Whole Child Survey Provides Insights for School Planning

At the October 17, 2016 Work Session the Board of Education discussed the results of DPS’ first Whole Child student survey, administered in the spring of 2016. DPS is one of the first districts in the nation to attempt to define our Whole Child focus and to gather data on our students’ perceptions in these critical areas.

We know that our students’ academic progress should never be separated from their growth as whole children. That is why we have such a strong focus on supporting the Whole Child — meaning students are challenged, engaged, supported, safe, healthy, and socially and emotionally intelligent. The Whole Child Student Survey is designed to provide meaningful data to track how well our schools are meeting our students’ needs on each of these components.

Instructional leaders shared their perspectives, with Doull Elementary Principal Jodie Carrigan and University Park Elementary Principal Grant Varveris weighing in, along with Instructional Superintendent Tanya Carter and Instructional Superintendent Suzanne Morris-Sherer.

Board Member Happy Haynes commented that while district leadership have embraced the concept of supporting the Whole Child, she wondered how teachers and staff are responding. Morris-Sherer said that for staff working with students, it’s all about knowing the children you work with and, in doing so, understanding how to ensure their success.

2015-16 Results

The initial Whole Child results bring new insights into how our students are experiencing school. Key districtwide outcomes include:

  • Confirmation that the link between Whole Child factors and success in school is strong — students who reported strong Whole Child outcomes were more likely to meet academic expectations.
  • Identification of schools with particularly strong Whole Child outcomes so that we can emulate their practices in other schools — schools with particularly strong outcomes for African-American, Latino and low-income students worked to intentionally set a school culture that prioritizes and develops strong individual relationships with students.
  • Highlighting critical areas for us to focus our supports — including bullying, chronic absenteeism and out-of-school suspension disparities.

The full survey results are now available on the Whole Child website and are searchable by school.

Using the Results

The survey paints a clear picture for school leaders and educators, helping them tailor Whole Child goals and supports to best meet the needs of their unique and individual school communities. With this information, our school leaders have a clearer picture of areas of strength and opportunity for their kids. They will use the data to set goals and identify improvement strategies in their school planning processes so that appropriate supports can be aligned and progress can be measured over time. School leaders and educators can access resources and support available through the Whole Child Resource Bank to identify specific strategies in their focus area of choice. Each school’s goals and strategies will be documented in their Unified Improvement Plan.

Board Chair Anne Rowe closed the conversation by stating that the focus on the Whole Child has highlighted for her that there are no “bad kids,” but there are students living in very challenging circumstances. She noted that a school’s culture, leadership and focus on the Whole Child can make all the difference in a child’s life.