Interpreting Survey Data: Incorrect Inferences and Partial Stories



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Background: COVID-19 has impacted not only how we see our healthcare system but education as well. Since the height of COVID-19, school attendance has reached an all-time low, and schools have experienced difficulty connecting with parents/guardians regarding their student's attendance and education. Despite the challenges, engaging families in their child's education is a tool many districts have determined to greatly benefit in countering COVID-19. Moreover, properly engaging parents/guardians is a way to ensure that the lines of communication are open, effective, and utilized to translate campus and student success. Purpose: This study aims to determine the effectiveness of a district-issued survey as a tool to increase family engagement and the correlation to overall campus achievement. The study sought to answer three questions: (1) What is the process for collecting parent(s)/guardian(s) survey data in an Urban School District to determine the effectiveness of family engagement? (2) What is the difference in the response (rate) to the parent survey by race/ethnicity, SES, and school type? (3) What is the extent to which the academic outcomes correlate to the response rate by schools within the District? Methods: This mixed methods study reviewed the Family School Relationship Survey data from a large public charter school to examine responses rate by socioeconomic levels, demographic groups, and school type. The study used Kendall's tau_b correlation to determine the significance of parent/guardian engagement vs. campus achievement. Results: A data review indicated that the communication practices in place to inform families about the district survey were not conducive to learning about parent/guardian engagement. Of the 12,016 surveys distributed to parents/guardians within the district, 3,114 were submitted for analysis, resulting in unit response bias due to the low participation rate of families. Families of elementary-aged students responded at a lower rate at 3.9 % than secondary families at 18%. The largest percent of completers were parents/guardians who identified as Caucasian (13.4%), whereas the highest student demographic (Hispanic 88%) had the lowest completion rate of 1.9%. African American parents, whose students make up 9.1% of the student body, had a completion rate of 2.6%. A strong, positive correlation existed between academics and attendance (τb = .439, p = .016). Family engagement had no statistical significance on either the attendance rates or academic outcomes. Conclusion: Survey research is often used as a quick way to ascertain the climate of a school district. However, surveys lose their benefit if the target audience fails to participate. Understanding families, cultures, and technology access may significantly improve the outcome of future survey participation and the lines of communication between the school and home.



Parent engagement, Communication, Student achievement, Socioeconomic status, Student attendance, Elementary, Secondary, Campus communication, District communication, Response bias, School surveys