By Dr. Kate Cassada, Assistant Chair, Educational Leadership & Policy Studies

Survey season is upon us! And public opinion matters.

Our students, their parents and communities are being asked what they think about everything related to their education experiences. This makes me realize that now is a good time to think about what we want to know, what we learn from these survey efforts and, most importantly, what we should do with the results.

As educators, we put incredible effort and passion into our daily work so we can make a difference — for children, their families, our communities, and ourselves. Why put in such effort without knowing if it is making an impact?

Assessment data are meaningful to us, but there are other excellent data sources as well. Wise educators take time to tap into feedback from their constituency groups. Rich resources exist to offer critical perspectives on the condition of education in America — teachers administer classroom surveys, as do schools and school divisions. The recently released 2015 Commonwealth Educational Policy Institute Poll (CEPI) offers a Virginia perspective of school practices and policy while the 2015 PDK/Gallup Poll offers a national perspective.

What are the hot button issues right now?

Testing, of course — quantity and appropriate uses. Also, school funding (see Dr. Brays’ article in the December 2015 Education Newsletter), school safety, serving high poverty schools, federal vs. state control, the pressures teachers and children face, school choice, even children’s vaccinations.

It’s worth checking out your local survey results as well as CEPI and PDK/Gallup findings. When we know our constituency groups’ priorities and beliefs, we can address their concerns, improve our practice, and keep people better informed. 

Public opinion matters to our practice. People will formulate opinions of schools, why not be sure their opinions are as well informed as possible?  We all have an opportunity to lead locally, right now.  What can you do to keep your constituency groups well informed regarding the good work you do each day?  It’s time to hold conversations with our students, their parents, communities, and our colleagues.  Doing so builds valuable community support and engagement that will help us best serve students each day.