Survey well intentioned but implemented poorly

March 14, 2019 — by Jeffrey Ma

The California Healthy Kids survey was conducted during tutorial on Feb. 27 to help the district collect valuable data on and gauge students’ behavior and attitudes about a variety of health-related issues.

According to the school website, the official purpose of the survey is to assess “important areas for guiding school and student improvement,” ranging from school climate and safety to student connectedness and well-being. The specifics of the survey ranged from asking about a variety of drugs to questions like “Do you feel like a part of this school?”

Given this purpose, the survey is clearly an important source of information for the district. Thus, it’s imperative that the information collected is accurate and legitimate; however, the implementation of the survey had glaring issues.

The legitimacy of the survey hinges upon the degree of truthfulness with which students answer, and the survey’s confusing placement during tutorial, essentially rendering large swathes of the data potentially useless.

Coming into school on that Wednesday, most students had no idea that the survey was to be taken during tutorial. The topic and purpose of the survey were left unexplained, leading many to simply not take it seriously and rush through it.

While some students certainly do use tutorial for its intended purpose of getting academic guidance, a majority use the time for recreation and relaxation — a break from the monotonous concentration of their academic classes. The mindset adopted during tutorial simply does not match the survey’s requirements.

Given that this time is used by most students for relaxation and socializing, encroaching upon it is akin to encroaching upon lunch time, eliciting anger and negative responses from students and further derailing the chance that students will take it seriously.

There seemed to be general confusion on the procedure as well. Teachers were instructed to hold their students until the end of tutorial regardless of the survey’s length, but some teachers let students go. Students who did not know about this limitation were essentially encouraged to finish the survey as fast as possible in an attempt to salvage their tutorials, often times tapping the first listed answer.

How should such surveys be administered? To begin with, it should simply be done at the expense of class time. As cynical as it is, students will take the survey more seriously if it replaces what they would ordinarily be doing in a class. The importance of the survey needs to be publicized and stressed to both parents and students; if they understand the purpose and effects the survey will have on the district and themselves, they will be more inclined to take it seriously.

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