CVESD is about to engage thousands of parents in unique dialogue

With nearly 30,000 students in 45 schools, the Chula Vista Elementary School District faced a considerable challenge in engaging a learning community of that size in meaningful conversation.

The challenge only intensified with the introduction of the Local Control and Accountability Plan. The state-mandated funding plan, referred to as LCAP, requires meaningful input from all stakeholder groups. Yet, parents were less than enthused in attending yet another meeting, much less on a subject with an acronym that caused eyes to glaze over.

“Looking back at our first LCAP year, we recognized that we were far from where we wanted to be. We needed more efficient and effective tools and we knew an online platform could expand the conversation with our stakeholders in ways we hadn’t yet been able to yet,” said Superintendent Francisco Escobedo, Ed.D.

The District turned to Thoughtexchange, which provides an online survey and learning platform, to help better understand what is important to stakeholders: students, parents, staff, and community.

Thoughtexchange enabled CVESD to reach out to everyone affected by the decisions made in schools and at a District level. By asking three simple open-ended questions, and allowing participants to respond over a nearly 30-day period, the Thoughtexchange process yielded useful comments and concerns from every stakeholder group—providing feedback about existing priorities in CVESD’s LCAP as well generating ideas about other areas of need.web-thoughtexchange-process

About 1,875 people contributed 3,414 thoughts (comments), and assigned 88,519 “stars” to the ones they valued most. Through this process, CVESD was able to collect rich input from a dramatically larger portion of its community than ever before.

“We found a way to allow people to provide input in a format that brings into play features they are familiar with: commenting in an online forum, allocating “stars” similar to “likes,” and sharing or discovering the trends or ideas that resonate with the community,” said Ernesto Villanueva, CVESD’s Executive Director of Research, Evaluation and Instruction. Ernesto Villanueva, Director Ejecutivo de Investigación, Evaluación e Instrucción “Yet, this takes place in a thoughtful, respectful environment.”

Villanueva believes that the online platform led to an authentic dialogue that stakeholders could feel invested in. “Thoughtexchange allowed people to see comments from others in ways that a conversation or a standard survey wouldn’t allow for. Even if you have a hundred people in the room, you’re not going to hear from everyone. Nor could you expand on some of those thoughts efficiently in that live-meeting format,” he explained.

The District used the information and data gathered through Thoughtexchange to help inform its LCAP refinements, which were adopted by its Board of Education last summer.

This year, starting on February 6, stakeholders will again be invited to participate via email in the three-step Thoughtexchange process:

  1. Share – answer three open-ended questions about education in our schools
  2. Star – review ideas from other stakeholders and star the ideas you like best
  3. Discover – learn what is important to the community as a whole

For those who do not receive an email invitation, a link to participate will be on the District website at:

“We encourage all stakeholders to, ‘Join the Conversation!’ ” Villanueva added.

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