As we approach the final stretch of the year, I begin my annual self-reflection. The big question that I seek to ask is did we give every parent and child the “value” that they deserved. Below are the questions that I ask in assessing this value.
Did every child have the chance to feel appreciated?
Did every child stretch to learn new things this year?
Were behavioral expectations high such that we created a reasonably peaceful school climate?
Did parents have the chance to air grievances and to find resolution?
Were subjects (all subjects) taught with integrity, with enthusiasm?
Did students feel safe to ask and to explore?
Was everyone kept safe?
Did we raise enough funds – both through tuition and development – to provide excellent teachers and resources for our students?
Did each child grow in confidence and in respect?
Did we make changes that needed to be made for the betterment of the community?
Did teachers feel valued and stimulated?
Did parents find “community” in our school?
The tricky thing about answering these questions is that schools and human beings are pretty complex entities. I am sure that all children felt appreciated at various times throughout the year and perhaps more or less when taught by particular teachers. What would be the number that would indicate success on this dimension – 90% of students felt this way 90% of the time?
Our classrooms and our school were far more peaceful than in years past. But many of us may hold different definitions of what peaceful looks like in a school. Animated class discussions, and normal (normal is also subject to interpretation) skirmishes on a playground might not be interpreted by all as peaceful.
All of this is to say that there is an ongoing struggle in the school world about how best to assess and to display our results about learning and school success. It is a simple matter to count up skilled-based learning (like mathematical solutions, grammatical understandings, and all manner of factual information). It is an entirely different thing to measure and to display our progress around the questions raised above.
Yet, I know that we must find ways beyond the anecdotal stories that we are very good at sharing to paint a clear picture of progress in the very things that are the real substance of our education. As a step in this direction, we began nationally normed testing of our middle school students on critical thinking. In the coming two years, I anticipate engaging our parents, staff and students in establishing Wornick indicators of success. We will then craft the appropriate instrument to measure our success student by student on these indicators. I look forward to working with the many wonderful minds that populate our community as we move forward on this initiative. In the meantime, please take the time to talk to me (by email or in person) about these questions. Let’s start the process of thinking about what sort of data matters to you.