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Volunteers: Identify Your Schools' Needs

By: Rotary International, International Reading Association
How can volunteers help build children's literacy in their communities? Rotary International and IRA developed these questionnaires and teachers' wish list to help you determine the right literacy project for your community.

How can volunteers help build children's literacy in their communities? Rotary International and the International Reading Association developed the following tool to help Rotary clubs and reading councils select and implement projects that meet the literacy needs of schools in their communities and around the world.

Determining the needs and resources of schools in your community is an important starting point for any school-based service project. A thorough needs assessment not only helps you identify the best project but, by including students, parents, teachers, and administrators in the process, also ensures support for your endeavors.

To help you determine the strengths and weaknesses of your schools, we've compiled a list of questions for you to ask your schools' stakeholders. These are only suggestions; you may wish to ask additional questions or adapt these questions to fit the needs of your local community. Find more ideas for carrying out school needs assessments in the Rotary publication Community Assessment Tools at www.rotary.org.

Background

Questions for students

  • How old are you?
  • What languages do you speak?
  • How often do you and your teachers work together? once a day? once a week?
  • What is your favorite school event?
  • Are you involved in the student government at your school?

Questions for parents

  • How often do you meet with your child's teachers?
  • How often do you receive communication from your child's school? In what language(s) do you receive the communication?
  • What is the primary language spoken at home?
  • What are the most important school events for you and your child during the academic year?
  • Are you involved in your school's parent-teacher organization?
  • Do you volunteer in your child's classroom? If yes, what volunteer activities are you involved in? How much time do you spend volunteering at the school?

Questions for teachers

  • What is your average class size?
  • What is the average ratio of female to male students in your classes?
  • What is the average age of your students?
  • What is the average reading level of your students?
  • What languages do you use in your classroom?
  • Do you have students with special needs? What is the percentage of students with special needs in your classroom?
  • On average, how much time do you spend working with individual students?
  • Does anyone assist you in your classroom such as a volunteer tutor, teacher's aide, or student teacher?
  • How often do you communicate with the parents of your students?
  • How do you communicate with parents and students?
  • How do you involve parents in the classroom?
  • What are the most important events for you and your students during the academic year?
  • In what ways are parents and students involved in decision making at your school?
  • How could parents and students help improve your school?

Questions for administrators

  • How many students attend your school?
  • How many of your students are male and how many are female?
  • What is the average class size in your school?
  • What languages are used by students, teachers, and parents in your school?
  • What percentage of your students are considered low income?
  • What is the average reading level of students in your school?
  • How are parents involved in school activities?
  • How are your students evaluated academically?
  • Have you ever conducted a needs assessment for your school? If so, can you provide a summary of the results?
  • What are the most important school events during the academic year?
  • On average, how many students successfully complete the school year?
  • What are the most common reasons why students at your school do not complete the school year?
  • How do you involve students, parents, and teachers in decision making at your school?
  • How do you communicate with parents?
  • Does your school have a parent-teacher organization?
  • How can parents and students help improve your school?

School environment

Questions for students, parents, teachers, and administrators

  • What do you like most about your school? Why do you like these things?
  • If you could change something about your school, what would you change and why?
  • Is your school building in good condition?
  • Are the school grounds attractive and neat?
  • How are you involved in improving your school's environment?
  • In your opinion, are students safe at your school? If not, what would make your school safer?

School and classroom resources

Questions for students

  • Do you have your own books in class?
  • What books do you use in your classes?
  • What books do you enjoy reading the most? Why do you enjoy them?
  • Do you ever use computers in your classes? If yes, how do you use them?
  • Do you have enough pens, pencils, and paper for class?
  • What school supplies do you wish you had that you don't?
  • Do you ever use your school library? If yes, what do you do there?
  • What item or items do you wish your classroom or library had? Why?

Questions for parents

  • What books do you enjoy reading to your children? Why do you like these books?
  • Does your child use computers at school? If so, how are they used?
  • Does your child use a computer at home to help with schoolwork?
  • Does your child have his/her own school books or are books shared with other students?
  • If you could add something to improve your child's classroom or school library, what would you add and why?
  • How do you feel about volunteers helping students in your child's classroom?
  • In an average year, how much money do you spend on school materials for your child?

Questions for teachers

  • Are there any teaching materials you need for your classes? If yes, what are they and how would they enhance your ability to educate students?
  • What multimedia resources, such as computers, televisions, and overhead projectors, are available for use in your classroom?
  • Have you received special training for using multimedia resources in your classroom?
  • Do all of your students have the classroom materials they need to be successful, including pens, pencils, notebooks, rulers, and calculators? If not, what classroom materials do your students need the most?
  • What books do you use in your classroom?
  • Do all of your students have books? If not, what books do your students need?
  • Would you like to have volunteers assist you in the classroom?
  • What professional development opportunities would be most helpful?
  • How could your school library be improved?

Questions for administrators

  • What resources are currently provided for students and teachers at your school?
  • What additional resources do students and teachers need to be successful in your school?
  • What types of professional development opportunities are available to teachers at your school?
  • How would you feel about volunteers assisting your teachers in the classroom?
  • Does your school have any administrative needs like office supplies, volunteer staffing, or office equipment?

Curriculum and instruction

Questions for students

  • Which of your school subjects do you enjoy the most? Why do you enjoy these subjects?
  • What could be done to make learning more enjoyable?
  • Do you receive extra tutoring?

Questions for parents

  • How do you assist your child with his/her school work?
  • Are there any subjects that you find particularly important for your child to learn? Why are these subjects important?
  • Does your child receive any extra tutoring? If so, who provides the tutoring?
  • Are there any additional subjects you would like your child to learn at school?

Questions for teachers

  • What do you do to make sure your teaching methods are current?
  • How are you involved in deciding class curriculum?
  • How do you decide which instructional materials to use for your classes?
  • How could student learning opportunities be enhanced at your school?
  • What are the biggest challenges you face as a teacher?
  • How do you overcome these challenges?
  • Is there any additional support that could be provided to help you and your students succeed?
  • What support do you receive from your school for classroom instruction?

Questions for administrators

  • How do you assist teachers in developing their curriculum?
  • Does your school have a tutoring program?
  • What curriculum standards are teachers expected to meet at your school?
  • How are students and teachers evaluated at your school?

Extracurricular and after-school activities

Questions for students

  • Are you involved in any after-school activities? What are they?
  • What after-school activities would you like to be involved in?
  • Would you be interested in helping others in your community through a service club?

Questions for parents

  • What after-school activities would you like to see at your child's school?
  • Does your school offer any tutoring programs?
  • Would you allow your child to participate in extracurricular activities at the school?
  • How could you support extracurricular activities at your child's school?

Questions for teachers

  • Do you work with any extracurricular student groups?
  • How could your school community better support these groups?
  • Does your school offer volunteer opportunities for students and their parents?
  • What types of extracurricular activities would you most like to see at your school?

Questions for administrators

  • What types of extracurricular activities occur at your school?
  • How does your school support extracurricular activities?
  • What extracurricular activities would you most like to see at your school?
Rotary International and the International Reading Association. (2007.) Every School a Star: A Literacy Toolkit (pp. 2-5). Evanston, IL: Rotary International.

All rights reserved. Third party reprint restricted without prior authorization from Rotary International and the International Reading Association.

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