IASB Survey Measures Engagement and Satisfaction
By Theresa Kelly Gegen
The purpose of the 2022 IASB Member Survey, which was open from February 28 to April 22, was to ensure IASB is fulfilling its mission regarding the “common interests and concerns” of school board members in Illinois and assessing Association products, events, and services to gauge member engagement and satisfaction. IASB asked those that use such services – board members, superintendents, and school district administrative professionals – questions regarding topics of urgency and engagement with the Association. The survey also asked board members additional questions covering demographics and board work, plus further questions on interests and engagement.
In 2022, 1,458 responses were collected. This included 983 school board members, 269 superintendents, and 206 school board or district administrative professionals or other respondents. IASB is using all responses to assess engagement and customer satisfaction and correlate those to the Association’s strategic priorities. The following information includes board member responses only.
Topics of Urgency and Interest
Over the years, IASB has asked board members what topics are most urgent in their districts. The question reads, “How urgent are the following issues for your board and your district right now?” and lists several response options. In 2018, the most urgent issue was budgeting and school funding, and the same was true for previous surveys, according to past survey records. But in 2020, a new topic – the teacher shortage – topped the urgency list, just ahead of academic performance and student growth, followed by budgeting and school funding.
Now, in 2022, the teacher shortage is once again the most urgent topic, and by a wider margin, with 72% of board member respondents saying it is very or extremely urgent.
In second place on the urgency scale for 2022 was social and emotional and mental health support, with 70% of board member respondents deeming it extremely or very urgent. Third in urgency in 2022 was academic performance and student growth, the only topic to be ranked among the three most urgent in the past three surveys. In 2022, that budgeting and school funding category, the most urgent concern in 2018, ranked a fairly distant seventh, with 47% now considering it very or extremely urgent.
It should be noted that the 2020 survey was open from February to April, coinciding with the rise of COVID-19 in the U.S. and the March 13, 2020 closing of Illinois classrooms in response. And the 2018 survey opened just after the school shooting tragedy in Parkland, Florida, which likely skewed the responses in favor of safety and security. In 2022, the February-to-April timeframe offered less dramatic events, but the cumulative impact of the coronavirus pandemic, social justice issues, and school safety and security informs the opinions of survey respondents.
Historically, there have been Illinois members with decades of service to their boards of education. In the 2022 survey, the respondents with 20 or more years on their board of education went from 8-10% prior to 2022 up to 13% in 2022. Half of the 2022 respondents had served between 5 and 20 years and that percentage was approximately the same in 2020 and 2018.
Given the circumstances of the past two years, it’s not a surprise that the number of hours board members report they spend on board work is going up. In 2020, 18% of board members reported devoting over 15 hours a month to board work; in 2022 it’s now 23%. Most (57%) are between 5 and 15 hours in 2022. The percentage who reported five hours or fewer dropped from 24% in 2020 to 17% in 2022.
The member survey asks demographic questions of board members. IASB seeks to understand who our school board members are and their service to the district. Demographic data provides a snapshot in time of association membership.
One small but notable demographic shift occurred since 2020: Of the board members who responded, 50% identified as female, 47% male, with the remaining 3% selecting other or declining to state. It’s the first time that females out-pointed males in the survey of board members. In 2020, respondents were 49% male and 48% female. In 2018, 52% of board members who responded were male, 47% female.
In 2018, 86% of board member respondents identified as white. In 2022, that number was 80%, with a small corresponding increase in Black member respondents (8% in 2018 to 10% in 2022) and those of multiple ethnicities (2% to 6%).
From the 2020 survey results, we noted the possibility that the average age range of board members was trending younger. In 2022, we see that that’s not the case. The percentage of board members who said they were over age 60 is about the same, with a few more over 70. And there are fewer in their 30s and 40s with a fraction of a percent under age 30.
We also ask about families, education, and employment, and the results have stayed consistent. For three surveys and six years running, 47% of board members have children in public schools at the time of the survey. More today have no children in school (PK-College) than in 2018. In the last three surveys, education level attained has been within a percentage point of the 2022 numbers of 4% high school graduate; 23% associate’s/vocational training; and 31% bachelor’s degree. Board members with a graduate or professional degree went from 37% in 2020 to 40% in 2022. Respondents are consistently 60% employed full-time and 23% retired.
Members Engage with IASB
IASB further asked survey responders to “Think about your overall perceptions of IASB and indicate your level of agreement with the following statements,” with statements regarding how and why they interact with the Association, and how they assess the success of those interactions. In each case, a majority of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that they felt connected, engaged, and supported by IASB.
When asked if IASB membership was valuable to their board, 57% agreed plus 29% strongly agreed. IASB’s overall customer satisfaction was rated poor (4%); fair (9%); good (31%); very good (36%); and excellent (20%).
Many respondents stated they experience IASB by doing what you are doing right now – reading the Journal. Thank you! Here are the options that over half of the respondents reported taking part in:
- Reading the Illinois School Board Journal (69%)
- Attending the Joint Annual Conference (66%);
- Using the IASB website for content including videos, news feeds, guidance resources (64%);
- Discussing IASB Resolutions with my board (55%); and
- Attending a Division Meeting or other Division event, such as a Governing Meeting or Legislative Breakfast (50%).
Another way members can interact with IASB – although for obvious reasons it’s not included in the survey – is to participate in the survey. IASB encourages all board members to respond to the next semi-annual Member Survey in 2024, and express your opinion so IASB can continue to improve its efforts to “Light the Way” for its members.Theresa Kelly Gegen is Editor of the Illinois School Board Journal.