Making it easier for students and families to participate in setting school priorities


I've had the privilege of working with Teaching Excellent Network (TEN) since 2014. TEN is a survey platform and feedback tool that aligns the voices of educators, students and families to build community responsive schools. We've worked with hundreds of schools across the US and in New Zealand to provide the tools, framework and support for teachers to engage their communities and improve their teaching practice. 

In my role at TEN :

  • I led the technical transition from being part of an incubator to a stand alone company, including building the engineering team

  • Created the initial roadmap to scale the software to meet our rapidly growing user base -- 10x growth in a single year

  • Create and manage the ongoing development roadmap

  • Gather, refine and scope all requirements

  • UX/UI design

  • Usability testing and research

A Case Study

The first introduction a school community has to TEN is through the Priorities Survey. This survey asks all school stakeholders (students, families, teachers, school staff and administrators) to select from 52 researched-backed qualities on effective teaching. TEN's Equity Algorithm weights the responses and provides the school a final list of top priorities that were collaboratively determined by their community.  

We had three main issues that were impeding the goal of 100% stakeholder participation in the survey: 

  • Educational jargon had made its way into the quality titles and descriptions making them harder to read and understand

  • A drag and drop interface that was difficult to use, especially without a mouse

  • A mobile version that caused great frustration

Ruthlessly Remove Jargon

We conducted rounds of interviews with kids, families and teachers to understand how they interpreted TEN's qualities and how we could make them more accessible and easier to understand in both English and Spanish. 

Some examples of how we improved readability:

Before Uses knowledge of issues in the community affecting students

After Knows what is happening in the community and helps students talk about it

Readability Gain 3.9 grades

Before Has knowledge of adolescent health issues

After Responds to health needs of students

Readability Gain 5.9 grades

Before Authentically cares about students

After Shows real care for every student

Readability Gain 10 grades

Readability improvements are based on the Flesch–Kincaid scale


See ya, drag and drop interface.

Each school community included some members who were unfamiliar with computers. In watching these stakeholders take the survey on school provided Chromebooks, without mice, it was clear the hold-and-scoot method of moving a quality card from the group to the stakeholder's list of favorite qualities was causing frustration and survey abandonment.   

The new version of the survey only requires a click to select a card from the group and once a user has selected all seven of their top qualities they can advance to the next step. Other improvements include:

  • Larger text size

  • Quality titles and descriptions are visible on all cards, eliminating the need to click the information icon to launch a modal to read the description

  • Seamless transitions between English and Spanish; stakeholder no longer loses their selections if they change language before saving the page.






A Mobile Version That Works

While not all stakeholder households have home computers or reliable wi-fi, most families have access to an internet-connected mobile device. While the original survey was responsive, the drag and drop interface issues compounded with the shuffling of the page layout made the mobile experience frustrating, also causing lower participation and survey abandonment.  




We've received many compliments about the ease of use and design of the new Priorities Survey experience since it's launch in August 2016. My favorite success metrics are:

  • 50% increase in survey completion on mobile

  • January 2016 completion rate of 67%; January 2017 completion rate (shortly after launch of new design) of 73%; January 2018 completion rate of 88% -- our highest monthly completion rate ever!


To see more of my work with Teaching Excellence Network, get in touch