The District engaged in a targeted strategic planning process during the 2015-16 school year, centering on the themes of academics and student wellness. Feedback collected during the process from parents, students and staff clearly indicated that the two themes are interrelated, and not surprisingly, wellness is viewed as a major factor in a student’s ability to perform well academically.
So, how do the Glenbrooks measure “student success?” It goes beyond typical statistical indicators such as test scores, grades, and college admission rates - the Glenbrooks want students to be well! That begins with good nutrition, exercise and adequate rest, and translates into an ability to manage stress, engage in learning, and pursue passions.
The past year brought reviews of a number of current and proposed practices in an effort to enhance student wellness:
Impact of electronic gradebook notifications on student stress
During the month of April, mobile notifications and access to the electronic gradebook during the school day at GBN and GBS went silent as part of a planned study.
“The topic of grades, and the stress they may cause, was shared by students as a concern during our open forums the past couple of years and has been a consistent theme for a number of years,” said assistant superintendent for educational services Dr. Rosanne Williamson. “We know it’s an issue, but we need to learn so much more before any solutions can be identified.”
For several years, students and parents have had access to an online gradebook and most recently, could subscribe to real-time notifications of grade changes through the PowerSchool mobile app.
What the district learned through this study is that the issue is more global than the grade change notifications alone - students are stressed about grades themselves. In student focus groups, many stated that they wished “school was about learning, but it’s not - it’s about grades. We don’t like it, but that’s the way it is.”
One student so clearly identified the stress they feel from grades by stating: “Better grades = better college, better college = better career, better career = better life. What don’t you get?”
The District also gained a deeper understanding of the student perspective for where this pressure comes from and the ways it contributes to added stress. Students frequently cited that the pressure comes from peers, parents, school culture, and most often, from the students themselves.
So, what can be done to help reduce student stress? The gradebook study brought the District one step closer to understanding the many issues our students face and student stress will be an ongoing conversation as the Glenbrooks seek to identify mechanisms to enhance student wellness. For now, the District plans to leave the gradebook on for students to access 24 hours a day from a device, but will disable the mobile app, bringing an end to push notifications.
School calendar remains “traditional,” for now
The district administration surveyed students, parents and staff on two different calendar types: traditional and collegiate. During a recent meeting, the Board reviewed the two options and discussed school community input.
Traditional Calendar (Current calendar)
A “traditional” calendar is one that begins in late August and ends in early June of the following year. Final exams are administered in January following the winter break.
Collegiate Calendar (Considered calendar)
A “collegiate” calendar is one that matches more closely the parameters followed by colleges and universities. A collegiate calendar would in general, start in early to mid-August and end in late May of the following year. First semester final exams, as well as the end of the first semester would take place prior to winter break. The second semester would begin when school resumes after the winter break.
The quantitative survey results and qualitative comments offered by students, parents and staff were mixed when it came to preference of a particular calendar type.
The district administration recommended remaining with a traditional calendar for the 2018-19 school year, which was adopted by the Board in June. However, there was enough interest and support for the collegiate calendar to warrant further study and discussion during the development of the 2019-20 school year calendar.
Research-based homework principles were developed and feedback was obtained from teachers, students, and parents. Homework principles are intended to offer strategies and practices to address the issues of homework quantity and quality that were identified in the strategic planning survey. Student and parent principles encourage student self-advocacy and provide suggestions for ways parents can support their student.
For the 2017-18 school year, each semester will count as 80% of the semester grade with no designated 9-week quarters. This new grading structure is intended to reduce student stress at the end of each quarter.
Currently, each 9-week quarter accounts for 40% of the semester grade with the final exam accounting for 20% of the semester grade. This grading structure impacts student work and wellness at the end of each quarter as students often have multiple assessments/assignments due as teachers attempt to equalize the work assessed in each quarter. As in the past, the final exam will comprise 20% of the semester grade.