2016-17 Parent Survey Highlights

When we say that MICDS is a data-driven School, we mean it! At the end of each School year, the School conducts a robust parent survey to gather insights and feedback, qualitatively and quantitatively. The survey serves as an important tool to take a pulse on how parents feel about their students’ (and their) experience at MICDS— academically, athletically, artistically, socially and beyond. The results are anonymous and there is no way—and no reason—to tie an individual survey response to a particular family or student.

The Parent Survey provides feedback on our efforts in line with the objectives of the Strategic Plan—Transformative Student Experience, Great Teaching and Learning 2.0 and Ensuring a Vibrant School Future. Of course this isn’t the only survey that we conduct during the school year. In fact, we survey students more regularly. For example, Upper Schoolers recently took the High School Student Survey of Engagement (HSSSE) about their attitudes towards their work, the School learning environment and their interaction within the School community. Although conducting and analyzing surveys is no small task, the insights gained help us make informed strategic decisions for the School.

Highlights of Key Strengths

Overall, the 2016-2017 survey data shows that MICDS parents have very strong positive feelings about their students’ and their MICDS experience. Across the board on varied measures, the weighted average of nearly all ratings are above 4.0 on a scale of 1-5, and many measures have experienced continued year-over-year growth. The parent survey has also benefited from a consistently high participation rate for the past few years—roughly estimated at about 50% of MICDS families and representing a good distribution of divisions and backgrounds.

The three most important measures – quality, value, and likelihood to recommend—are all above 4 and have shown long term stability in that range. In fact, the data is quite impressive and encouraging!

  • 94% of respondents rate the quality of education at MICDS as “Excellent” or “Very Good”
  • 79% rate the value of an MICDS education as “Excellent” or “Very Good”
  • 89% are “Extremely Likely” or “Very Likely” to recommend MICDS to a friend, neighbor or colleague

All of our academic programs also carry a weighted average above 4. In addition, College Counseling has been on a solid upward trajectory, after a turnaround a couple years ago. The wonderful college matriculation results are both a positive result and a positive indicator that our College Counseling office is supporting students effectively.

When parents cite reasons to recommend MICDS in the Parent Survey, several themes emerge, as illustrated in this chart:

Our strong academic curriculum is the #1 reason why parents recommend MICDS, with our outstanding faculty being a close #2. Other top reasons to recommend include: the relationships formed within the community, the amazing campus and facilities, the tremendous opportunities available, high caliber athletics, individualized attention and instruction, and the diverse and inclusive community. The survey only asks that parents list three reasons, but many parents have trouble sticking to that limit because they love so many different things about MICDS!

Opportunities for Continuous Improvement

As one parent commended MICDS in his/her comment, “The school is always trying to improve.” This is very true, and the parent survey is one place we look for opportunities for continuous improvement.

Once the surveys are complete, we analyze the cumulative survey results and qualitative comments, and the insights we gain help inform our decision-making. For example, this year, a committee reviewed and updated the Upper School dress code. In addition, because of results from the survey, we have begun providing increased transparency about disciplinary decisions. These changes were fueled by Parent Survey results as well as other input sources. The JK-12 department chairs are working diligently across divisions and inter-departmentally to ensure continuity of program and curriculum, content coverage and skill building for college preparedness and smooth transitions between divisions. In the past, this survey has informed decisions to increase teacher support time during the school day and after school in the Middle and Upper School, to expand programming for Extended Day in the Lower School and to revamp our lunch program.

When the survey asks, “If you could change one thing about MICDS, what would that be?” the responses often widely vary. It’s no surprise that one theme that emerged in the 2016-2017 survey is that the political climate caused tension in the school community. My conversations with colleagues from across the nation reveal similar stress on their communities. Last year, our students coined the phrase “Converse to Comprehend not Convince,” and it continues to offer our community — and each of us — a helpful reminder. We have also identified other opportunities for improvement in this area. For example, we have worked to promote open dialogue and multiple perspectives during class discussions and in assemblies. We have also encouraged our teachers to ensure students explore a range of perspectives to foster deeper empathy and stronger critical thinking skills, in keeping with our mission. We’ve also bolstered opportunities for members of the community to simply have fun together and foster unity as a School community, such as: our recent All-School LibDub, additional field days, Lower School Day of Caring and Kindness, Ram Fams in the Upper School, watching the solar eclipse together, additional Spirit and theme days in both Middle and Upper School, new traditions for our Seniors, Lessons and Carols for our Alumnae, the Centennial Celebration of Country Day School, etc.

Closing Thoughts

In summary, the 2016-2017 Parent Survey indicated that we had another high scoring year with growth on most measures. The three most important measures of quality, value, and likelihood to recommend have all remained strong measures. Parents tend to agree that MICDS provides excellent academic and extracurricular opportunities in a welcoming environment, with best in class faculty, focused on the “whole student.”

In the next few days, we will ask parents to participate in the Parent Survey for the 2017-2018 academic year. We hope this information will help you as you reflect on this past academic year in terms of both the highlights and the opportunities for us to grow as a School. As always, we look forward to using your feedback as we live out our Mission to prepare leaders for lives of purpose and service.

Over the next 12 months, we will gather all sorts of data as we strive to understand strengths and opportunities for growth as part of our ISACS Accreditation Process. As you perhaps know, we are accredited through ISACS, the Independent Schools Association of the Central States. This coming year, 2018-19, we will focus on gathering feedback and information. During the following year, 2019-20 and with the arrival of a new Head of School, the Self-Study, a report produced internally that allows our community to articulate strengths and opportunities for growth, will be underway. At that time, many small groups will grapple with individual report areas. During the 2020-21 school year, we will host a formal visit from independent school educators from across the Central States. Feedback from our annual parent surveys, as well as from other assessments, provides us with critical insights, and we ask that you spend the time needed to share your thinking with us so that we may continue to improve.

Many thanks in advance for your participation again this year.