Holistic School Assessment

Posted on July 30, 2016


This is part of an ongoing exploratory series on Educational Ideas

This isn’t my idea, but it is one that I was immediately attracted to. Jack Schneider from the College of the Holy Cross approached me with the idea a few years ago.

The basic idea is to assess schools via a much more holistic set of measurements than just test scores. The goal is to seek out feedback along a number of dimensions from students, teachers, and parents about their school environment and use that as both an assessment of the school and a means of communicating feedback to the school and helping people identify areas that need improvement.

Questions might include:

  • How often are students exposed to arts at your school?
  • When faced with a very challenging task, how hard do you work to complete it?
  • How comfortable would you be visiting the home of a student who lives in a poor neighborhood?
  • Overall, how well do you believe your school is integrated into the community?
  • How often does your math teacher give you feedback that helps you learn?
  • If you walked into class upset, how concerned would your english teacher be?

But there would be hundreds of questions and students, parents, and teachers would all have the opportunity to answer them, providing a much more holistic understanding of the school environment.

Ideally this feedback could be collected through text messages throughout the year. That way the feedback would be more continuous, providing an ongoing look into the school.

Each question allows for five numeric answers (e.g. “extremely worried”, “quite worried”, “somewhat worried”, “a little bit worried”, “not at all”) that allows for the answers to be aggregated across questions. This makes it possible to look at a category at a glance and then dig into it to see responses to more specific questions. It also makes it possible to track the progress of a school over time.

In general I think healthy processes for giving and receiving feedback are crucial to any organization, but especially something as complicated as a school. Giving and receiving feedback is very difficult to do otherwise. It is just too risky that the feedback will not be well received. A process like this helps bridge that gap and can be done unobtrusively through a daily text message.






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