Many thanks to those of you who filled out our recent reader survey. Here's what we learned from your answers, and what we're doing to address your feedback.

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Dear readers,

We recently sent you a survey, asking you to tell us about yourselves and what you think about Education Lab. Many thanks to the 276 of you who answered. While you’re a small percent of our readers, we appreciate the honest, constructive criticism that will help us improve. Here are some of the highlights of what you said:

Who are our readers?
Most of the readers who responded to the survey identified themselves as parents (39%) or teachers (21%).  Thirty-seven percent identified as both. Most of the others — 22 percent of the total — said they have worked in an education-related field at some point in their careers. We also heard from a number of people who identify as “concerned citizens and taxpayers.” Most of the parent-respondents (51%) have students in grades K-12, and we attract some who have children in college. Most also live in the Seattle/Puget Sound area. The vast majority are white (77%) and a smaller percentage are Asian (7%) or other (11%). More than half read local education news daily (66%) and about a third read it occasionally (32%).

What would you like to see Education Lab offer?
Nearly half the respondents would like to see Education Lab offer a weekly newsletter. (We launched our first one a few weeks ago. E-mail us at edlab@seattletimes.com to sign up for it.) You’re also interested in more explanations of education practices in Washington state, more guest essays from the community and an online community calendar.

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What kinds of questions do you want us to answer?
The top three mentioned:
— What is being done to combat the achievement gap?
— How does school funding work in Washington?
— What are the most effective ways for schools and families to work together?

We’re planning to focus on education funding during the legislative session, and we will continue to make the achievement gap and family-school relations priorities in 2016.

What of impact do you think we have?
The top three answers:
— Helps the public understand education issues.
— Informs the public.
— Makes education issues accessible/interesting to those without a connection to education.

Why do you read Education Lab?
Many of you said you read Education Lab because you care about and want to keep up on local education issues, because you have children in public schools and/or have a strong interest in what happens in classrooms. Here a quote that echos what we heard from many of you: “I like Education Lab stories because they’re in-depth and they don’t only focus on the negative aspects of education.”

How can we improve?
Some of you said you wanted us to write more stories that highlight the voice of teachers and the hard work they do. Some of you also want us to take a deeper look at the state’s education systems and bureaucracies, and hold those powers accountable. Some of you want more opportunities to come together and have conversations about education. (In case you haven’t seen it yet, check out our Ignite Education Lab event happening at Town Hall Seattle next month. There’s still time to make a pitch to present at the event!)

Some of you also told us that you think Education Lab is biased because the project receives funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. While we understand the concerns about that grant, we do retain full editorial independence, making all the decisions about what to cover. More on the grant and how it came about can be found here.

What are we going to do with all this information?
We can’t say it enough: Thank you for taking the time to thoughtfully think through Education Lab’s strengths and weaknesses. We’ll continue to do the same and, in the meantime, plan to take a few first steps to address some of your feedback.

One idea we’ve considered is having a meeting at our office open to anyone who would like to attend. We would invite readers to offer feedback on our coverage and tell us about stories in their communities that are not being covered.  We envision it as a candid, two-way conversation between you and our Education Lab team. If you’d be interested in attending a meeting like this or have other ideas for how we can be more transparent about our reporting decisions, please email edlab@seattletimes.com to let us know.

Another thing we’ve done is create a Reader Advisory Board. We realize it’s unrealistic to constantly ask all of you to give us feedback, but we think it’s important to regularly hear from readers in communities we are trying to reach. So we’ve invited eight people from the education community who have graciously agreed to attend at least two in-person meetings this year. We hope to expand this group over time.

Carlina Brown-Banks is a parent engagement coordinator for the Road Map Project.

Kristin Leong is a public speaker, writer, and a teacher leader with the Puget Sound Educational Service District.

Drego Little teaches literature and writing for the Rainier Scholars program and Matteo Ricci College at Seattle University.

Sharonne Navas is the co-founder and executive director of the Equity in Education Coalition.

Cathy Liu Scott is a long-time community organizer, trainer and facilitator, and currently Partnerships Director of the Washington Family & Community Engagement Trust

Erin Okuno is the executive director at Southeast Seattle Education Coalition.

Adel Sefrioui is the founder and executive director or Excel Charter School.

Adie Simmons is the founder and president of the Washington Family & Community Engagement Trust and former director of the Governor’s Office of the Education Ombuds.

Dexter Tang is a student at the University of Washington and former student representative on the Seattle School Board.