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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Out the Door

Yesterday's blog discussed the transition that 34 seventh graders are making as they move from the elementary school to the secondary school - a trek that symbolically is far greater than the mere number of steps covered in two flights of stairs. Today, I had the opportunity to speak to a mom who just returned from dropping her son off at an out-of-state college for his introduction to higher education as a first year student.

Both of these experiences involve crossing a threshold. They are important to our staff at Heatly because of the vantage points they afford us in terms of assessing our performance. The first marks a midpoint milestone within a thirteen year progression through a curriculum that becomes increasingly more complex in skill and more abstract in concept. The second offers an indication of our ability to prepare learners for college and test our commitment to the district's mission - "Every student will graduate prepared for college, career, and citizenship." I'd like to address the college entry experience in today's blog.

Each time I've had my car serviced at the dealership I receive a call from the service department a few days later asking about my perception of the quality of work and the customer relationship resulting from that visit. That genuine interest in following up on the transaction impresses me and earns loyalty to the dealer and brand for their company's commitment to customer satisfaction. We will also be attempting to solicit feedback on our "products" and "service" by reaching out to recent graduates of Heatly who are currently attending college so we can obtain their reflections on the manner in which Heatly either prepared them for college or left them under-prepared for the challenge. Regularly seeking feedback like this through a survey will allow us to incorporate their responses and suggestions into our efforts to continually improve the educational experience provided in our high school.

It's not enough to watch our seniors walk across the stage and receive their diploma and bid them good-bye. Many groups who purport to measure the effectiveness of schools focus on the percentage of graduates that enroll in college. More important than that statistic is the percentage of graduates who are still in college two years later. While there are many reasons one might withdraw from college, it can reveal some measure of how well they've been prepared to meet with success in college. If many have dropped out due to poor grades then we could draw some conclusions from that and buttress the relevance and rigor of our instructional program if we were able to identify areas in which these college drop-outs were lacking in preparation. Perhaps the examination of feedback shows a need to increase time management practices or organizational skills or study techniques. Maybe we need to exercise more care in shepherding the high school students toward college environments more aligned with their personal interests and strengths through increased interactions with the student and their family or emphasizing the role of social and interpersonal factors in being sufficiently prepared for college.

Who knows? We can't say that we do - until we actively seek out the opinions and reflections of former Heatly students who have recently encountered the challenges of college. In addition, we'll be inviting back these graduates to speak with current high school students to offer them credible insight into the experience. Our pledge to grow learners does not stop at graduation.

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