Start the School Year By Hearing from Stakeholders

Growing up in New Jersey, the day after Labor Day always marked the start of a new school year … and the day I finally got to wear the new outfit I had carefully planned and crack open my new, pristine notebooks.

If you couldn’t tell, I have always loved the excitement of returning to school. 

Unfortunately, for many children, families, and educators, this year felt different. 

Some of the usual excitement and jitters have been replaced by trepidation about what to expect from a year like no other.

Concerns about health and safety, academic progress, and schedule juggling have been abundant in my conversations with teachers and the staff and family surveys I have analyzed. 

So how will schools and districts know if they are adequately addressing their stakeholders’ fears?

Well… they’ve got to ask them. 

Colleagues in a number of recent conversations have been discussing the use of continuous improvement cycles. If you’re not familiar with continuous improvement, its hallmark is the Plan-Do-Study-Act (PDSA) Cycle.  

Alicia Grunow of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching explains the PDSA cycle: 


More simply put, schools and districts need to: 

  • Determine what need or concern they are going to address and how they will address it, 
  • Implement the intervention, program, or practice they proposed, 
  • Collect and analyze data to see if what was implemented actually worked, and
  • Make a plan for what to continue and what to change. 


Then, the cycle starts all over again … quickly. 

We’re not talking about huge, multi-year studies here … This is a relatively quick and simple process! 

Make a plan, implement the plan, figure out if the plan worked, and if not, adjust and try again! 

With school kicking off, schools and districts have already put a short-term plan in place and are putting it into action. 

And this year, short cycles of trial and error are going to be key, as even our modes of schooling could change multiple times throughout the year. 

So how can schools and districts get feedback from their stakeholders NOW to see if their plan worked? 

Instead of a lengthy formal survey, think of creative ways to ask for feedback:​

Asking one or two questions at a time in interactive ways will make it easy for stakeholders of all groups to participate, prevent them from getting tired of surveys, and give you real-time data about how people are feeling.*

*Just make sure the platforms you choose will allow for translation.

Now here’s the kicker: once you collect data, you have to complete the cycle … ACT!

Make it clear for students, families, and staff that you valued their feedback and are going to put it to use … and tell them how!

Start this crazy school year off right by lifting up the voices of your stakeholders in fun and easy ways and demonstrating that their feedback will guide your next round of planning and action. 

What are your creative ideas for hearing from stakeholders? Share them in the comments!