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Can 'hope' help measure student success?

Montgomery County students to be polled on social/emotional aspects of learning

Erica L. Green

3:21 PM EDT, July 18, 2013

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Could "hope" be the next significant measure of a students' ability to succeed in school?

Montgomery County school officials think so.

According to a Washington Post story published Wednesday, the school district will be polling students in September on everything from whether they “laughed or smiled a lot yesterday” to whether they “have a best friend at school.”

The county is working with Gallup to survey students about the social and emotional aspects of learning and their school experiences, which its educators believe will balance the reliance of test scores as the most objective measure of a student performance.

Montgomery County Superintendent Joshua Starr--who called for a moratorium on standardized testing earlier this year--told The Post that the poll was intended to "take a holistic view of what school performance looks like. Rather than just saying it’s just about student achievement results, we’re saying it is also about how you get student achievement results.”

According to The Post, the Montgomery County school system adopted this summer a policy that would include student "hope, engagement and well-being" in its accountability system.

The story goes on to give differing views about whether or not this survey, which will cost the district $900,000 over three years and expand to include staff and parents, will actually prove its worth. You can read the full story here.

The Montgomery effort resembles annual surveys provided to staff, students and parents in Baltimore City. Earlier this month, the district released results of its "climate surveys"for 2012-2013.

The Sun highlighted some interesting results, which can be found here. The school system has published school-by-school results here.

The motivations expressed by Starr are also strikingly similar to what was expressed by Interim Schools CEO Tisha Edwards earlier this month when The Sun profiled her as she prepared to take the superintendent seat. 

In interviews with The Sun about her goals this year, Edwards diplomatically denounced the idea that data drives performance, a steadfast philosophy of her former boss schools CEO Andres Alonso.

Here's a transcript of what she told us:

“The biggest contribution that I hope to make to the school system is expanding what it means to be a system that’s good for kids--expanding the vision of what that entails. I definitely want kids to be able to read and write, and compete in the global economy. But, I also want kids to feel like we’re a system that invests in helping them to find their gifts. I want to be a system where kids are safe. I want to be a system where every child has some adult at that schoolhouse that they know cares about them deeply. And caring about them, is about helping them through all of the challenges that they’re facing at this place, academically, socially, emotionally.

"I want schools to be a place where kids are having fun—I mean clubs, and arts, and performances, fun relationships with your peers. Not this place where you don’t feel good enough, or you’re being pushed out, or you don’t feel connected, or you feel institutionalized. I want schools to be healthy.

"Yes, we have a core job to read and write, but morale is low for everybody—children, too. I know we’re in a space where everybody cares. But people don’t feel cared for.

"We do have to be better. But, I’m trying to figure out another way to get better other than the way we’ve been doing it. Because this system is not what it needs to be for kids. And there are some hard decisions that have to be made about how we get us to better. But, I’m trying to figure out how to get to better without it being so hard on people. And I don’t have the solution for that, but that’s what I aspire to.”

erica.green@baltsun.com

twitter.com/EricaLG