How should we measure the success of a school system? For the last few decades, the states have wanted to see high achievement on standardized tests. Parents want a safe school and a successful student ready for college and career. The local newspapers like it when the sports teams are winning. We could measure the success of a school in literally dozens of ways, from cost per pupil to dropout and attendance rates. But what would happen if we chose to focus on student success as the sole measure of a school’s success?
That’s exactly what the New Tech Network has done with our re-imagined School Success Rubric. We asked ourselves, what do we want our students to experience and learn while at school? The result was a surprisingly simple framework that has lots of implications about what learning must look like to prepare students for success in college, careers and civic life.
One of the things that distinguish highly successful schools is what the students experience while on campus … in short, the culture of the school. NTN has defined a positive school culture as one that connects, engages and challenges each student.
· Students have positive relationships with adults and peers in the school community and feel a sense of belonging.
· Students feel emotionally and physically safe, feel accepted “being themselves,” can take courageous risks, and will be supported if they fail.
· Students feel empowered to contribute positively to the community and take on leadership roles. They feel trusted and trust others to be respectful and responsible.
· Students value and are excited about the work they are doing and are interested in how it relates to the work of others.
· Students are often innovative and creative, deriving unique solutions to problems, and defend their ideas and conclusions with enthusiasm.
· Students regularly seek out interactions with adults and experts in a professional manner as part of the learning process.
· Students have the capacity to successfully complete authentic, complex, and rigorous tasks that require active exploration, higher-order thinking, and application of what they have learned.
· Students evaluate the quality of their work against authentic discipline or industry standards in formal publications, exhibitions, and presentations.
Successful schools look beyond the limits of standardized tests to measure student achievement. Students need a foundation of knowledge across a broad spectrum of disciplines to provide context for further learning; just as important, students need an understanding of how that knowledge connects to other bits of knowledge. Students also need to graduate with a set of well-documented skills necessary for academic and career achievement. Lastly, students need to develop the attributes of success, including a growth mindset, persistence and adaptability.
· Students demonstrate a mastery of core knowledge across all discipline areas (as defined by state and national standards).
· Students easily make sophisticated connections and find patterns between and among discipline areas.
· Students demonstrate the ability to understand and utilize the knowledge and skills of a discipline to reason, problem-solve, and develop sound arguments or decisions.
· Student writing is clearly and consistently organized, fully developed, fluent, and generally free from errors, as appropriate to the discipline.
· Students can effectively communicate complex ideas in well organized and engaging oral presentations to a variety of audiences and for many purposes.
· Students can effectively collaborate with others on complex tasks and can adopt different roles including leadership based on group needs.
· Students demonstrate mastery of other college and career readiness skills such as creativity, innovation, technology literacy, researching, social interaction, time management, etc.
· Students are very confident in many settings and demonstrate the attributes of highly effective people including resilience, patience, adaptability, and persistence.
· Students see challenges as learning opportunities and believe that if they work at something, their performance will improve. They believe that they are capable of achieving at high levels across a broad spectrum of disciplines. Students regularly refine their work and reflect on their performance.
· Students demonstrate the capacity to be self-directed in making choices that will affect their current and future success while seeking the advice and guidance of trusted allies.
· Students accept the responsibility of their actions, and although they recognize external circumstances, focus on their own choices and behaviors instead.
While not every student must go to college, no school should adopt practices that track students on a path that makes them ineligible for college. Every student must be made aware of post-secondary options, should take the courses needed for college eligibility and should be prepared with the knowledge, skills and attributes needed for success in college.
· Students understand what it takes to attend college; have thoroughly researched postsecondary options, financial aid, and career paths; and have applied to several institutions or organizations that meet their learning and career objectives.
· Students meet course requirements needed for 4-year college eligibility and therefore have a variety of options for post-secondary learning.
· Students have the knowledge, skills, and attributes needed to be successful in college without having to take remedial courses.
Right about now, many readers are questioning whether all students can achieve these outcomes. Some might think we could define a successful school when only a certain percentage of students demonstrate these skills. New Tech Network believes that schools must behave in every way possible as if every student can achieve this level of success. Successful schools will find ways to lift students up rather than lower the bar, and every student that fails to achieve at high levels will be seen as an opportunity to learn what could be done next time and not as the unavoidable consequences of a bell curve. The New Tech Network School Success Rubric does not include all we could measure, nor does it perfectly describe the complexity of the things we are measuring, but we think it is a good start.