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HEAD OF SCHOOL MESSAGE: MEASURING STUDENT ENGAGEMENT

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Head of School Message

For decades, educators have been decrying the impact that standardized tests have had on the education of America’s children.

Even though Worthington Christian students have consistently performed very well on standardized assessments, we intentionally have not designed our curriculum and instruction around gaining those outcomes. We believe good scores have been a natural result of effective teaching. We intuitively know that standardized test scores reveal only a small portion or slice of a student’s growth. In fact, I have made a habit of sharing the limitations of standardized test scores whenever I share individual or school-wide results, even when those results are excellent. The use of test score data is not bad, but it is limited and can cause harm to instructional design when those limitations are not recognized.

We began to ask ourselves, both internally and with other school leaders from thriving schools: What makes a reliable indicator of effective classroom teaching and learning? And how could it be measured in a way that provides useful data for teachers and schools to understand student learning?

As we had these conversations, the idea of student engagement kept emerging as a critical indicator. The more engaged that a student is with course content, the more likely that student is to show the kind of learning that we all value but that typical standardized tests do not measure.

So how, exactly, can student engagement be measured? How can we know if a student or a group of students is engaged in a class? Moreover, how can we use that data to improve our classroom design and instruction?

The result of asking those questions is that we have partnered with the Wellington Engagement Index (WEI) to solicit student feedback in each of our 5thgrade through high school classes at regular intervals throughout the year. The index is simple and takes only a few minutes for a student to complete for all of his or her classes. Essentially, the WEI defines student engagement as the intersection between two student phenomena: a) finding the work they do in class authentically challenging, and b) finding enjoyment in the process of doing the work. Students who rate their classes highly in both of these are highly engaged in the type of deep learning that we want our students to experience.

To read more about the Wellington Engagement Index, and how it may benefit WC, read this description from Robert Brisk on our blog for parents, the former head at Wellington School here in Columbus. We look forward to using the WEI this year and using another set of data points to guide our instructional design.

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