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During the fall, we see an uptick in research on district perception and public opinion from our secondary education clients. It’s common for school districts to gauge the community’s perception on proposed curriculum, budget, and instructional changes prior to the public vote the following spring, or prior to implementation. By conducting the research, the district has an opportunity to determine whether the proposed changes meet the needs of residents, and if not, how the district can update the plan to garner public support. The research is often carried out through the implementation of online surveys, in-depth interviews, or focus groups and includes a myriad of district and community members. To gain a wealth of valuable insight from various stakeholder groups, districts should plan to speak with community members, parents, district staff, and alumni. The stakeholder groups of interest will provide a wide variety of perception vantage points and present the district with a comprehensive view on the topic being researched.  Below are some additional thoughts on how district perception and public opinion research can help your school.

Test Proposed Changes

Curriculum has been an increasingly hot topic for our K-12 clients in recent years, and many districts have either undergone or are considering substantial changes to the content being delivered in the classroom. Curriculum realignment continues to be a trending topic in the industry, as states and districts assess the success of the Common Core while attempting to administer a curriculum that prepares students for the changing workforce needs. Although in many instances major curriculum realignment in public schools is mandated by the NYS Department of Education, we’ve found that the districts who engage the community, parents, and staff during the preparatory phase often have a more supportive network during the rollout stage. We’re also keeping an eye on the emergence of the concept of year-round instruction. One such approach is the 45/15 calendar option. With this approach, classroom instruction begins in late July and students begin a cycle of approximately 45 days of instruction followed by 15 days of school vacation. Supporters hope the approach will address the issue of content loss by reducing the amount of consecutive time off from instruction. Prior to implementation of these changes, the district has an opportunity to reach the community and discuss their approach, promote the benefits of the new curriculum or calendar, and ensure that local voices are heard.

District perception research is also a valuable tool for gauging community support for proposed budget changes. Perhaps the district needs new turf for the athletic fields, or computer labs need to be updated. Reaching community members through an online survey is a great way to reach pockets of the community the district may not have been able to contact through traditional methods. This provides the district with the ability to discuss the proposed changes, identify the impact on the average taxpayer, and explain how the project will be subsidized if funding beyond taxpayer dollars is expected.

Identify Community Perception of the District

Another benefit of conducting district opinion research is identifying the strengths and areas of opportunity within the district. The research should involve parents, community members, staff, and alumni in order to capture a representative view of stakeholders.  The market research firm should collaborate with the district to identify potential research topics, which may include questions pertaining to the community perception of how the district excels, what makes it unique, and how it compares to other local districts. Perhaps administration would also like to gauge what influences someone to move to the district – this is the perfect medium to identify that information. Resulting research data will provide the district with the insight needed to determine where they’re already raising the bar, but also where improvements can be made to make the district more competitive.

RMS is a full-service market research firm and has a long history in conducting K-12 district opinion and public opinion research. If you are interested in learning more about our research capabilities, please contact Sandy Baker, our Senior Director of Business Development & Corporate Strategy at SandyB@RMSresults.com or by calling 1-866-567-5422. Visit our website at RMSresults.com.

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The K-12 education environment has faced a fair share of upheavals over the last several years, and 2016 has proven to be no different. We’re noticing a shift towards student centered learning standards, a focus on personalized teacher professional development, and a realignment of curriculum to address the changing work environment. More details on each trend are included below.

  • Student Centered Learning and Measurement

Many states are redefining the way they define student success upon graduation, and it’s caused a sweltering debate regarding the effectiveness of implemented changes. Regardless of how you feel about the changes (and we won’t debate them here), there has been a shift in focus towards project-based learning and student exhibitions in an attempt to empower students with a choice in how they learn. School systems are trying to design curriculum around “not yet proficient” students while offering appropriate support to nurture those who are meeting or excelling standards. The trend towards student centered learning has grown alongside the growth of personalized learning plans (PLPs) such as Flexible Pathways, which allow the secondary school student to demonstrate his or her knowledge by completing tasks that interest them. Advocates of the approach suggest it enhances the student’s college readiness. Some districts are asking for parental and instructor feedback on the newly implemented and evolving instruction and learning standards.

  • Personalized Teacher Professional Development

For some school districts, the models of teacher professional development have moved away from Administration-dictated approaches to those which allow the instructor to identify their own learning goals and associated training. By playing a larger role in co-designing their own professional development, teachers are often receiving a combination of online learning, workshops with hands-on instruction, and service-based learning.  Micro-credentialing is also gaining in popularity, which provides credits for professional development that count towards licensure and certification during the following decade. It will be important for school districts to monitor the effectiveness of various professional development approaches in order to continually refine and improve the learning process for instructors, based on the changing learning and work environment that students need to be prepared for upon graduation.

  • Curriculum Realignment

We’ve all probably heard about the Common Core debate, and the growing movement against the standards and tests involved with the approach. The “opt-out” rates for common-core tests has been growing over the last couple years, with parents opting to have their children sit the test out, and teachers refusing to administer some or all of the tests. Beyond the individual protests of the approach, one third of the originating states in the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) Testing Consortium have decided to opt out of the Common Core aligned testing for various reasons.

School districts are also realigning curriculum to meet the changing workforce needs, with a rising focus on robotics and computer programming. The growing demand for individuals with proper training in technological fields had led educators to believe that learning should begin earlier than post-secondary education. To ensure success, it will be crucial for school districts to ensure that the realignment of curriculum meets the needs of local employers.

RMS is a full-service market research firm located in Syracuse, NY. If you are interested in learning more about our research capabilities, please contact Sandy Baker, our Senior Director of Business Development & Corporate Strategy at SandyB@RMSresults.com or by calling 1-866-567-5422. Visit our website at www.RMSresults.com.

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This blog post is a summary of a recent project completed by Research & Marketing Strategies, Inc. (RMS).

Background: An organization that provides services to K-12 school districts recently partnered with Research & Marketing Strategies, Inc. (RMS) to conduct a customer satisfaction survey. The client wanted to better understand satisfaction and perception of services provided by the organization. The market research objective was to provide decision-making insights needed to determine whether the organization is meeting the needs of clients, and where they may be able to improve service offerings.

Approach:  The RMS Analytics team collected data from stakeholders via an online survey. To hone in on the customer satisfaction with the services provided by the organization, RMS created an online survey script which was reviewed and approved by the client. Questions focused on how the respondent rated the satisfaction with particular services, customer service perceptions, timeliness of project completion, among other items. Fieldwork lasted approximately three weeks, a longer data collection period than normal, in an effort to obtain a very high completion rate. Through an extended fieldwork period, RMS was able to obtain a 91% response rate. Following the data collection and analysis period, a comprehensive report was delivered to the client, which included a visual dashboard of the findings, as well as next steps and recommendations.

Results: Here are some highlights of the study’s findings:

  • The research identified the areas where the organization excels in serving its customers, including the friendliness and helpfulness of staff.
  • Areas of opportunity where the organization could improve the customer experience included the perceived value for the cost of the service, the ease of receiving an answer to a question, and timeliness of the service.
  • For areas of opportunity, RMS researchers probed deeper beyond what needed to be improved to determine how the organization can best improve the customer experience. This led to action items that the organization can address, in an effort to capture more of the market share.
  • Overall, more than 80% of respondents stated a very high level of satisfaction with the organization.
  • The research identified high-level perceptions by asking what comes to mind when thinking about the organization. Services offered and positive attributes were most commonly mentioned.

RMS is a full-service market research firm located in Syracuse, NY. If you are interested in learning more about our research capabilities, please contact Sandy Baker, our Senior Director of Business Development & Corporate Strategy at SandyB@RMSresults.com or by calling 1-866-567-5422. Visit our website at www.RMSresults.com.

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The following post was co-written with Hilary Ranucci, Business Development Coordinator at RMS.

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Colleges and Universities are no stranger to market research, but we’ve noticed an uptick in K-12 school districts seeking market research services. To make the most informed decisions about your school district, you should have a strong understanding of your community, both past and present. Below are some common market research projects that school districts will benefit from the most.

Community Awareness Studies
The best way to gauge the perception of your district is to reach out to the very community that it is serving. Surveys can be conducted via mail, telephone, or online to capture a large volume of quantitative data, while focus groups will add a qualitative component to the research. Information gained from community awareness studies can include indicators of quality within a district (strengths), unique attributes, the school district image, and overall value ratings in curriculum content areas.

Graduate Surveys
Speaking to past students will provide the school district with a wealth of satisfaction information. Graduate surveys are typically conducted online or via phone, and questions are aimed at learning how satisfied graduates were with their education and how well-prepared they were for their post-graduation plans. Data gathered from the surveys will allow the district to determine which programs, content, or classes may need to be improved, and identify those are providing the most value. A knowledgeable market research vendor will help your school district determine how far back in the graduate database you will need to go when surveying to answer your research questions. Our clients have also found that graduate surveys are useful for creating and/or keeping an alumni base engaged for future initiatives.

Parent Surveys or Interviews
Parents are becoming increasingly interested and involved in the education their child(ren) receive. As a key community stakeholder, this demographic can provide valuable insight. Surveys can be conducted online or via phone, and interviews may take place in person or via phone. Survey questions should identify satisfaction with education policy, curriculum/programs, communication from the school district, and overall satisfaction with the services provided by the school district. Trending topics that we are also seeing become more prevalent in parent surveys include learning about perceived school safety, scheduling, and budget. Your market research consultant should work with you to determine the appropriate method to reach your parent audience, and which questions will produce the most valuable insight.

Employee Satisfaction Surveys
Employee satisfaction surveys are not limited to the business world. Like any other business operation, school districts should look internally for areas of opportunity. Staff immersed in the daily operation of school district will provide important insight into the perception and satisfaction with the school district as a workplace. We’ve noticed there is a direct link between strong employee engagement and organizational success. Online employee surveys are a powerful means to measure employee satisfaction and engagement. Perhaps most importantly, employee satisfaction surveys give the employees an anonymous outlet to note the aspects of their job and workplace that are most enjoyable, and identify areas of opportunity that would make them more engaged and loyal. Survey questions should focus on identifying areas where the school district is excelling and where they should improve, as well as finding ways to motivate employees. An important component to the employee satisfaction surveying process is the use of the data by school district. Once employees have voiced their opinion, it is important to let them know how the school district plans to use the feedback to improve their working experience.

RMS has worked with many school districts and conducted the studies outlined above. If you are interested in learning more about our research capabilities, please contact Sandy Baker, our Senior Director of Business Development and Corporate Strategy at SandyB@RMSresults.com or by calling 1-866-567-5422. Visit our website at www.RMSresults.com.

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This blog post is a summary of a recent project completed by Research & Marketing Strategies, Inc. (RMS).

Background: In Spring 2015, Baldwinsville Central School District (BCSD) partnered with Research and Marketing Strategies, Inc. (RMS) to conduct a stakeholder community perception study to explore learning concepts and identify the district’s strengths and areas of opportunity.

Approach:  RMS conducted a telephone survey with a random sample of households located in the BCSD, and three focus groups (one group with Board of Education, another with instructors, and the last with parents). To determine perception of the district and identify strengths and areas of opportunity, RMS staff completed 410 telephone surveys with a margin of error of +/-4.8%. Survey and focus group participants were asked questions to determine what the BCSD does best, what makes it unique, how the district compares to other local districts, what influenced the participant’s decision to move to the district, and perception of curriculum concepts.

Results: The RMS team analyzed data from surveys and focus groups to provide the client with a mixed methods picture of community and stakeholder perception of the district. Findings revealed an overall belief that the BCSD is doing well, with 73% of survey respondents stating that the district is better than other area districts. Participants noted the great instructors, quality education, and high performance metrics set BCSD apart from other local districts. There is a perception that the district excels at offering strong special needs and extracurricular programs, encouraging community involvement, keeping parents involved, and providing individual attention to students.

When participants were asked about the perceived value of internships, they suggested that students should be required to complete an internship, but expressed concerns over requiring internships for all students. There was a favorable response to the concept of Pathways and educational program career specialization, but participants also suggested the concept should be optional for students who are not yet ready to make a career decision. Similarly, participants felt students should have more opportunities to earn college credit, but there were mixed reviews of the benefits and drawbacks. Parents were excited about the opportunity for their children to earn college credit in order to reduce college costs, while instructors expressed concern that students would struggle being placed in higher level courses when entering college.

When participants were asked what the BCSD could do to improve, they noted changes to the budget and associated school taxes, eliminating or improving upon the common core, and improving communication. Findings from the market research study provided the BCSD with qualitative and quantitative insight regarding community and stakeholder perception which will be valuable in guiding future strategic decisions.

RMS is a full-service market research firm located in Syracuse, NY. If you are interested in learning more about our services, please contact Sandy Baker, our Senior Director of Business Development & Corporate Strategy at SandyB@RMSresults.com or by calling 1-866-567-5422. Visit our website at www.RMSresults.com.

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