DCSD releases employee survey: FAQ

I am delighted to report that today, DCSD has launched a survey of all of its employees to solicit feedback on the four pillars of our strategic plan: safety, choice, world-class education, and system performance. This survey will help us provide a baseline of current opinion so that we can understand how to improve in ways ranging from effective communication to assisting teachers and building leaders in providing the best education for kids. 

This will be the first part of our effort to gather opinions from parents, students, teachers, and citizens across the district. Having worked on this effort for nearly eighteen months, I am pleased to see it come to fruition, and look forward to using the results to drive continuous improvement in our district.

Here are some questions that I have seen today upon the survey's release. I hope that this will help begin to answer them, and that the district community has productive conversations going forward.

What is the background on surveying employees?

In the past, DCSD has surveyed teachers and community members without substantial fidelity. Best practices for surveys weren't followed, such as using a rigorous protocol to ensure that the right respondents were taking them, nor were representative samples of the community guaranteed. DCSD had the disastrous experience of failing to ask demographic questions in its most recent survey. Although valuable information came out of that survey that was used in a number of ways, the district could not guarantee that its results represented the community accurately.

In the summer of 2014, DCSD released an RFP for a community survey. Several firms responded, with a variety of approaches to the District's request. I was fortunate to be part of the staff review process that looked over the packages and made recommendations about which to employ. However, ultimately, disagreement about the recommendations, as well as substantial cost, caused the majority of the board to choose not to take action with a survey for this past fall, a year ago. (Note: no formal board action was taken.)

Although I was disappointed (you might guess that I was in the minority on this issue), I continued to work with staff and the superintendent to determine a path forward on gathering feedback. 

What is this survey about?

This particular survey is for staff, by staff. It is meant to gauge the current understanding of the district's strategic plan. The questions fall into the four strategic plan buckets: safety, choice, world-class education, and system performance. There are additional questions about how employees feel about DCSD as a place to work, and around communications.

Who created and is administering the survey?

The district solicited staff across several departments for survey questions. 

Data integrity is an extremely important part of survey best practice. The questions are hosted on a third-party survey platform that ensures that there are unique respondents. The survey is anonymous--no demographic or employee data is solicited. Standard practices have been employed to allow employees to remain anonymous while allowing data to be aggregated into building-level indicators. No one outside the district should be able to take the survey, and no one will be able to take the survey more than once. 

When will the survey be completed?

Employees have until November 20 to access and finish the survey. 

How will the results be used?

Understanding knowledge gaps is the first step to making positive changes in the areas measured by the survey. The results will be used to form an initial picture of the state of employee implementation of the strategic plan. I am most interested in driving improvements as we continue to gather feedback and learn how we can support staff members.

So is this the whole result of the survey process? Is this the only survey that will be given?

No, it is just the beginning. After discussing survey approaches with staff, several paths forward emerged. Begin by measuring staff understanding of the current strategic plan. Understand the baseline viewpoints. Try again to work together as a board on a broader survey, perhaps for parents, students, and/or community members. Come back to staff with additional questions near the end of the year as we figure out what questions staff members have, and where additional improvements are needed.

We should never be satisfied with where we are at any given point. We must develop a more robust communications process and a better feedback loop to improve our assessment of how we are doing. Today's survey is a small part of that.