Case Study: San Marcos USD
How Speak Up Data Resulted in More Student Devices and Enhanced Professional Development
When Stephanie Casperson, Executive Director of Technology, arrived at San Marcos Unified School District (USD) eight years ago, the district already had a strong foundation in the use of Speak Up data. One year, it distinguished itself by completing the highest number of surveys in the country. For several years, San Marcos students were called upon to take part in the Speak Up Congressional briefings sharing their thoughts about the importance of this survey for their educational experience. The district is located in southern California and serves 19,000 students across 19 schools.
The Speak Up Research Project has had a significant impact on San Marcos USD leading to a one-to-one program for students and enhanced professional development for teachers.
Using Speak Up Data for Program Planning
Establishing a one-to-one program for students
San Marcos was not a one-to-one district when Stephanie arrived. The superintendent at that time wanted to make the shift to providing students with their own devices but wisely realized that he needed the support of the community to secure the necessary funding. That’s where data from the Speak Up survey entered. In a district this large, it would be a very difficult and lengthy process to meet with all the stakeholders, understand their views and secure their support.
“We wanted to be sure that our programs reflect the needs of our community and not the wants of the staff. Using the Speak Up surveys was a quick, efficient, and effective way to get the input of the whole community and identify what was needed,“ Stephanie noted.
In fall 2020, the one-to-one program was established for all schools. Covid was a major factor in the shift and the Speak Up surveys highlighted community support for the new one-to-one program.
With devices (predominately Chromebooks) in the hands of all students Stephanie “is certain that students are now leaving the district with the knowledge and skills necessary for future success in postsecondary education and the workplace. The availability of devices for all students has been a significant factor in ensuring their future success. “
Changing teacher professional development
Speak Up data also underscored the need for stronger teacher professional development. Though teachers were enrolled in self-paced courses that allowed them to complete the work on their own schedule, student survey responses indicated that “my teachers need more training in technology. “
That survey finding led to questions about what could be done differently for teachers and how more training could be provided. When schools shut down due to Covid, a new program was created to deliver training with Zoom sessions which are recorded and posted on the website. To supplement these lessons, the role of technology lead teachers was expanded to offer onsite support and address questions and concerns. “The Speak Up data highlighted for us the need and accelerated the process to make significant changes in the way we provide teachers with the additional support needed to use technology more effectively.” Stephanie observed.
Using Speak Up Data for State Funding Decisions
According to the Local Control and Accountability Plan (LCAP) school districts in the state are required to submit an annual report to the California Department of Education demonstrating how they are serving all students and identifying goals, steps to meet those goals and allocation of funds. School districts are required to consult with parents, students, administrators, and teachers in the development of the report.
The Speak Up data helps the district to write a comprehensive report with the elements required under LCAP. To meet the state’s schedule, San Marcos launches the surveys at the beginning of the school year and completes the process in January so that the reports can be filed with the Department in a timely manner.
“It would be very difficult to meet the state reporting requirements without Speak Up data,” Stephanie noted. “It is more efficient and effective to capture the voices of all stakeholders through a survey rather than trying to arrange in person meetings. The data from the Speak Up survey gives everyone the opportunity to provide input, not just those able to participate in a face-to-face meeting.”
Stephanie has witnessed major changes in the district including the establishment of a one-to-one program and expanded teacher professional development. In this ever-evolving educational environment, the district is continuing its commitment to administering the Speak Up surveys.
As it looks to the future, district leadership will be using Speak Up data to understand how to use the existing technology more effectively and embed it in instruction. “Though it is difficult to know what the world will look like in five years, we can use Speak Up date to identify current weakness and devise programs to address these weaknesses,“ Stephanie noted.
Surprises Along the Way
With its longstanding commitment to Speak Up, it is understandable that there have been surprises along the way.
Stephanie observed that, “There were times when I did not understand how the views of students, teachers and parents might differ. Initially, many parents didn’t want more technology in the classroom, while students did. But the responses began to change when parents started to see the power of technology. It also surprised me to learn that so many of our students didn’t feel connected to schools even before the pandemic. We need to work on that disconnect with students and make schools a place where everyone feels that they belong. Without Speak Up data it would be difficult to address these disconnects .“
The Speak Up Research Project has made a real difference in the San Marcos educational experience.
“Participating in Speak Up is easy – you are provided with all the necessary materials – promotional resources, preview of questions, lessons plans and national data to see the trends. Why wouldn’t every district participate in Speak Up? I invite all districts to follow San Marcos’ decision in taking part in this program. You too will realize significant benefits ,“ Stephanie concluded.