When my district, Charles City Public Schools (CCPS), created our strategic plan, we established “Community Investment in Public Schools” as one of our five core goals. As a small, rural school system with a staff of about 145 serving 719 students in two schools, we feel that strong relationships with our students’ families is essential to our students’ success.

Data Poor with Little Internet Access

Before we could set out to improve our community’s engagement with our schools, we needed to know families’ perceptions about the school division and their attitudes about engaging with their children’s schools. We realized that we needed baseline data collected through a family survey that is aligned with our strategic plan. At the same time, we also gathered feedback from students and teachers and staff using surveys designed to surface and understand their perspectives about school.

This was the first time our division had taken on family perception research of this magnitude, so we started out “data poor” when it came to stakeholder feedback. Our families have always been willing to communicate, but the challenge was to capture that information when only 40–50 percent of our community has internet access. Pushing something out over email alone was not going to reach the number and mix of households we wanted, so in early 2016 we sent out paper copies of a family survey that we had developed with Panorama Education.

Identifying Next Steps with ‘Glows’ and ‘Grows’

Last summer, with our first round of feedback data from students, parents, and teachers in hand, our next step was to find a way to evaluate that data.

I wanted to make sure staff were engaged and energized by learning from the community’s feedback, rather than seeing it as “another thing” on their plates. First, we made sure all of our teachers and staff could access the data through Panorama. Then, we asked teachers and staff to bring their tablets to an all-staff session where we all logged into the platform. Teachers and staff broke out into groups, and each group was tasked with looking at a different aspect of the feedback.

To focus our efforts to understand what the data are telling us and how to define next steps, I asked everyone to identify one “glow” and one “grow” within the data. The idea of “glows and grows” is to boil a great deal of information down to a relatable level.

A “glow” is a bright spot we should call out as a strength and continue to nurture. A “grow” is an area where if we focus on improving, we stand to make important gains. I didn’t want to anchor our thinking around challenges, but rather places where we can make great gains by growing and improving.

The beauty of “glows and grows” is that it’s so accessible. After that first session, our teachers and staff came away with lots of tangible things they could tease out of the data. One example of this was in the area of family engagement, taking us right back to the goals in our strategic plan.

(Next page: How the district boosted parental engagement)


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