I’m delighted and excited to have been invited recently as a panelist at September’s annual US DoE’s  Office of Non-Public Education-Office of Improvement and Innovation’s Private School Leadership Conference (that is a mouthful).  I’ve been invited to present on the topic of “aligning data collection with school mission.”

Regular readers here know I have long used this forum to advocate for the College and Work Readiness Assessment (CWRA) and the High School Survey of Student Engagement (HSSSE); speaking at this event to an audience of influential private school educators and association executives will give me a great opportunity to carry forward my advocacy.

It is also a chance to think more, more thoroughly, more deeply about the panel’s helpful title and framing. I hadn’t myself focussed squarely enough until now  upon the simple but elegant and critically important concept of “aligning data collection with school mission,” but that is of course exactly what I am circling around and trying to get more fully in focus.  I will be developing my remarks and presentation over the next few weeks, and I will certainly share/post it here, but here is a first stab at summarizing my thesis:

Most of us who are leading in private and independent education place high priority, in our educational missions and throughout our school cultures, upon three core goals:

  • upon delivering and achieving personalized and differentiated teaching and learning which has a significant and positive impact improving the educational progress of individual learners of a wide range of abilities, maintaining a focus upon the individual and not the mass of learners;
  • upon forging and sustaining a connected community of engaged, active, intrinsically motivated, extracurricularly involved, technologically employing, hard-working learners; (more…)
Law School Surey of Student Engagement

I have written often here about the importance of measuring what matters, and treating the data seriously; I have also written here about the value of the High School Survey of Student Engagement (HSSSE), which has been called an idea to save the world in the Atlantic Monthly.   At my behest as the incoming head,  St. Gregory administered the HSSSE for the first time last spring, and we now have these results to share with readers.

Inside the powerpoint are a series of 20 graphs, representing our results in about 50 different criteria, with, in every case, our average compared to the average of the respondents nationally who participated.  The national respondent base represents over 100 diverse schools, private and public, urban, suburban and rural.   (we believe there is a slight self-selection bias, that schools more committed than average to promoting student engagement are more likely to participate in the survey!).    For each set of questions, two graphs are provided: the first compares averages for the one “top” option (among four), the “Often” or “Agree strongly” option.    The second compares the averages for the top two options (among four): the often and sometimes, or the agree strongly and agree simply.

I also am providing (after the jump)a table of the categories of greatest difference; those where our students reported much stronger engagement than their national peers (there were NO categories where St. Gregory students reported lesser engagement).

Meanwhile, we are also analyzing the results to identify areas which we as a faculty wish to target for improvement in the years to come, a list I will provide at some time in the future.

St. Gregory National Avg. Difference
Written paper more than five pages: Often 51 17 34
Written paper more than five pages: Often and Sometimes 94 51 43
I place a high value on learning: Strong agreement 63 35 28 (more…)

The current Atlantic offer a thoughtprovoking list of “ideas to save the world.”  Leaping out at this blogger is the one entitled Tell the Truth About Colleges. Thomas Toch directs a think-tank called Education Sector, and here he argues that

influential college rankings like the one published by U.S. News & World Report measure mostly wealth and status (alumni giving rates, school reputation, incoming students’ SAT scores); they reveal next to nothing about what students learn. We need to shed more light on how well colleges are educating their students—to help prospective students make better decisions, and to exert pressure on the whole system to provide better value for money.

I agree;  more to the point is my enthusiasm for the tools Toch recommends to do this, to “shed more light on how well colleges are educating:” the National Survey of Student Engagement and the College Learning Assessment.   Like Toch, I think these two tools, when used in combination, can reveal a great deal about how well schools are engaging and preparing their students– and regular readers of this blog know both that I have previously enthusiastically endorsed the secondary school analogues of each of these, the HSSSE and the CWRA, and that we are implementing both at St. Gregory College Prep.   It is great to see these vehicles for promoting school excellence advocated for in a national magazine; indeed, to see them labeled as ideas to save the world!   Surveying and testing kids– we are saving the world!