#Success: Beyond the Numbers, Part II – The High School Survey of Student Engagement

First, I’d like to take a moment to thank the more than 140 attendees that participated in last month’s “Parish at 50” vision meetings” (a.k.a. the fall Lunch &​ Learns). As we think about Parish in 2022, your input and engagement is and will continue to be crucial and appreciated. Specifically, the ideas your working groups discussed last month – whether it be the discussion around the short and long term benefits for essential facilities (the second gym and the community and performance center), the requirements and advancements explored for strategic programming (e.g. greater personalization, permeability, partnerships, traditional values), or the preservation of ideals close to the heart and spirit of Parish – will be added to those generated by our faculty and students. In the graphic below, you’ll get a glimpse at what YOU submitted to describe the unique qualities of Parish. I look forward to sharing a larger recap from the vision meetings when we return from the holidays in January.

poll_wordleIn my blog post last month, I offered support for an argument which I believe highlights Parish’s uniqueness.

In a world which increasingly wants to declare children and schools “successful” or “exemplary” based on a narrow band of metrics, the Parish community takes the lead by embracing a much broader and ultimately healthier definition of what “success” actually means and how it is measured.

I shared results from the CWRA+, a unique, performance-based assessment which measures our students’ functioning as critical thinkers, communicators and solution-creators. It is an important component in our more holistic approach to measuring the impact of our program. But the CWRA+ does not stand alone.

Indeed, in this era of “high-stakes” testing – be it the end-of-grade tests which have consumed public education or the trifecta of AP, SAT and ACT tests which grip public and independent schools alike – a particularly important and powerful voice often goes unheard: that of the students. Certainly bright students like ours can tell us whether our programming is accomplishing what we believe it to be. Yet, despite its logic, few schools actually seek such feedback.

At Parish, we believe that learning can be both challenging and joyful; that we can arm students with enduring, life-preparing skills without burning them out; and that focusing on who they are becoming as people is as important as how much knowledge they possess. In building a comprehensive system to measure how effective we are living into this vision, we wanted to hear from our students.

So, in 2013 we began administering the High School Survey of Student Engagement (HSSSE, pronounced “Hessee”) to our 9th -12th grade students. HSSSE is a comprehensive survey on student engagement and school climate issues administered since 2003 by the Center for Evaluation and Education Policy (CEEP) at Indiana University. The HSSSE, which more than 400,000 students in 40 states took between 2006 and 2013, assesses three dimensions of student engagement in a comprehensive survey of more than 130 questions. These include: 

  • Cognitive/Intellectual/Academic Engagement
  • Social/Behavioral/Participatory Engagement
  • Emotional Engagement

Using the HSSSE has allowed us to compare the feedback of our students to those from other leading independent schools both nationally and regionally. In fact, our comparison cohort includes some of the most highly regarded schools in our regional accrediting association, the Independent Schools Association of the Southwest (ISAS). Click here for list of participating schools.

While we have a wealth of data from the HSSSE, we believe two segments are worth sharing. I have dubbed them the “Magic 6” and the “Heart and Spirit” responses.

The “Magic 6” represent student perspectives on how effectively we develop the skills articulated in our Parish Practices. The responses from students support our assertion that we can have a program that promotes balanced, engaged learning and still produce young people who have command of important and enduring skills as critical thinkers and communicators.Thinking_Communicating_graphs

The “Heart and Spirit” questions reflect Parish’s particular strength – building young people of character. Our Episcopal identity, as expressed in daily chapel, promotes and supports an inclusive, service-oriented community. ParishLeads, our PreK-12 commitment to forging young people of impact through a common language emanating from our tenets of Wisdom, Honor and Service, also contributes to the student perceptions captured in these responses.Heart_Spirit_graphs

Together, the CWRA and HSSSE demonstrate how Parish has taken a mission-aligned approach when it comes to measuring the success of our program. Next month, I will speak to where our vision is taking us in accordance with last month’s “Parish at 50” vision meetings.

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