list of common questions from schools answered in our help center. If your school or district is interested in using the survey and has further questions, please get in touch with us.

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