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Opportunities & Outcomes

“More Feedback!!!!”

No, I’m not flashing back to all those 1980’s rock concerts I attended...well, actually now that I write this - AC/DC...1987...Providence Civic Center. Loudest guitar amps ever!! Anyway, last month I wrote quite a bit about how important feedback is to learning. I mentioned three tenets of effective feedback for students: it needs to be constructive and improvement-based in nature, it needs to be frequent and offer opportunities for multiple attempts, and it needs to come from a trusted and respected source. Whereas last month I focused on the feedback that effective teachers give to their students, this week I want to focus on the feedback that excellent schools elicit from parents and students. One common feature of the best 21st century schools (and businesses) is that they will look to data to help assess their effectiveness and determine relative areas of strength and weakness. One of my goals this year was to conduct a general parent satisfaction survey that could be used yearly to collect measurable data. There are many ready-made tools available for purchase that can be used, but two significant barriers exist. First, they can be extremely expensive, and committing to them means adding a yearly cost to the budget. Second, many of them require a significant amount of time from the surveyees which, of course, limits how many responses you typically get. For these reasons, I enlisted parents at the MS Communications meetings throughout the year to help me design our own middle school questionnaire. The end product is an efficient twenty-question multiple choice survey that will be distributed to all middle school parents this month. Importantly, there is also ample opportunity for parents to write in explanations for their responses as well as to weigh in on any aspect of the middle school that they do not feel is covered sufficiently. However, the tool will only prove valuable if parents are willing to provide us with honest feedback regardless of their level of satisfaction. It is also critical that in a small school such as ours that every parent takes the time to weigh in or else we could end up with a skewed view of parent opinion which could lead us in directions that do not accurately reflect the wishes of the whole parent body. If it sounds like I’m imploring you all to take the survey...you’re right!

Additionally, as part of a whole school initiative to gauge school culture, the middle school students will be taking the Middle Grades Survey of Student Engagement (MGSSE) while the upper school takes the High School Survey of Student Engagement (HSSSE). These two surveys have been designed specifically for private schools by the National Association of Independent Schools in order togather data about the attitudes, perceptions and beliefs of students about their school work, the school learning environment, and their interaction with the school community. The decision to gather this important data is a direct result of the ongoing work of the Leadership Committee’s commitment to their role in supporting the strategic plan. Surveying students about school engagement is also in line with our time-tested practice of having students anonymously provide feedback on their teachers every year. It not only helps us improve as professionals, but it also sends a strong message that their opinions matter which I believe is essential to promoting school ownership and pride.

Finally, some well-deserved kudos this month to:
  • Our SportX finalists - Foga-ball and Savage Ball!
  • Our Destination Imagination team which narrowly missed going back to Atlanta for the national finals!
  • Our rookie FLL robotics team called the Derryfield Cougars (aka "Waggles") consisted of five sixth graders who won first place for their app called "BeeSafe" that makes it easier for citizen scientists to report bee kills in the United States!
  • Our FTC robotics team who placed in the top 10 at the state competition in their inaugural year!
  • Our many musicians and singers who gave us all an impassioned, joyful celebration of music and collaboration at this year’s Spring Concert!
  • To all the teachers (and, in some cases, parent volunteers) who made all the above possible!
Mark Blaisdell
Head of Middle School

The Derryfield School

2108 River Road, Manchester, NH 03104     p: 603.669.4524     f: 603.625.9715