Category Archive for: ‘Resources’

  • Opening Schools in the Fall May Be a Mixed Bag

    By: Jon Ratliff

    Dr. P.J. Caposey, superintendent at CUSD 223 in Illinois, recently sent a Center for Disease Control graphic outlining the protocols for reopening schools in the fall, including social distancing, disinfecting, and daily checks for signs and symptoms of Covid-19. In a May blog post, Dr. Caposey shared initial comments from colleagues as they responded to the involved CDC protocols, including this one:

    “I will see you in 2029.”

    Dr. Caposey’s blog post highlights the possible reopening scenarios, ranging from opening schools at the beginning of the year to delaying the start of the school year. He believes the hybrid option, with a mix of online learning to students in the classroom, will have the greatest odds of success. The hybrid option helps districts instill confidence in parents, students and teachers. A Patron Insight white paper outlined the need for trust between school districts and the communities they serve. Foremost, districts must be concerned with the foundation of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, safety and security before learning can take place.

    In May, USA Today conducted a poll of 501 teachers and 403 parents and learned that one-in-five teachers are unlikely to return to their classrooms in the fall and 60 percent of parents would pursue online options rather than send their children back into the classroom. The hybrid model allows parents and students to have educational options and reduce health risks. Teachers and students who are at greater risk for Covid 19 can work remotely. Those risks underlying conditions such as heart or lung conditions, hypertension, and diabetes.

    Other aspects of school procedures had to be revised, such as arrangements for food preparation and pickup, families had to figure out how to connect their children and teachers, and how to help with lessons. Using the hybrid model will help connect curricula, reduce the need for food pickup, and create opportunities to increase online participation.

    Some of the school districts Patron Insight has worked with reported great success and high levels of participation during last spring’s rapid shift to online education. Other districts saw a commitment by students and parents at the beginning, which eventually began to fade. Participation levels via video dropped off, with teachers reporting that they began to know who would be on screen and who would not – with or without an excuse.

    With the 2020-2021 school year looming and, with it, the distinct possibility that some districts will be faced with having to continue distance learning for the time being, is there a better way to encourage – or even compel – student participation?

    Student compliance with assignments began to slide as well in some cases, leaving teachers with the unenviable task of trying to grade something that they weren’t able to manage in a hands-on environment. The answer may be to take an almost collegiate approach, through the use of a combination of classroom (via meeting software) learning, homework, and scheduled “office hours” for each student, each week.

    Combining both classroom and individual learning opportunities, the hybrid model increases student engagement. Further, this option:

    • Creates an expectation, rather than just an invitation
    • Catches problems before they become chronic issues
    • Keeps the personal connection with students – particularly those who might not be comfortable speaking up with other classmates watching

    Office hours are more than an open time when a student can connect with his or her teacher, but a scheduled time for each student, each week, (at least at the outset) to monitor progress, set weekly individual goals, identify problems and help create solutions before the student falls too far behind.

    Last spring’s rapid switch to online learning identified a number of technology issues, including home wifi capacity, school virtual private network (VPN) capacity, and multiple students trying to use s single home computer to do work at different grade levels. A hybrid option could reduce capacity issues and provide parents with alternatives. In a recent Patron Insight survey, parents expressed a desire to standardize meeting software (some districts are allowing teachers to decide among Microsoft Teams, Zoom, Google Meet and others.) Creating a standard would save parents considerable bandwidth and stress.

    Distance learning poses more challenging issues, as well. Teachers have expressed concerns about providing social-emotional learning and building crucial relationships with students as the school year begins. In an article titled “How Teachers Want Emergency Distance Learning Improved,” teachers assessed the challenges and opportunities of online learning. One fifth-grade language arts teacher stressed the importance of relationships and peer interaction by using a “soft start” to the school day, to “let (the students) be 10.”

    Older students need relationships as well. For example, a survey indicated that about 40 percent of high school students weren’t participating online. One Florida High School instituted a team approach called Building Assets, Reduced Risks (BARR) to increase engagement and improve outcomes for at-risk students.

    While technology enhancements will be necessary to increase engagement, preparing for a return to the classroom may be an even bigger challenge. Teachers and staff will not only need to disinfect and space desks for social distancing, they will need to stagger passing periods and adjust lunch schedules to reduce risk. Having a portion of students learning online will reduce the number of students and teachers within a school building and help everyone keep their distance.

    Now is a good time for districts to conduct a climate study to better understand the feelings of parents or a communication audit to learn how well constituents understand messages about managing through the Covid-19 crisis. To learn more about Patron Insight’s research and strategic plan development, contact Ken DeSieghardt.

  • How to avoid pirates when looking for a vendor or partner

    Pirates are everywhere.

    No, not the Johnny Depp kind of pirates. These seafaring folk with ill intent will copy literally anything, if you set it down and look away for a minute.

    Fashion, electronics, artwork and, of course, business services. Unable to compete on quality, they offer something they tout as being “close” or even “equal” to the main player in the category and they dangle a low price in front of the prospect’s eyes hoping that will get the target to say, “This is close enough.”

    How much of a problem is this kind of piracy?

    The February 27, 2017 issue of INC. reported that The Commission on the Theft of Intellectual Property estimates the losses range from $225 to $600 billion a year. Losses on trade secrets alone range from $180 to $540 billion. That’s “billion.” With a “b.”

    And that was 2017. It’s likely much worse here in 2020.

    It happens in our business, too. As the leader in public school stakeholder research, Patron Insight always has a target on its back. In a way, that’s OK. It forces us to keep innovating. To keep staying close to client needs. To regularly evaluate what’s working and what could be better.

    But, like in your business, it can be frustrating at times. You know where you lead the marketplace and you cringe at the thought of someone claiming that position – particularly if the only thing they have to offer is a modestly lower fee for what they call “the same product.”

    We live in caveat emptor (“Buyer beware”) times, now more than ever. Before you make a major buying decision regarding a vendor, consider the following:

    • Are their claims provable? It’s easy to say that the company has X level of experience in what you need, if they just get a little squishy with the numbers. There’s nothing wrong with asking them for references from A, B, and C companies on the list of clients they provide. If they can’t produce a list or hedge when you ask, be suspicious.
    • Who from the company has the expertise you need and will they, personally, be working on your project?Farming out pieces of a project is a great way for small businesses to focus. But if they take the attitude of, “Sell it, and we’ll find someone who can do it.” you should run the other way. You want to work with someone who understands you needs, because he or she has handled similar needs for other clients and done so successfully.
    • Are they talked about in your circles? In the research work we do for school districts, “Friends and neighbors” or “Word of mouth” is almost always the number one source of information about a district. If nobody you know is talking about the company trying to win your business, beware.
    • Do the principals share their knowledge? More than just a LinkedIn post – like this one! – do they speak at conferences, attend community meetings and generally lend their expertise where and when they can? Doing so is part of good corporate citizenship and, for them, a valuable business building tool. For example, our Small School District Initiative will to be providing no-fee research this fall to 14 school districts who each have fewer than 5,000 students – meaning they likely couldn’t afford to do research with their community otherwise.
    • Do their services produce results? At Patron Insight, we do a lot of pre-election research, helping school districts plan for ballot issues that may include a tax increase. We measure our success on the accuracy of our research – from the point of the survey to election day – which is 97% — and on the new tax revenue districts were able to generate from these elections, which stands at $7.2 billion (again, with a “b”). If a company says they produced X results, ask them under what circumstances? Who was involved? Was it here, at the current company, or at a previous employer?

    Again, you can probably tell a fake Kate Spade handbag from a real one. (OK, some people might be able to, but not me.) But it’s a little more difficult to find the pirates in your business dealings. Asking these questions should help you stay safer in the choppy waters of commerce.

  • Part 3: Myths and facts about passing a tax initiative

    This is the final segment of our three-part myths and facts series.

    MYTH: Everyday terms like, “It’ll only cost the same as one pizza a month” make it easier for voters to (I’m so sorry) swallow the proposal.

    FACT: Just lay out the dollars and cents, preferably the annual cost for the owner of a typically priced home in the district.

    We have conducted extensive post-loss surveys that clearly show when the district uses monthly or daily costs or tries to equate the costs of a ballot issue to something inexpensive, voters routinely tell us they felt like they were being duped. This is not our opinion. This is solid data accumulated over 11 years.

    If a campaign that used such a tactic was successful, our suspicion is it was in spite of trying to find a simple, frivolous way to take a serious subject and make it seem more palatable.

    Why is this wrong?

    First, it takes the focus off of where it should be – on how the referendum will benefits students, families, staff and the community, by talking about pizzas. It almost sounds like a fundraiser. And anyone who wants to foist another one of those on parents raise your hand. Anybody?

    Second, it deals with replacement rather than investment. Instead of buying that pizza, think of the children. Again, you are taking a simple message and gumming it up with this presto change act.

    Third, and most importantly, this approach assumes equality. Not everyone in your community makes a regular Starbucks run, has a family pizza night, or takes in a movie once a month. Assuming they do put the school district into the “they just don’t get me” category, this casts a negative tone over the population that fits this description.

    So, how should you state the cost?

    • Provide an annual or monthly tax increase – not both – and don’t pick monthly just because the number looks smaller. Use if it fits with your past presentations on such a subject. Otherwise, use the annual number.
    • State the market value for those owners of an average value home. Here’s where it is best to pick a round number ($150,000) rather than the exact average value, which could be something squirrelly like $141,312. Make it easy for people to do the math for their home.
    • In brochures or other large form informational pieces, say, “If your home value is higher, your tax increase will be more. If your home value is lower, your tax increase will be less.”

    Patron Insight started doing this when an unusually high (two or three on one survey is unusually high to us) number of people said either, “Why do people who only live in $150,000 homes have to pay?” or “I don’t know anyone who lives in a home that is exactly $150,000.”

    The bottom line is a pre-election planning survey is a no-brainer expense that will help you pass your ballot issue. Our success rate on predicting election outcomes is 97% accurate. Again, that’s solid data – not a pie in the sky.

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