Part of our work this year has been to examine the achievement gap. One of my larger professional goals is to create a plan that will present a long-term strategy to support scholars in our learning community (https://michaelberryedu.wordpress.com/2013/08/20/close-the-gap-mike-cpchat-edchat-achievementgap/). This goal and plan are being created between a colleague and myself.
When my colleague and I started this journey, we had a rough idea of where to start. We both started the school year taking time to observe and learn (https://michaelberryedu.wordpress.com/2013/10/23/ethnographic-research-and-preparing-to-conduct-classroomschool-observations-cpchat/) After observing students throughout the beginning of the year we started to see a lot of similar aspects, needs and strengths. (https://michaelberryedu.wordpress.com/2013/09/29/rscon4-interview/)
After conducting our observations, comparing our notes and having hours of discussions, we had a good idea of how to proceed. Over the next several months we held conversations with educators focusing on not only understanding the achievement gap as it applied to our students and learning community, but also about strategies that really benefit all students. These strategies included engagement strategies, social cognition and social thinking and parent engagement (https://michaelberryedu.wordpress.com/2013/08/26/data-worth-considering-parent-engagement-cpchat/).
One of our mantras as we were doing this work was “don’t make assumptions.” We worked hard to not assume we knew what our students were lacking or needing, instead relying on students, families and educators to describe for us what they were experiencing. It was with this mantra in mind that we moved forward with administering the Developmental Assets Profile to our students. I want to be clear that I’m not trying to sell the DAP; however, I want to share the information that it can help provide a school or learning community.
The Search Institute breaks down developmental assets into eight categories that fall into either external or internal asset themes. Support, empowerment, boundaries and expectations, constructive use of time, commitment to learning, positive values, social competencies and positive identity are the eight categories. Now there are several ways to utilize the developmental assets work (several resources listed below) to enhance your school or learning community without administering the survey to your students, families and staff; however, administering the survey provides you with a well articulated and research-based measurement of your students’ perceptions of their lives…we’re back to that assumption mantra. With this information in hand I can avoid making assumptions about what I think students, families and staff are feeling, needing or missing. It’s quite powerful in some senses.
Prior to administration we reviewed the information of the Developmental Assets with staff, using various resources and activities (http://www.healthiersf.org/resources/pubs/SCB/PositiveSchoolClimateOverviewforTeachers&SchoolStaff.doc includes several resources including a Developmental Assets bingo page that is great to use with staff and something they can use with students). As with many of our conversations around the achievement gap it was obvious that these assets spoke to all students and learners, not just those identified as being in the achievement gap. Once we had a staff understanding we proceeded with administration of the survey to our highest grade level. Admittedly I wasn’t sure what the results would show…despite my mantra I think I was making some assumptions.
After administering our data was entered at the Search Institute, who then provided us with a comprehensive print up of our results. Our results, in both schools, clearly showed that our scholars saw outside of school time as a target for improvement. I’ll go into more detail at a later date, but for now, I will say that the report provided us with a clear road map of where to expend our energies in order to impact our students and community the most. I will say that it did indeed provide information that we weren’t expecting and probably wouldn’t have focused on otherwise.
There are many resources to explore when looking at the Developmental Assets. I’ve included a few below…all in all, an excellent road map and a place to start! We are currently using this information to change our structures and supports, focusing in on beyond the school day systems of support.
Developmental Assets Resources: