I’m watching a South Hadley School Commitee meeting on my local cable channel right now and they’re talking about some statistics regarding graduating seniors. The guidance department always generates numbers like 50% of seniors are attending a certain college, another precentage are going on to work, and some joining the military. I wish I had the numbers to share, but I missed that part of the meeting.. and its really nowhere to be found online.
This year it seems the commitee is worried about a decreasing number of students attending 4 year colleges. The Guidance Department spokesperson offer the fact that many students move on from 2 year schools to 4 year schools in an effort to justify the shift in numbers, citing increaseing financial pressure on the middle class. I don’t doubt that those circumstances may be the case, but I’ve always found the method this information is gathered to be very strange. I think graduating seniors are surveyed twice ever. Once before they leave, and once in December of the following year when the come back to speak about their experiences. Every year guidance says how challenging it is to get students to respond to their surveys to collect accurate data. I also know that only sampling a population twice isn’t a very accurate way of capturing the results of 12 years of education.
What I’ve never seen the high school done is contact students in a way thats convient for them. I remember getting my survey from the high school.. via mail. My mom kept it on top of my bureau until I got home and was able to fill it out. I wouldn’t expect every parent to do that, and how many kids actually know how to work the mail these days. The high school should really embrace technology to make this process much easier for them, but more importantly for the students.
Social networks like Facebook and MySpace make it very easy to track classmates. If you’re not “friends” with them, you could at least send them a message or identify what their current network is. I know that if I was sent a survey electronically to my email or facebook I would respond. I would probably respond to a survey 10 years from now. I doubt I’m completely alone. Sure, you won’t get 100% participation, but there are lots of people out there who will take 2 minutes to answer 5 questions if they know what its about.
I’m not saying graduates should be placed on a SPAM mailing list to send surveys out every few years, but social networks are keeping our social graphs from high school for some time after our graduation. I’m still friends with many people from South Hadley High School that I haven’t seen in years.
There is no miracle solution to get data from people after they graduate, but if you try to collect it in a way thats friendly to them… you’re certainly more likely to get something back. If I were incharge of implementing this, I might do a few things. 1: Get a facebook group going. Most schools already have something like this going on. 2. Create a 1 page web based survey. Something dead simple that takes under 5 minutes to figure out. 3. Distribute that web survery to members of the group. Have friends pass it along. If you want to get really fancy, attach some reward and send it out pyramid-scheme style. Boom. Instant data.
I’m going to check my email. I doubt there is anything there is any survey there asking if I’ve graduated my two year school yet, or if I’m still attending my four year college.