TELL them FROM me Student Survey Year in Review

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1 TELL them FROM me Student Survey Year in Review

2 TELL them FROM me Year in Review We believe that the same process of inquiry that invigorates classrooms also breathes life into school reform. In inquiry-based schools, teachers and administrators continually ask questions about how to improve student learning, experiment with new ideas, and rigorously use data to uncover problems and monitor results. It s not that these schools have solved all of their problems. It s that they know how to tackle problems and continuously improve. (Love, 2000) What is TELL them FROM me? Alberta educators understand that engagement is an important outcome because it affects student learning. Research has shown a direct link between students attitudes towards learning and academic success. Engagement and learning go hand-in-hand: engagement leads to learning and learning leads to engagement. This dynamic and interactive process begins early during the primary grades or even earlier and continues through adulthood. For this reason, student engagement needs to be considered an important schooling outcome and to be seen, together with academic achievement, as a key measure of student success. The TELL them FROM me project is helping to bring student engagement to the forefront at schools throughout Alberta. TELL them FROM me Effective Schools Survey is an interactive online student survey that measures student engagement in the social, academic and intellectual domains. See Appendix A. The TELL them FROM me project: Measuring Student Engagement is part of Alberta Education s High School Completion Strategic Framework. It is a three-year project which uses the TELL them FROM me survey to gather information on student engagement, school climate, and drivers of positive student outcomes for the purpose of increasing high school completion rates in Alberta. The project provides school administrators with reliable and timely data that can be used to monitor progress and promote practices that positively impact students sense of belonging, well-being and achievement. The Learning Bar, Inc. was contracted by Alberta Education in July 2010, to provide the TELL them FROM me Effective Schools Survey as the primary conduit for gathering data. While TELL them FROM me project schools are accustomed to receiving survey data, the immediate feedback and dynamic nature of TELL them FROM me data are new and powerful tools for enhancing evidence-based practice. Alberta Education and The Learning Bar are committed to facilitating and enhancing the use of survey data for school improvement, as well as building the capacity of schools to collect, evaluate and respond to their results. What have we learned? TELL them FROM me data is most useful when it is understood within the context of the local school. When examined at the provincial level, the data presents generalized trends and has broad implications for schools. TELL them FROM me 2 May 1, 2012

3 This is a really good way to figure out how students are responding to school. Even though it is a bit long, every question is necessary ~ Student Feedback Trend: Levels of student engagement markedly decline from Grade 7 to Grade 12 On all measures, except positive relationships at school, the percentage of students classified as engaged decreased considerably between Grade 7 and Grade 12. For example, the survey found that 73 percent of Grade 7 students are intellectually engaged and find learning interesting, enjoyable and relevant. That percentage drops to 50 percent by Grade 12. The decline in engagement over this period is steady; it is not associated with a transition from middle to secondary school. Trend: There are large inequalities in engagement outcomes associated with students socioeconomic background and First Nations, Métis and Inuit status Students from low-income families are less engaged than students from middle-income families. And students from middle-income families are less engaged than students from high-income families. For First Nations, Métis and Inuit students, the likelihood of being engaged is only 66 percent that of their non-first Nations, Métis and Inuit peers. First Nations, Métis and Inuit engagement numbers are particularly low on school attendance, positive homework behaviour and effort. A positive trend emerges with respect to intellectual engagement: there is virtually no gap in levels of interest and motivation between First Nations, Métis and Inuit students and non- non-first Nations, Métis and Inuit students. Trend: Schools vary considerably in their levels of engagement Schools vary considerably in their levels of engagement. For example, the measure of school attendance asks students how often they have skipped classes or missed days at school without a reason, or arrived late for school or classes. Schools having a low incidence of absenteeism and lates are considered to have positive attendance. 81 percent of schools surveyed met the criteria for positive attendance. But at the extremes, 10 schools had less than 50 percent with positive attendance and 11 schools had over 95 percent positive attendance. Trend: Levels of student engagement are related to five key items: quality instruction, teacherstudent relations, classroom learning climate, student advocacy and, most significantly, expectations for success Of these five items, expectations for success had the strongest relationship to engagement. Students who are expected to do well will likely be more engaged in school. What does this mean for schools? Aim high The Learning Bar s reporting system enables school staff to compare their school s results to Alberta norms. However, as schools set goals for increasing student engagement, it is important to set the bar for what is possible and to reach beyond, not settle for, achieving the provincial norm. The same principle applies with respect to the decline in engagement as students progress from Grade 7 to Grade 12. The findings are consistent with the national results observed in What Did You Do In School Today? (Willms et al., 2009). But does this need to be the case? We need to TELL them FROM me 3 May 1, 2012

4 [TELL them FROM me] went well. Some principals opted out of using traditional surveys in favour of using TELL them FROM me. learn from and emulate schools where the student engagement is maintained or increased from Grades Data drives improvements The findings from TELL them FROM me provide a snapshot of where the system is right now, and therefore enable school leaders to set goals for increasing student engagement and reducing inequalities. In schools that are using TELL them FROM me, school staff can set goals for school improvement and monitor their progress in achieving those goals. The evaluation system provides schools with results for each of the five school-level factors related to student engagement. This data can be used to initiate discussions among school staff, parents and students about how best to create an engaged school. Many schools use the data to determine where to direct their efforts. For example, a school may discover that it scored relatively low on teacher-student relations, and consider a number of initiatives to build relationships between teachers and students. Get to know students The findings in this study suggest that in a typical Alberta school about 25 per cent of students are disengaged. The TELL them FROM me evaluation process can help schools identify which types of students are most vulnerable and enable school staff to monitor school progress in supporting those kids. The safeguards built into the TELL them FROM me system to protect confidentiality prevent school staff from identifying individual students. But, in order for schools to dramatically change the level of student engagement, school staff need to get personal; staff need to know who the disengaged students are and monitor their progress. They need to check in with these students regularly, in some cases every day. School leaders need to ensure that every child has an advocate, someone at school who consistently provides encouragement and to whom they can turn to for advice. Examine school structures The decline in engagement during middle and secondary school, and the inequalities associated with family background and First Nations, Métis and Inuit status, are entrenched in the traditional ways that schools operate. A dramatic change in student engagement will require educators to alter some of the structural features of schools. The function or core activity of schools is developing student learning, engagement and wellness, while the form or structural features of schools are those elements of schooling that support the core activity. Structural features are about the ways schools do business; they include, for example, teaching arrangements, school and class schedules, professional development, how students are assigned to classes and grouped for instruction, and assessment strategies. School staff and educational leaders at both the district and provincial levels need to grapple with the question, What structural features of the school organisation (form) promote the effective and efficient exercise of the teaching and learning process (function)? (Johnson, 1998) TELL them FROM me 4 May 1, 2012

5 This survey was a good idea because it will help the school change for the better for students. ~ Student Feedback What s next? It is important to keep the vision of this project enabling schools to collect and use data on student engagement and high school completion for school improvement planning and retention at the forefront. It is clear that jurisdictions and schools have benefited from the supports provided during year one. While coordinators are building capacity within their teams, it will be beneficial to continue to provide supports including communication, training, monitoring progress, and recognizing and sharing good practice. The first year of this project has demonstrated the potential for schools and districts to implement and use survey data with increasing responsibility and autonomy. Adjustments are being made for year two that will enhance the ability of districts and schools to use the data to add value to their school and district priorities, augment intervention efforts, and monitor the impact of their decisions and efforts over time. As school leaders become more accomplished at finding the story in their student engagement data, questions emerge about the next steps in student engagement: How can my school improve engagement in social-emotional, academic and intellectual domains? What strategies really improve student engagement? How can schools engage students, staff, parents and the community with the TELL them FROM me survey data? Alberta Education will work collaboratively with school jurisdictions involved in TELL them FROM me on their professional learning endeavours and will support the sharing out of new learnings in order to support high school completion throughout the province. Professional learning in the TELL them FROM me project in will focus on: understanding research on student engagement; sharing among school administrators on student engagement strategies that work; designing and implementing front-line supports for students; and collaborating to build shared responsibility for student success. TELL them FROM me 5 May 1, 2012

6 [TELL them FROM me implementation] was very successful. Schools were very appreciative of the information it was way more than they could use initially. Appendix A Project outcomes The TELL them FROM me project provides school leadership with: an efficient, research-based platform for gathering important information about student outcomes and about factors known to affect student outcomes; immediate access to survey results enabling timely, evidence-based school-improvement planning; reliable data on student engagement in social, academic and intellectual domains; the tools to immediately disaggregate all data collected by demographic factors such as grade, gender and grade repetition enabling the targeted design of appropriate school-improvement interventions; and the tools to monitor promising practices that can be used to foster positive discussion among participating schools. Survey elements Alberta uses a customized version of the TELL them FROM me survey which measures the engagement of students across a spectrum of experience. The elements of the survey, including student outcomes and drivers of student outcomes, are outlined below. Student Outcomes Academic outcomes Students performance in language arts, science and math Physical outcomes Physical fitness, participation in risky behaviours Social/emotional engagement Sense of belonging at school, participation in sports and clubs, positive relationships at school, value placed on schooling outcomes, attendance, positive homeowrk behaviour, interest and motivation, effort, quality of instruction Drivers of Student Outcomes School context Do students feel safe at school, are they bullied? Do they have people at school who advocate on their behalf? Classroom context Do students have strong relationships with their teachers? Do teachers expect success from all students? Are there clear rules and behaviours within the classroom? Family context Do students have someone at home or in the community that they can turn to for encouragement and support? Quality instruction Are important concepts taught well? Is class time used effectively? Is classroom instruction relevant, wellorganized, with a clear purpose, and appropriate feedback? What happened in Year One? Survey participation Alberta has more than 280,000 students in Grades Over 50,000 of these students are participating in the TELL them FROM me survey twice yearly. They come from across Alberta: from schools that are rural and urban, large and small, north and south. The Alberta survey is believed to be the largest survey of student engagement in Canada. TELL them FROM me 6 May 1, 2012

7 [The survey] is incredibly user-friendly. It is easy to get schools to use. Implementation was seamless and the students seemed to take it seriously. Fall 2010 participation 42,787 students at182 schools across 32 jurisdictions from around the province participated in this project. Spring 2011 participation Successful completion of the first round of student surveys in the fall of 2010 generated additional interest in the TELL them FROM me project in Participation increased to 42,325 students at 263 schools across 38 jurisdictions in spring of Roles and responsibilities With capacity building at the jurisdiction and school levels a priority of this initiative, administrators at both levels were called upon to play a leadership role in implementation, training and data use, the roles of which are described below. District Coordinator The District Coordinator is the project lead at the jurisdiction level and is the primary contact for Alberta Education, The Learning Bar staff and for schools participating in the project. The District Coordinator is the primary conduit for communications and support between schools and TELL them FROM me project support services, particularly during the start-up phase. Once the survey is complete, District Coordinators support schools and School Coordinators in the interpretation and response to survey findings. School Coordinator School Coordinators have a critical role to play in the TELL them FROM me Project. They are the primary contact for the project at the school level and are responsible for determining the most appropriate survey delivery arrangement for their school. The School Coordinator has the unique privilege of adding open-ended and multiple-choice questions that customize the survey for the school s unique context. School Coordinators communicate the importance of the initiative to parents, students, and staff, and address any questions or concerns that arise. Perhaps the most important responsibility School Coordinators have is to monitor report and act on the school s results through communication and collaborative efforts with key stakeholders. Training Throughout the year, District and School Coordinators were provided with a variety of opportunities to participate in online and in-person training provided by The Learning Bar. Training was provided on all features of the TELL them FROM me survey including survey setup, question-writing techniques, data interpretation and ideas about communicating results to students, staff and parents. Training documents were distributed through the Alberta Education project leads and were also made available on the TELL them FROM me administration site. This enabled District Coordinators to deliver training, or provide the necessary supports, to any School Coordinator unable to attend one of the scheduled training sessions. Similarly, the Alberta Education project leads were able to provide training and ongoing support to District Coordinators when needed. TELL them FROM me 7 May 1, 2012

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