Preliminary parent and student survey showed both praises, critiques
The school began developing a new Strategic Plan this past year to guide the school through the year 2020. Head of School Barbara Wagner revealed the results of the administration’s efforts thus far at Parents’ Night of Classes on Sept. 29.
“Every great institution engages in strategic planning to ensure a dynamic future, and Marlborough is no exception,” Wagner affirmed.
Last spring, faculty members, students, parents and alumnae participated in a survey, developed by the Board of Trustees, in support of these efforts. This survey will provide the Board and the school with feedback to identify the school’s current strengths while also providing insight on areas to target for future improvement.
Overall, the feedback was positive and perceptions of Marlborough are extremely favorable. 99% of parents stated that they would recommend Marlborough to a friend or relative and 92% of students said that they too would recommend Marlborough to a friend.
“We are the best at what we do here. I think the parents and students overall are extremely happy,” said mathematics instructor Sandra O’Connor.
Other highlights include general appreciation of faculty and administration and of Marlborough’s unwavering commitment to diversity. In addition, many parents and students expressed high regard towards the Honor Code and the Understanding. One parent stated in the anonymous survey that these “codes” help “the girls learn integrity and trust.”
The primary goal of this survey was to gain information about which areas students and parents think should require more focus. In response to parent and student comments, there are three primary areas which Marlborough plans to concentrate on: class work and homework, personal development and school culture. Points of concern in these areas include the workload, student well-being, healthy food accessibility and whether grades should reflect effort to a greater extent.
According to Wagner, “For years, teachers have directed their attention to “teaching” – imparting knowledge and sharing their passion for their subject and, thus, inspiring their students.”
However, this year, faculty and staff are shifting their focus to the “students and their learning,” rather than the actual methods of teaching. As a result, teachers are discussing strategies for enhancing student learning while creating a curriculum that is more responsive to student needs.
These efforts are evident through the school’s recent investments in technology, such as Haiku Learning and the Microsoft Exchange mailing system.
Another concern is that many parents have expressed desire for grades to reflect effort rather than learning. However, teachers said they are hesitant to make such a drastic change in their curricula.
“I think that we need to honor the hard work that students put in but ultimately, we [teachers] are trying to get students to master content and skills,” said English instructor Sarah Wolf.
Disputes over class work and homework also arose, since some students reported in the survey that classes involve too much “busy work” that is irrelevant to class discussions.
“It is sometimes challenging as a teacher to assign homework that is equally engaging for all students in a class, so there’s an idea that some students will be more challenged while others will find it to be busy work,” Wolf said.
Many parents and students commented in the survey that Marlborough could work on health and wellness issues by addressing stress management and “work-life balance.”
Bruce Pottash, father of Becky ‘11, agrees with the comments from the survey concerning work issues and work-life balance.
“I think this is a priority for most parents,” Pottash said.
With this balance in mind, faculty and administration want to seek co-ed activities and opportunities to engage other students outside of Marlborough.
Parents have also expressed concerns pertaining to the accessibility and availability of healthy food served on campus. Auxiliary Services Manager, Clinton Oie, said Marlborough is planning to accommodate the students and parents’ needs concerning healthier food.
“I have created a Food Services Advisory Committee, including a parent and student representative, our chef [Chef Angel], myself, the Dean of Faculty and Director of Finance and Services. Now that we have the survey results, we will delve further into how we can improve,” Oie said.
The faculty and administration are pleased with the survey’s results and believe it will allow the school to change for the better.
“Change is good, and if you learn something that can make us change, there’s a benefit to that,” O’Connor said.