Measuring What We Value?

Measuring What We Value?

John Gulla, Executive Director of E.E. Ford Foundation, and Olaf Jorgenson, Head of Almaden Country School, California published an article in Independent School Magazine that summarizes and reviews our evolving capacity to gauge the value added by schools.  While their direct focus is on independent schools, I find fewer differences than similarities in what public and private school leaders understand to be the necessary value that schools should be providing to their students and families.  The similarity of interest and purpose is clear in the question that John and Olaf posed to 200+ independent school leaders throughout California: “How do you answer a board member who asks ‘how to measure and communicate student outcomes as promised in our mission statements?’” While schools do a good job at measuring student progress on standardized exams of math and reading, measuring outcomes against the rest of our collective missions has proven elusive at best.

 Karen Eshoo at Vistamar School points out that parent surveys are often not well designed ,with poorly framed, leading questions resulting in dubious conclusions.

I could not agree more; most parent surveys with which I am familiar are largely framed to test satisfaction of past and current performance within a narrowly defined range of what school “could be”.  In a time of increasing options for education, we need to survey our customers about their wishes, dreams, and aspirations, and then find valuable ways to meet them.  This means allowing parents, student, and the community to tell us what they want in the future, not merely react to what we have offered in the past.

 Standardized assessments only measure one type of learning: memorization and recall.

While evolving standardized tests like the PISA and others mentioned in this article may assess higher order cognitive and non-cognitive skills, most standardized tests still reward short-term memorization and recall.  Simply, we are not testing what we purport to value.

Gulla and Jorgenson mention the following tests that may begin to provide a window into higher order skills and allow us to start to track relevant longitudinal success:

 The CWRA+…is designed to measure a school’s contribution to developing a student’s critical thinking, analytical reasoning, problem solving, and written communication ability.

The HSSSE…informs the ways in which students engage in the educational program and the broader life of a school.

The MSA…an instrument to measure middle school students’ mission-related skills that are rarely assessed yet critical to student success…determined to be reliable and valid according to ETS scientific research standards, is in its third round of data collection.

But, they finish by stating that:

 The elusive but essential attributes of character that form the core of most mission statements remain outside the grasp of dashboards that we’ve examined to date.

I look forward to following and reporting on the work that John and Olaf have started.

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By | 2014-03-11T16:26:22+00:00 March 11th, 2014|Governance and leadership, Innovation in Education|2 Comments

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  1. Angél Kytle March 11, 2014 at 5:18 pm - Reply

    I am also pacing myself reading through the most recent Independent School magazine and enjoying the ponderings it is stimulating. Your points on this article and in general are– as always– right on target. It seems to me that creating our own “standards” of value is a worthy process and one I know you encourage. Where I would love to see independent schools lead the charge is in reframing the idea of such standards with a larger focus being on the standards of reflection, questioning, alignment, collaboration, and child-centeredness. I am sure there are more that we could name if we took the time. Wouldn’t that be more valuable– even if psychometricians are panicking as to how to measure!– than checking off a box on the discrete subject list in testing or the discrete hoop jumps schools feel pressured to make now?

    In essence, standards become a process in and of themselves rather than having a process to achieve discrete standards. As we have mentioned before, leadership is required to achieve this paradigm shift, and I would hope independent schools would come alive here, in areas as local as student report cards and parent newsletters to areas as regional/national as accreditation.

    In addition, you couldn’t have a better topic for public-private partnerships than this, I think! How wonderful for all of us to join together, use the technologies available to us to connect, and collectively define not only what our value is, but how we feel we should be measured.

  2. […] John Gulla, Executive Director of E.E. Ford Foundation, and Olaf Jorgenson, Head of Almaden Country School, California published an article in Independent School Magazine that summarizes and review…  […]

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