The More We Know, the Better We Are

Maura Joyce, Head of School
Primary students sit around the teacher

Periodically, Post Oak surveys the parent community to find out how we are doing. We use a tool designed by Independent School Management, Inc. (ISM), which asks parents to rank different aspects of the school—programs, faculty, administration, facilities, etc. It also asks parents to comment on what they value about a Post Oak education. All in all, it takes the temperature of the school culture from the parent community’s perspective. If you are new to Post Oak this year, you will see one of these surveys in the future. If you have been here a few years, you might remember filling one out, and perhaps you have asked yourself, “What does Post Oak do with all of the feedback we provide?” That’s a good question.  

With each survey, I learn something new, and the administrative team looks through your comments with openness and curiosity. However, the most useful information for us comes when we look at several years’ worth of survey feedback to identify patterns over time. This fall, I was able to look at the data collected since I took the headship at Post Oak in 2016 and thought it would be helpful to share my reflections on those trends with you.

Consistently, here is what Post Oak does well according to the parent surveys:

  • When asked to rank over 20 aspects of Post Oak, the care and concern of the faculty for your children topped the list at every program level. Also near the top of the list, was the sense that Post Oak knows your child. These two go hand-in-hand, and we pride ourselves on meeting each student at the door, getting to know them, and making sure they are given the individual attention they deserve.
  • Related to that, the quality of teaching faculty also ranked near the top. Comments at the end echoed appreciation for the skill our teachers have in engaging your students in the learning process and dedication to their craft.
  • High marks were also given to character development. This came as no surprise to us as the Montessori environment is foundationally one of respect. Many schools have a character development program as part of their curricular offerings. At Post Oak, all students live in community, and character development is woven into the fabric of how we function. Sharing a space with mixed ages and a variety of developmental needs, children learn cooperation, collaboration, tolerance, and empathy. We are pleased that our parents see that as clearly as we do.
  • At the end of the survey, there is a free answer prompt that asks the participant to list the school’s three greatest strengths. By far, the word that shows up more than any other is community. Post Oak parents know that this is their village and that their student feels that school is home and friends are family. Decades later, our alumni come back to speak to us, and both they and their parents remember the sense of community that encircled them during their time at Post Oak. It is truly a special attribute of our school.

What did you tell us we needed to work on, and what are we doing about it?

  • Better communication from the classroom to understand what your child is doing. There was a stronger voice about this from Primary and Elementary, where Montessori work looks so different. We get it—most of us did not experience a metal inset, sandpaper letters, a grammar box, checkerboard, or binomial cubes, as the majority of us did not attend a Montessori school ourselves. At Post Oak, we made efforts to increase parent ed opportunities and change formats to make understanding of what we do more accessible to the untrained observer. Our revamped Montessori Journey and the Intro to Elementary programs are two examples or this. Other efforts in explaining curriculum (ask Mr. Schneider for the Elementary Curriculum Guide) and coordinating how student work is reviewed and sent home, will allow parents to see the progression of specific skills like writing and arithmetic.
  • Regarding the curriculum, parents expressed concerns about understanding the progression of our math program and how we move from those cool Montessori materials to work on paper and, eventually, tests. Although students do well (for example in MAP testing), we have identified areas to continue improvement. Division directors and teachers spend time analyzing our testing data to see what concepts are translating with ease and which need attention. Faculty has been engaged in cross-level discussions about strategy, and all of our faculty will be engaging in a unique professional development opportunity this spring. Montessori math expert and author, Mike Waski, will be analyzing our testing data, observing teacher practice, and providing workshops for our teams. He will spend two days on campus and is already connected with our team to determine the best way to strengthen our work in this area.
  • A third area of the survey that caught our attention was transitions and program continuity from teacher to teacher and level to level. Your responses indicated that you want to better understand how we ensure high-quality programming across the school. An excellent point and one that we leaned into the past year. This also came up as part of our self-study work of identifying needs for strategic initiatives and follow-up to our ISAS accreditation and school improvement process. Cross-level meetings are now scheduled into our calendar, giving teachers at each level the opportunity to discuss how they best prepare their students for the next step in their Post Oak journey.

We appreciate all the feedback that we receive as the more we know, the better we get. We strive to be the best at what we do. We also appreciate the positive response we get to the question on the survey: how likely are you to recommend Post Oak as a school to other families? The vast majority of you enthusiastically recommend us and that word of mouth validation is priceless. Thank you!

 

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