Why Parent Involvement Matters
Children thrive when their parents are actively engaged in their learning environment. When parents feel welcome and involved, they can partner with teachers to ensure the best possible care for their child.
Research shows that parent engagement positively impacts children’s success in the classroom. Harvard Graduate School of Education Lecturer, Dr. Karen Mapp, notes in her paper, A New Wave of Evidence, The Impact of School, Family, and Community Connections on Student Achievement, that when schools and families work together, children are more successful in academics, earn higher grades, and have better social skills. She shares that “When schools build partnerships with families that respond to their concerns and honor their contributions, they are successful in sustaining connections that are aimed at improving student achievement.”
Parent Surveys—A Convenient Way to Invite Feedback
Sending out surveys on a regular basis is an easy way to reach out to families and involve parents in your program. Surveys create an opportunity for parents to share feedback, thoughts, and suggestions outside of the craziness of child drop-off and pick-up. Surveys have the added benefit of revealing information and insight in a format that is easy to analyze and review all at once.
Electronically sent surveys work best because they offer parents an opportunity to either respond immediately or go back to the emailed survey link later in the day or week. Paper surveys, on the other hand, can be set aside and forgotten, and require the extra step of having to remember to return the survey to your program once it has been filled in.
How to Get Started
There are several programs for creating and sending surveys that are both user-friendly and budget-friendly. We share a few of the most popular options below, all free (or with a free option).
Google Forms: Google forms are one of the easiest options to use. They are free, only take a few minutes to set up, and can be customized with border images to personalize the look. There is no limit to the number of questions you can ask or the number of respondents who the survey is sent to. You will have to log in with a Google email address to get started.
Surveymonkey: Surveymonkey has both paid and free plans available. The free option limits you to 10 questions and 100 respondents. Because of the limitations, this option might work better for smaller programs or centers that plan to send brief surveys with only a few questions.
TypeForm: TypeForm’s free option offers unlimited questions and answers, along with an opportunity to export data from the results. To personalize the survey, there are several different themes to choose from as well as options for adding the responder’s name and customizing templates.
Survey Set Up & Structure
While you may have a lot of questions to ask parents, Jay Cooper of Campus Suite suggests keeping it short and sweet with simple answer formats that make the survey quick and approachable. He explains that “everyone’s time is so compressed these days, and the last thing you want to do is make participation a chore or more than they bargained for. Make it friendly, too. Use multiple-choice, 1-5 rating scales, and short-answer format questions so your respondents can complete the survey easily. This brevity also makes it easier for you to make sense of the results and put them in practical, actionable summaries.”
Adding an open-ended question to the end of the survey is a way to get helpful insights and ensure that parents’ specific concerns and suggestions are being heard.
Always thank parents for their time with a follow-up email or a message at the end of the survey completion. This will help reaffirm that you truly value their time and appreciate their participation.
If you are not sure where to get started, or what questions to ask, you can find sample questions developed by Dr. Mapp using Surveymonkey templates. While the surveys were created with a focus on K-12 education, many of the questions would be appropriate for use in an early learning environment as well. The surveys each focus on a particular topic, such as parent engagement, school climate, parent roles/responsibilities, and child behavior. Click here for the complete list of templates.
Parent surveys are meaningless without follow through. Parents need to know that you and your team are reviewing their feedback and seriously considering making changes to your program that better support each family’s needs. Follow-up can be as simple as sending out an email sharing the changes that you plan to implement or hosting a meeting with parents who you might want to follow-up with. You can also refer to the survey results when you announce initiatives or new procedures. Regardless of how you choose to move forward, parents want to know that their perspectives were heard and valued.