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The Best Day

Student outcomes are best when students feel good about how your school helps them reach their goals.  Students’ best days and worst days:

On their best days, they make progress toward their important goals

On their worst days, they take one or more steps backward

Christian schools often determine the difference between best days and worst days by the progress the students make toward goals that are important to the student’s academic progress.  The students’ goals and the school’s goals are unlikely to be perfectly aligned.  Ultimately, both the student and the school are working toward the same goals (student success).  However, how they measure success and their perception of progress are often very different.  The student’s lack of control over the process can intensify the student’s perception of how bad the worst day is and minimize how good the best days are.

Student engagement depends on having more good days than neutral or bad days.  It is the student’s perception of the day that counts.

As an example, sometimes students must develop skills before they can take a step forward.  A student may believe his or her skills are more than adequate.  Therefore, the Christian school’s goal for the day might be to demonstrate to the student the need for enhanced skills.  The student’s realization of the need for additional skills is an important goal for the school.  However, the student’s realization that his or her skills need to be enhanced is likely to be perceived as a significant step backward.  Having a bad day early in the school year can drastically reduce a student’s engagement.

There is a direct relationship between student success and a school’s sustainability.  The level of student success is proportional to the student’s engagement.  Monitoring and managing student good days and engagement is important since there is a direct relationship between a student’s success and a school’s success, sustainability, and the perceived relevance of its mission.

Part of managing the student’s perception is to align the student’s goals with your goals.  That includes helping the student understand that today’s classroom goals are the next step in the student’s progress toward his or her goals.  This will help ensure that more days are good days.  When the student sees a direct connection between the day’s activities and his or her goals, it helps to increase student engagement.  It also helps the student take the long-view and look past the momentary setbacks.

Next Step:

Ensure your school’s goals for its services are complementary to students’ goals for themselves

Ensure students see the direct connection between what is happening at the moment and what they want in the future

Ensure students understand the current path is the shortest path with the best possible outcome even if other paths may seem better

Use student engagement as a success measure for your programing

The goal of a Christian school’s programing is to create a long-term change that significantly improves the students’ lives (outcome).  Whether that goal is reached depends on whether the changes in the students’ lives are sustained after graduation.  Engaged students are more likely to have the outcomes that demonstrate that your mission statement’s promises were realized.  While the outcome is every school’s goal, the only way the goal can be reached is with sustained effort on the part of the student.  The level of student engagement prior to graduation is a predictor of outcome achievement.

Engaged students are also more likely to sustain their relationships with the schools that help them start on the path to long-term success.  When the relationship is sustained, it is easier for your school to track a student’s progress and provide additional assistance with the student’s journey.  Since reaching the desired outcome proves the relevance of your mission, sustaining the relationship is critical to your community’s perception of your mission’s relevance and your school’s sustainability.

Helping students connect current actions with their long-term goals helps sustain students’ commitments to achieving the goals.  It also helps students focus on creating long-term goals.  This further cements your school’s value to each student’s future and helps to sustain your relationship.

Take It Further:

Use the process you develop as a model for improving donor and parent engagement

Remind your board that donors care more about outcomes than they do about program completion; therefore, using student engagement as a success measure is more valuable to fundraising than graduation rates

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