Dr. Grauer's Column - A Report from the Grauer Office of Research and Evaluation
A Report from the Grauer Office of Research and Evaluation
By Tricia Valeski, Ph.D. & Stuart Grauer, Ed.D.
What is our mission? Are we living up to it?
Each year we ask applicant families to tell us what attracted them to The Grauer School, what is it about our program that makes them feel it is ideal for their children. Overwhelmingly parents respond with comments like these:
“To me, connection (between friends, teachers, and community) is the foundation of the rest of one’s life. I hope that middle and high school will be a place of supportive connection that brings joy and also allows him to contribute.”
– Prospective Grauer Parent, 2019
“It is our belief that learning academically, socially, and emotionally can be increased tenfold when there is a focus on the relationships within the school environment and Grauer makes this possible.”
– Prospective Grauer Parent, 2019
Parents are drawn to our relationship-based program because, like us, they know that at Grauer, our focus on relationships between students and teachers, and between students and each other, has created a culture of connectedness that is unparalleled. We believe this emphasis contributes to students’ happiness, and levels of cognitive, emotional and behavioral engagement. Research has long supported the notion that engagement leads to academic success, whereas disengagement can lead to academic failure and dropout. One of the best ways to foster engagement is to develop a school community where students feel safe, supported and connected.
Another key factor in parents’ decision to choose Grauer is balance: between relationships and academic rigor, between social development and college preparation. As one applicant parent put it:
“Both of us as parents believe that it is possible to strive for future acceptance at the school of her choosing … while becoming a well-balanced and confident young adult with good friendships and social skills. It is important to us that a school is able to help her achieve those goals and that it has the ability to help her get a rigorous academic foundation.”
-7th Grade Applicant Parent, 2019
Can Grauer deliver on these requests? Are we achieving our mission? A school “mission” normally expresses aspirations towards the achievement of core values and whole-person developments. At The Grauer School, our mission is to teach and encourage students to become resourceful and intrinsically motivated in a compassionate, college preparatory environment. We do this by balancing Socratic, relationship-based education and experiential learning with rigorous college and life preparation.
Happily, we have evidence that our philosophy is working.
For the past three years, Grauer students rated their teachers 3.5 out of 4 in their achievement of the school’s core values. The benefits of our balanced, relationship-based approach are also reflected in our students’ responses throughout a nationwide survey of student social and emotional learning.  When compared with a nationwide sample of their peers, Grauer students were in the 99th percentile in several key dimensions of the survey:
- Teacher-student relationships: how strong is the social connection between teachers and students within and beyond the classroom
- Rigorous expectations: how much do students feel their teachers hold them to high expectations around effort, understanding, persistence, and performance in class
- Sense of belonging: how much do students feel that they are valued members of the school community
- Valuing of school: how much do students feel that school is interesting, important, and useful
- School climate: perceptions of the overall social and learning climate of the school
- School safety: perceptions of student physical and psychological safety at school
Recently we received a beautiful, unsolicited letter which noted a sentiment we hear quite often in letters we receive and conversations we have: “My husband and I appreciate everything you and your staff do to ‘walk the talk’ about creating a balanced educational environment.”
Most schools espouse such idealistic purposes … and then report on their school’s progress with a series of test scores, college rankings, and donation reports. The things schools and colleges report on to demonstrate their success, oddly, rarely have much to do with their stated mission. In this week’s column, we reported on the achievement of the actual mission of The Grauer School. It is our hope that this model of reporting on school success and achievement is somehow catching.
 In the spring of 2019, Grauer students participated in the Panorama Survey of Social and Emotional Learning. Dimensions reported here are from the Student Competency Measures. National Benchmarks include survey results from more than 3,000 schools and 2,000,000 students, family members, teachers and staff members across diverse geographic areas, school types, and achievement levels.
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