Missing Surveys

Teachers struggle with missing surveys. So do principals. So do small teacher coaching programs like ours. Here's what happens. 1. A teacher gives a survey to kids, maybe where they might want to go on a field trip. 40% come back filled out. Now what? Teachers are busy enough. The last thing they need is more work -- chasing stuff down. Are the responders likely to be representative of the 100%? No. Certainly the survey returners are more diligent kids. But the info is better than none at all.

2. Now let's say a principal emails a survey to teachers. 40% come back. Does it matter? Yep. I see it daily from both sides.

From a teacher's point of view, they get a lot of emails. This one asks about a special needs student. The next one is about a college recommendation. Another is about a curriculum question. Then there's a survey about how rating professional development from last Wednesday. It's understandable....a teacher doesn't want to drown in her Inbox.

But the principal is "stuck" too. She wants to plan next week's P.D. session. If she decides today, and then a few strong positive or negative emails trickle in about the last session, she'll be bummed. Maybe she waits another day or two in hopes of a higher response rate. It's "one more thing" that persists on her To-Do list. Etc.

3. Our school does an end-of-year parent survey (pdf) each year. At first, we asked parents to mail it back. 1% did. So now we get a team of people to do these as phone surveys. That gets us to a yield of about 54%. It's not perfectly representative, but it's in the right ballpark.

The thing that's too bad: any parent who rates our school less than a 7 out of 10 gets a personal call from the principal. So the unsatisfied parents who don't respond to our survey don't get this extra call to review the "Whole school year" (they almost certainly get a number of principal phone calls, but they're probably about specific topics).

4. Our teacher coaching experiment in New Orleans is now 3 months old. How are we doing? In the short term, all we can do is ask people. The teachers we coach rate us 9.2 out of 10. But our NOLA team doesn't fully trust that number. Our coaches say the teachers are so hungry for personal coaching, they'd give high marks to any reasonable coaching.

We tried to survey principals, along with our partner New Schools For New Orleans. But only 5 of 12 responded. Again, I've been there....I often ignore surveys because I feel busy. On this occasion, I'm on the "receiving end" of incomplete data.

With all that said, it's nice that all 5 school leaders are positive about the coaching we are providing:

School #1 MATCH Coaching thus far has been very effective. Their feedback is very poignant and relevant. I have seen my teacher grow tremendously this year.

School #2 MATCH has been great. My teachers who are working with MATCH feel very invested in the coaching and MATCH people have been great at ensuring the teachers are communicating with us very clearly what they're working on.

I mentioned this to Erica but I do wish I had received a copy of the MATCH training books. Even if I had to pay for them. They are great and would have helped me, earlier on, be able to talk the same language with my MATCH teachers. I think not having this from the beginning put me in a situation where my teachers would say something or mention a specific technique that I just didn't know about. I think there is potential for that to be divisive. Erica was great and responded but just wish I had had them up front.

School #3 We have absolutely LOVED our experience with Match so far. Katherine's feedback has been very specific and targeted and we have already seen tremendous growth in management from X (the teacher she is working with). I like the model of having her here for a week.

I wish more teachers could work with Match coaches or they could do mini-targeted PD sessions around some of their principles so that more teachers could benefit. I also think it would be great if there could be some PD for instructional coaches based on their model.

School #4 I've been really pleased with the increased authoritative presence in X’s classroom. X has expressed to me that she now feels like she rules her classroom. I think this is the greatest improvement that has come about as a result of her MATCH participation.

I believe that X is now gaining the confidence to be a very successful teacher. As she builds on that confidence, I believe she will continue to make instructional decisions that support the academic success of her students. I noticed when she switched the layout of her classroom, she was able to use the different halves of her classroom to foster friendly competition to improve behavior. Today, X has set up her classroom in stations to vary instruction. Putting more of the heavy lifting on students, rather than being a very teacher-centered classroom, will help the students succeed in the long term this year.

Overall, very pleased with the MATCH program and look forward to additional improvements.

School #5 The MATCH Coach who was provided to XXX at XXX was very helpful and informative. She gave the teachers practical and explicit advice on how to fix pre-identified weaknesses in real time. Additionally, she also empowered the teacher to the point that she became self-reflective enough to identify areas of weakness and possible solutions on her own. Although she only spent a week at the school, I feel that the support she provided was top notch.

I'm pleased that our 3 coaches -- Katherine, Max, and Erica -- are getting positive reviews at this early stage in our coaching experiment. I'm even more pleased that they know the "missing surveys" mean we're not yet sure where we stand.