Survey Systems Blog

Bullying—Everybody loses!

Posted by Jackie Jones on Oct 25, 2013 2:37:00 PM

Bullying QuestionnaireBullying—we all talk about it, what it is, why we need to assess it, how to stop it, how to prevent it, etc. We all know why we need to stop it—our kids deserve to feel safe—in school, in our community, etc. “Bullying impacts the school and the community.” I have made that statement before, as I am sure many others have. But, seldom have I taken the time to think that statement through. Granted, bullying impacts the child, (the victim), other children (the by-standers) and of course, the bully and his/her followers; but the school or the community?

Impact on Schools

Bullying impacts schools in a number of ways— discipline problems, increased suspensions, truancy, all resulting in increased costs and missed goals. The school climate survey is a very important tool to start determining how these aspects truly impact each individual school, and its students. 

  • The bully is capable of disrupting the entire classroom, wasting the time of the entire class as well, until the teacher gets things under control again. If this goes on, educational goals for that class may be missed. In addition to the time lost reining the class back under control, it is difficult to learn/concentrate “when you are scared.”

  • The bully/victim may continue outside of the classroom, requiring disciplinary action, which adds to the staff time required.  Often the victim, as well as the bully, is disciplined, leaving the victim feeling unfairly treated as well as unsafe in school. 

  • If suspensions, whether in school or out of school, are a part of the disciplinary actions, students are now missing classes-educational opportunities- and falling behind the rest of the class. The results are negative all the way around—the student faltering or failing and the school missing academic ratings because of students’ not meeting minimum requirements.

  • Truancy increases for a number of reasons—victims feel unsafe, so simply don’t show up; suspensions have caused student (bully or victim) to be behind, so they skip, and students who are not the bully or the victim feel unsafe or uncomfortable and skip as well. For some students, the poor attendance leads to poor academic performance, which eventually leads to dropping out of school completely.

  • School district costs are increased on several levels: it is more expensive to educate truant students; disciplinary costs are increased; but most of all, funding (which is based on attendance) is lost. In the United States, the average attendance per day is less than 80%! One in five students is missing school on any given day! Since funding is based on attendance, this correlates to a lot of funding lost in absenteeism! Statistics vary, indicating anywhere from 8% of all middle school absences to 58% of the higher grade absences are the result of bullying. (Younger students are less likely to be truant because they have less opportunity to “skip;” they have more supervision, and are normally dropped off and picked up at school.)  Therefore, no matter what the actual statistic is, stopping bullying and thereby eliminating the portion of truancy that is a direct result of bullying would have a positive impact on school finances. 

Impact on Community

The impact on the community can be similar, also negative.

  • Bullying causes truancy to increase. Truants may be additional customers to businesses, or they may be shoplifters. Keeping kids in school, keeps them off the street—reducing the opportunity for juvenile crime, therefore reducing juvenile crime. Juvenile crime adds to law enforcement costs, court costs, and business loss. Two thirds of the boys that bullied in school had three or more criminal convictions by age 24. 

  • In addition to the increased tendency of the bully and victims being truant, the "by-standers of bullying" are also more inclined to skip school. It has been said that 95% of school success is just showing up; and it is a fact, that if a student is not in school, he/she is not learning. A community needs an educated work force for its businesses.  In addition, businesses tend to be more successful if they have a well-educated customer base.

  • As stated above, truancy leads to dropping out; studies have proven that high school dropouts have lower earning potential, higher unemployment, poorer health and are more likely to be incarcerated. All of which also have a negative economic impact on the community.

Start in School

School is the primary place to start to measure and correct the bullying problem. This is not to say that bullying is only the school’s problem—it is a parental problem, it is an educational problem, it is a community problem, it is a workforce problem. But, we need to start somewhere. A school climate survey (or bully survey) is a good place to start.  Meaningful, proactive school reform/changes need to be defined from the results of the school climate survey (or an bully survey). Attention needs to be directed to the results of the survey—address the specifics issues of your school and community.  

Each and every one of us can no longer say “bullying does not affect me,” or “my children are not involved in or impacted by bullying”—everyone is affected in one way or another.

Bullying Prevention Survey



New Call-to-Action




Topics: bullying questionnaire, School climate surveys, bullying surveys


Posted by Jackie Jones on Sep 30, 2013 4:12:00 PM

October is National Bully Prevention Month.
 What started as a week long “Pacer Kids Against Bullying” in 2006 was expanded to a month, National Bully Prevention Month, in 2010. (Pacer is the Parent Advocacy Coalition for Education Rights.) In 2007, Stomp Out Bullying was created by the organization Love Our Children USA. Both Pacer Kids Against Bullying and Stomp Out Bullying are non-profit organizations created with the goal of preventing bullying--helping kids and teens deal with and stop bullying. Orange is the color for Pacer’s bully prevention program; blue is the color for Stomp Out Bullying’s bully prevention program (just as red is the color for heart disease or pink is the color for breast cancer). October 7, 2013 is World Day of Bully Prevention--Stomp Out Bullying’s day to show your support for ending bullying by wearing blue and October 9, 2013 is Unity Day—Pacer’s day to show your support for ending bullying by wearing orange, (just as February 1 was the day to wear red or October 25 will be the day to wear pink). 

Of course, one month is not enough to put a stop to bullying, let alone one day, but if schools, organizations and even communities don’t have a bullying prevention program in place, it is a good day to start one! World Day of Bully Prevention or Unity Day can be the day(s) that everyone becomes aware of what bullying behavior really is. Children associate being mean with being a bully, but may not be aware that excluding someone, or starting rumors, or nasty texts are also forms of bullying. World Day/Unity Day would be a good day to start the education process, or continue it.


The next step in starting a bully prevention program is to assess the bullying activity in your school, organization or community. You need to know if you are tackling a gnat sized problem or an elephant sized problem. The true size of the problem is often underestimated because most bullying goes unreported. In addition to learning the size of the problem, you will need to determine the trends and type of bullying that exits. This will allow you to develop an appropriate resolution plan.


The assessment should be confidential (so that the bullying will be reported), completed in a reasonable amount of time, and have easily measurable results. The best way to achieve this is with a survey. It is important that the survey is age appropriate, and addresses the areas you want to measure (for example, frequency and type of bullying, location of bullying, perception of safety, if help was requested was help given, attitudes of adults and peer groups). Scannable survey forms or scannable survey answer sheets are an effective tool for the assessment process, whether your assessment is for school climate, community environment or organizational/workplace attitudes. Scannable survey forms allow for confidentiality, can be designed to be completed quickly, and offer a variety of data reporting methods.

                                    New Call-to-Action


A school climate survey should be administered at least once a school year, preferably twice. If no program exists, a school climate survey or bullying survey can be administered early in the year—on or right after Unity Day as an assessment. It should also be administered at the end of the school year to track progress and enable program planning for the next school year. Community bullying assessment surveys can be handed out at community functions, distributed by a direct mailing, included in community magazines or stuffed in community newspapers. These could be annual or even every two years since more time will be required to allow citizens to complete the survey and return it. Workplace or organizational assessments are more easily scheduled, similar to the school assessments.

A large variety of reports are available for scannable survey forms. The information/findings should be analyzed to determine what you just found out—what does it mean?  Distribute the findings to those who will be involved in creating/implementing the bully prevention plan or program. This group should include any number of representative “stakeholders”—students, teachers, administrators; or law enforcement, neighborhood associations, mental health specialists, faith based organizations, local businesses; or representatives from every division within a company or organization.

The group then needs to:

• Create and publish an Anti-Bullying policy, if one does not exist.

• Analyze the findings, and determine how to deal with the findings.

• Report back to the larger group--those who participated in the
• Prepare and implement a plan for prevention as well as intervention.

• Educate everyone involved on the policy, the plan, and their
respective roles.

• Repeat the assessment process to verify results, track progress
and/or determine what changes are required in the plan.

Every one of us needs to be involved in building an environment where our children feel safe; a culture of tolerance, where every one belongs, and is respected as an individual, and encouraged to succeed. Recent studies echo the fact that childhood bullying is not simply a rite of passage; it has definite, long term affects on the  victims as well as the bullies. In addition to the fact that childhood bullies tend to be adult bullies, studies have shown that bullying (victims as well as bullies) have long term negative consequences on health, job prospects and relationships. Bullying in the workplace not only impacts employee productivity, creativity and quality, but often results in loss of valued employees due to the added stress and environmental dissatisfaction. Bullying in the community can have similar socio-economical impacts as it does in the workplace and in the schools, but on a larger, and at times, more dangerous scale.  

This October is a good time to reflect on what our individual responsibilities are.


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Topics: scannable surveys, School climate surveys, bullying surveys, anti-bullying survey

The Benefits and the Dark Side of School Climate Surveys

Posted by Lynn Cunningham on Jun 20, 2013 3:53:00 PM

 school climate surveys, scantron forms, survey systems

What is a School Climate Survey?

A school climate survey is an instrument used to measure the physical setting, human interactions, scholastic functionality and psychological stability of a school or district. Usually, these surveys are conducted once a year or once every two years, and the results are used to determine what changes are needed and what aspects are working well. Survey respondents can include students, parents, faculty and staff.

Benefits of Regularly Conducting Climate Surveys

Using the results of climate surveys, districts are able to:

  • Better plan allocation of funding, putting available resources to best use;

  • Pinpoint areas that need work, such as school safety and bullying prevention, learning environment effectiveness, or student engagement;

  • Determine effectiveness of faculty and staff performance (this can be a benefit, but can also be quite controversial);

  • Gauge extent of parental involvement with district programs and student learning;

  • Compare current level of student engagement with years past; and

  • Improve academic achievement.  

By regularly conducting climate surveys, the district fosters a sense of connectedness with the students, parents and personnel.

Then There is the Dark Side...

 School Climate Survey resized 600

I recently came across a couple of instances in which the School Climate Survey has gone awry. I am sure this is not a common occurance, but I thought it was interesting. 

New York Daily News, April 13, 2013

"City investigators are probing a whopping 21 cases of ethical misconduct on the annual schools survey from 2013, Education Department officials said Friday. Results from the high-stakes polls of students, teachers and parents are used in decisions to award cash bonuses to principals and close schools when scores are bad.

They're also used to award the letter grades all public schools get on their annual city progress reports. Department rules prohibit principals from attempting to influence the surveys, but that hasn't kept school leaders around the city from trying to game the system."

The article goes on to tell of a school principal who pressured teachers and staff to give her better ratings on this year's survey. The students were also "coached" to give more positive ratings on the survey.

In another article, the writer questioned the validity of the survey questions themselves. 

Washington Post blog – The Answer Sheet, May 23, 2011

"Too often, though, survey questions reflect a set of hidden assumptions about what's desirable, or inevitable. Moreover, they help to cement that view of education into place. The issues about which people are invited to express their opinions are most revealing for what's not being asked: the underlying ideological commitments that aren't open to question. The more we're asked to offer feedback about how well the school is doing 'X', the less apt we are to ask why 'X' is being done in the first place, and what might be done instead."

A commenter on the blog, obviously an educator, states that in his district, a consulting firm has been retained by the district and has introduced a business driven model to the surveys. This person states that, "the primary objective of the surveys are to create "smoke and mirrors" for the illusion of success. This comment alludes to the surveys having little to do with education or research, but are simply being used for determining merit pay. 

Use the Force!

This "Dark Side" of school climate surveys is, I am sure, the exception, rather than the norm. The information gathered from these surveys is invaluable when used to make changes to better the education being delivered. When greed, self-promotion or manipulation creep into the picture, this tool can be hijacked and cause the "school climate" to grow increasingly inhospitable. Thank goodness that most districts "use the Force" of climate surveys for good! 

Download Our School Climate Fact Sheet

Topics: scantron form, School climate surveys

Need to Increase Survey Response Rates? Send a Reminder!

Posted by Lynn Cunningham on May 24, 2013 10:13:00 AM

Reminders Stimulate Response!

When planning your next direct mail or email survey project, don't forget to budget for at least one reminder postcard or email. This important nudge can exponentially increase response rates and increase the value of your data and the quality of your findings.

Whether you are conducting a School Climate Parent Survey or a Customer Satisfaction Survey, higher response rates are always desirable. The better the response rate, the easier it is to make accurate predictions from the collected data. Generalizing results from a survey with low response rates may not give a true picture or a good random sampling of respondents.  

Most research that I have read is in agreement that reminders–reminder emails for online surveys and reminder postcards or letters for postal mail surveys–will increase response rates.

Best Practices for Increasing Response Rates

Several activities have been shown to be helpful in getting better response rates.


  • Sending a personalized pre-survey invitation or announcement.

  • Keeping survey short and succinct.

  • Offering an incentive that is of value to the respondents.

  • Sending a reminder email or postcard 4-7 days after the survey was received. (Sending more than one reminder is even better!) Make sure your reminder conveys a sense of urgency as to the importance of completing the survey.


Typically, if a person is going to respond to your survey invitation, they will do so almost immediately after the survey is received. In our experience, about 50% of the responses you will receive will happen before the first reminder is sent out. Each reminder sent will usually result in an additional 50%. That is, if you receive 100 responses from the initial survey being sent out, a reminder will usually generate another 50 responses. A second reminder will probably bring in another 25 responses. 

Mailed Surveys vs. Online Surveys

An online survey invitation is usually a link and password provided through an email. Subsequent reminder emails would also have a link to access the survey. For email reminders, we recommend 2-3 reminders, spaced 4-7 days apart.

Surveys sent through the US mail are a little more complex. In many cases, we will send the initial survey, followed by a reminder, followed by a second copy of the survey. This pattern seems to produce the best results and highest response rates.

Timing is Everything

In addition to reminder emails or postcards, another important way to increase response rates is to carefully time the delivery of your survey or survey invitation email. To best time your survey, know your audience. If you are sending a survey out to a business or educational audience, avoid busy times, holidays or weekends. If your survey is going out to the general population in a community, the timing is not so critical, but avoiding busy times and holidays will give your email a better chance of being read. During holidays or election time, a survey invitation may be thrown away as spam or junk mail. Careful timing will increase response rates on most surveys. 

Make the most of your survey investment, by getting more quality responses using reminders!


Get a Free OMR Sample  Form Design!

Topics: Customer Satisfaction Survey, School climate surveys, survey printing

National Bullying Prevention Month Needs More Publicity!

Posted by Jackie Jones on Jan 11, 2013 3:18:00 PM

Did you know “we” have a National Bullying Prevention Month?

October was National Bullying Prevention Month. I didn't know this, so I had to do some research! We scan a large number of the various bullying prevention surveys, so this was a subject I needed to learn more about! Most states have some sort of bullying prevention policy or program in place. The majority of the programs are targeted at schools, and use tools such as Climate Surveys or Bullying Questionnaires, to determine the existence/extent of bullying. 

Almost all of the bullying prevention programs I’ve read about have several things in common:

Definition of bullying:

The definition of bullying: “aggressive, unwanted behavior that is intentional and involves a real or perceived imbalance of power; most often repeated over time.” This definition appears to be the standard, repeated in almost any article on bullying. Dr. Dan Olweus defined bullying as such in the early 1970s. Dr. Olweus is touted as the world expert on bullying. He began his research in Norway (in the early 1970s), and as early as 1981 was pushing for legislation against bullying in schools. It was the mid 1990s before the Norwegian and Swedish parliaments enacted such laws, and later for the United States. (Between 1999 and 2010, 46 of the 50 states in the United States enacted anti-bullying laws.) Many of the state laws now include the words harassment or intimidation in their definition of bullying as well. The state laws are primarily in response to events such as the Columbine shooting, and increases in school violence; whereas Dr. Olweus’s premise for the laws was based more on human rights—the fundamental right of any student to feel safe in school. 

Is there a problem?

The first step of any anti-bullying program is the requirement to assess if there is a problem, and to determine the extent of bullying—(who? how? where? when?). This assessment is usually made by surveying all or a large sample of the students using anonymous bubble marked scannable survey forms. The most widely used scannable bullying form is the Olweus Bullying Questionnaire. This is part of the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program (OBPP). The program itself is arguably the most researched, and most widely used bullying prevention program in the world. The English version of the questionnaire, as well as the program, is used by thousands of schools in the U.S. 

There are also a number of school climate surveys that are being used as assessment tools for bullying, although in smaller quantities, as well as some health and wellness scannable survey forms that include bullying questions.

school climate survey, bullying survey, scantron form

The forms are scanned; reports are generated and returned to the school. (In the case of the Olweus Bullying Questionnaires, the information is included in a national data base, and individual school reports contain a comparison to the national average.)

When the survey is completed, what’s the next step?

Upon receipt of the survey results, the next step is to determine what the results mean, and decide how to deal with them. This may include defining/building a bullying prevention program that addresses the issues identified in the survey. Sometimes this done by a committee of teachers, sometimes a committee of teachers and students combined; sometimes separate committees of teachers and students, and then the parents and community are included. Initially, the committee(s) is (are) responsible for: 

  1. Determining and/or publishing the school policy/rules on bullying. Making sure every one knows what the rules are, what the consequences are, and that there is support within the school. Making sure that everyone knows where to go to report bullying, or where to go to seek help. Educating students, teachers, parents, and community members alike.

  2. The education, support and enforcement processes continue, and after some time (a school year), the assessment process is repeated. The initial survey is now the baseline—“where we were”. Another survey is completed, scanned, reported and the results compared to measure progress, change and the overall effectiveness of the program over time, and the cycle continues. 


Are Bullying Prevention Programs working?

Yes! There are numerous articles touting the success of both the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program, and various other School Climate or specialized Bullying surveys. In addition to reducing bullying, (thereby improving school climate), these various programs are said to be positively impacting truancy, test scores, and vandalism. 

To download a free list of evidence-based bullying prevention programs that have been examined and approved by federal agencies to assist schools in their bullying prevention efforts, click the link below.  

Download Bullying Prevention Curriculum List!





Topics: bullying questionnaire, bubble answer sheets, bullying survey, School climate surveys