In a move to “quantify how students feel about school,” the Montgomery County Board of Education approved a policy to measure student engagement, hope, and well-being as supplemental accountability measures. The Washington Post article “Montgomery County measuring ‘hope’ to help improve academic success in schools” highlights the district’s $900,000 partnership with Gallup for three years of data collection including parent and staff surveys intended to understand each school’s climate/culture.
Some readers may be thinking, “$900K?! That’s a lot of money!” Funny thing—that is exactly what I was thinking, too! There is a growing movement to educate the “whole child,” including attempts to measure student’s non-cognitive skills (e.g., social skills, adaptability, resiliency, etc.). Being aware of students’ growth in non-cognitive skills can have residual benefits. As cited in the article, a 2011 study published in Child Development demonstrated stronger academic performance (an average of 11 percentage points higher) for students whose schools placed “emphasis on their social and emotional lives.”
The movement is generally well intended and has much room for growth and development over the next decade. Is it necessary, however, for such an endeavor to envelop nearly one million dollars of taxpayers’ money? Montgomery County, Maryland joins other districts in its effort to learn more about social and emotional learning occurring inside and outside the classroom. I tend to side more with one Montgomery County Council Member, Valerie Ervin (former Board of Education member), who insists that the school system—while considering “students’ emotional development and well-being…should focus on academic measures as it works to close the achievement gap.”
I am unconvinced that a $900,000 investment of taxpayer dollars is going to reap the kinds of benefits Montgomery County school officials expect. Regardless of subject matter, I cannot help but think that the majority of students are tired of being tested, questioned, surveyed, queried, interrogated, interviewed, and examined. They might just see the so-called “holistic student poll” as just another set of bothersome questions that have little to no bearing on them or future outcomes.
To read more about what other states and districts are doing to diversify their definition of student success, while providing for the emotional needs and well-being of students, check out the following links:
- · Anchorage, Alaska; Cleveland, Ohio; and Austin, Texas’ Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning, or CASEL
- · Idaho’s Early Learning eGuidelines
- · Illinois’ Children’s Mental Health Act of 2003
- · Pennsylvania district’s Every Child Counts Program
- · Minnesota’s EdVisions Schools “Hope Survey”