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Parent Survey Offers Schools Harvard-Tested Questions

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What is the best way to survey parents to assess their impact on student learning?

a) Ask a series of questions in a survey you created about student learning.
b) Use a survey developed and field-tested by Harvard University School of Education researchers.
c) Ask parents only a few questions to make sure you don't take up too much of their time.
d) Give them several statements to agree or disagree with, since that's easier to respond to than asking questions.
e) Other ___________________

This poorly rendered multiple-choice question demonstrates the challenge when non-experts write survey questions that appear to be simple and straightforward, but aren't. A respondent would likely be scratching his or her head about how to answer this with any degree of certainty.

School districts, which rarely employ qualified survey developers, face the daunting task of creating surveys that will give them data they can act upon to direct their parent-engagement efforts.

That's why SurveyMonkey—a Palo Alto, Calif. company which provides web-based survey solutions to individuals and organizations—commissioned Harvard University to produce a scientifically valid survey that would help schools measure parent engagement.

Over the past two months, early adopting public school districts have started accessing and using the questions developed by the Harvard team to evaluate how parents perceive their children's schools, and how much they are connected to those institutions.

Schools can access the 71-item Question Bank database for free, using the entire questionnaire, or sections of it, to query their own community.

Learn more in Education Week's story, "Harvard, SurveyMonkey Offer Tool to Weigh Parent Engagement."

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