The Challenge of Using Project Citizen Surveys for the Good of the School

Cameron Mays ‘21

Project Citizen survey forms have flooded student’s inboxes over the past few months. From a variety of senders, these surveys are meant to take an in-depth look at problems that students notice in Ridge High  School, and gage the student bodies’ responses and feelings toward the same issues.

Forms regarding sleep schedules, homework, recycling, and everything in between have been made and sent out at dizzying speeds. At their peak, students might receive over three per day. While the surveys address interesting and important topics, there is one clear problem: most students do not read them.

There is no official count on the percentage of students that actually respond to them, but it is apparent that the number is not high. This can be inferred from the amount of times the same surveys have been sent out time and time again, with the creators pleading with the recipients to spend “just a minute” to fill out and respond to the form.

Many students do not check their emails to begin with (unless it is from a teacher) and there are plenty of students with thousands of emails in their inbox because they simply do not care about reading and deleting old or unimportant emails. On that note, most students do not care enough to respond.

Joe Dougherty ‘21 explains, “I feel bad for those that are required to send all the surveys, but I do not have time to go through every single one and respond. There are too many”. When asked about the senders claim that they take less than a minute, he said “They may only take that long but I am not interested in responding.” This is a popular feeling among students, as they have become exhausted from seeing so many, that they never want to participate.

The surveys resemble the job of  a telemarketer or someone calling to gather money for a charity. They are just trying to do their jobs and it might be for a good cause, but most people are annoyed by them. Many times, if one responds to the call, they will continue to be called and asked for money all the time. For most, they would rather just ignore all of the distractions and feel bad (but not too bad).

One student that does respond to as many emails as he can, Bobby Peskin ‘21, explains his motives for doing so. He says, “I know that these kids are just trying to fulfil a project in class, and I know that most kids don’t respond, so I am just trying to do them a favor and give them some information.”

Unfortunately, people like Bobby are a minority here at school. However, even if all or most of Ridge students participated in the surveys, how much would actually change? It is impossible to tell the impact of over one thousand students can have in their school, but for many of the surveys that were sent out such as expanding special ed programs to include student volunteers, or improving the timeliness of busses, many changes would have to be implemented to reach the goal of the survey, and most of them would not be easy.

Mr. Krause might be able to change some things at a school level, but for most of the proposed improvements to the school, there would be a lengthy process to have them approved. Most ideas would have to go to the school board, different superintendents, heads of departments, and by the time it was all said and done, years might pass before anything is even approved. After that, it would have to be implemented in the curriculum, school day, or with other faculty at school, who might not be willing to make the change. Overall, the time, money, and energy needed to cause some of the changes that students suggest might not be practical in the long run.

The idea of student surveys is a two-headed monster, to say the least. The first and most apparent problem is getting enough students to participate in the surveys to gather a large enough sample size to truly understand all of the problems that students are Ridge have and want to make a change for. The other, and possibly larger, head of this monster is getting them approved and used in the normal school day which might take more time and resources that the school board and other Ridge staff are willing to spend.

So while Project Citizen surveys might be a good concept, the harsh reality is that there are too many obstacles to overcome in the attempt to make the changes that those involved in Project Citizen suggest.