Transparency Matters

At Acton Academy, we believe that listening to our customers is essential to our continued improvement. The weekly surveys give us the opportunity to hear from you about how we are doing in fulfilling our promises.

I want to give you a “behind the scenes” look at how we use the survey results.  The example from this week’s information will give you the basic framework for our weekly discussion about the survey responses. In general, the survey comments tend to fall into three categories:

1)      Sharing of emotions  – the full spectrum from joy to frustration;

2)      Ideas for improvement consistent with our mission and beliefs;

3)      Ideas that don’t fit within our mission and beliefs but are triggers for discussions about how we can improve within our mission.

At weekly staff meetings, we discuss the results and decide whether or not changes need to be made. We respond immediately in our actions in the classroom and/or in our communication with parents.

Examples of things we have changed as a result of customer comments:  changing vision of PE program (continued gratitude for  Jeff Carpenter rising up to a calling); more core skills time; greeting with a handshake and eye contact first thing in the morning; conflict resolution guidance; sending math tracking instructions home; creating leadership opportunities for older students; adding earth sciences to the project curriculum; sex education parents’ meeting; social outings for parents; editing the songs in music; changing our field trip strategies to offer different opportunities for older students beyond children’s theatre.

From this week’s survey comments, I will work with the guides through my notes as follows:

Elementary school survey comments

1)      Group size:  I’m excited that we have in place a plan for very few full group discussions and mostly smaller group discussions.  Because it was the first week of school, there were important large group conversations and we knew this would be challenging. We can now focus on our plan to divide the groups during discussion time and in history.

2)      There is sadness about Aubrie leaving. We knew this and we were sad to say good-bye, too. Her send off was tender and positive. Our approach is designed to equip students to establish and nurture relationships with others, without becoming dependent on them for their hero’s journeys. While it may not fit with everyone’s paradigm for a school, we believe that less is more here.  Soon, we’ll also have middle school students acting as Running Partners with the elementary students. They are in training for this and are already fired up about the opportunity.

3)      Sweets at school: With everyone in charge of their own snacks, group treats are few and far between. We had the challenge zone donut demonstration and a birthday celebration back to back in the first 5 days.  Good to note this is important to some parents. We can change the donut challenge zone demonstration to pineapple rings or bagels when there is a birthday celebration.

4)      The arts are such a rich part of our curriculum. We are starting this year with theatrical arts which will be followed by visual arts and music. This is a purposeful and constant experimentation with different art forms led by different guides. This year we again have Nat, Zoey, and Kaylie (poetry/writing.) We are in the process of deciding on a music guide.

Middle School survey comments

1)      Our students are creating their own culture, within broad safety and learning guardrails set by our mission and beliefs.  With issues like technology, it may take a while for norms to develop.  The key here is for the Eagles to own their own learning, so some patience is necessary during these first two weeks of community building, but the long term impact on character formation and inspiration is worth it.

2)      We love to have parents involved.  The parent meeting is coming up in October and this is a great time to get to know each other and talk about ways we can interact even more, given everyone’s busy schedules. (Elementary parents’ meeting is on October 4; Middles school parents’ meeting is on October 5. Both begin sharply at 11:30 and end at 1pm.)

3)      The gate code you may use at any time of day is: 1003#.

4)      We always welcome parents in class – just let us know so we can brief you beforehand.  Many of you will begin to wonder how your Eagle is progressing.  The best way to judge is to follow the blog and ask about the portfolio.  Our goal is for you (and more importantly your Eagle) to learn to set goals, and not rely on a Guide.  Of course, if there are any special issues, you’ll (quietly and gently) hear from us.  In other words, no news is good news.

At Acton, transparency matters. That’s why your comments are collected anonymously and open for everyone to see.  As such, our only request is that you make any comments about other students or parents in a positive and affirming way – individual differences can be handled offline, one on one.

Here’s to another week of Hero’s Journeys!