Crooksville Exempted Village School District, a member of the Ohio Appalachian Collaborative (OAC), is committed to educating the whole child to become productive, healthy, and well-rounded members of society. In the 2016‒2017 school year, the district set high goals in the areas of academic achievement, hope, student motivation, and school culture, and expanded the use of data on social and emotional learning to measure its collective progress toward those goals. In particular, Crooksville Schools has been administering The Student Experience Survey to help educators create a classroom experience that fosters student hope, engagement, and belonging. The district’s professional development has also focused on student motivation, growth-mindset, and hope. Administrators and teachers devote time at building-level team meetings to explore strategies for addressing strengths and areas for improvement in the survey data. We reached out to Alea Barker, Director of Curriculum at Crooksville Schools, to learn more about the district’s work.
Q: To support the OAC's goal of improving student motivation, districts adopted The Student Experience Survey. How is Crooksville Schools working to create a learning experience that fosters student motivation?
A: It has been a collective effort. Crooksville Schools has become more student-centered with meeting individual needs, adjusting schedules, and listening to student ideas, concerns, and positive feedback about what makes the day more productive & engaging. This approach has also improved the overall school and district culture. We pride ourselves on the development of all stakeholders.
As I wrote in a recent district update
, many people ask, “What is a CERAMIC (Crooksville’s mascot)?” According to Webster’s Dictionary, a ceramic is made of clay that has been heated to a very high temperature so that it becomes hard. This definition aligns to our collective work in the district. We, as CERAMICS, are moldable, always learning, striving for the best. We do work to a very high temperature and active pace with high expectations for all associates in our organization. We are not afraid of hard work, aspiring to achieve all that we can for our students. Finally, we are “hard,” or committed, remaining steadfast to our goals and pushing our school system to a plateau of distinction.
Q: What are some strategies you have adopted to foster student hope, engagement, and motivation?
A: We kicked off our school year with a keynote message focused on student motivation. From that discussion, we developed key reminders of hope and motivation that were placed in every teacher-based team manual. The teams meet at least two times per week to touch base on those reminders.
Crooksville has also held monthly professional learning sessions with ALL teachers—embedded in the school day—during which we have shared TED Talks, YouTube videos, and other current research on student hope and motivation. To keep the conversation alive between each professional learning session, we provide an "article-to-go" for teachers to read at their leisure, which then informs discussion at the next face-to-face meeting.
In addition, the Crooksville High School building-level team developed a number of clubs—including cooking, gaming, technology, fitness, leadership, career exploration, college exploration, film, and more—that give students the opportunity to explore their interests during the school day. The clubs meet every two weeks.
Q: How has this work made a difference for students, educators, and the overall culture of the district?
A: Since Crooksville began administering The Student Experience Survey in the 2014-2015 school year, we have seen significant improvement in all areas of the survey: hope, engagement, belonging, and classroom management. We rely heavily on that feedback, and appreciate the growth we see as yielded from the student voice. Our work will never be complete as we work tirelessly on behalf of all stakeholders of Crooksville Schools.
Q: What challenges have you faced?
A: Again, just being patient. We are changing what we do every day in terms of schedules, building relationships with students, elevating student voice, etc. It has also been a challenge to ensure all stakeholders remain committed to the district’s goals and seeing them through. We have read the research around the importance of fostering student hope and engagement, but sometimes the data doesn’t show our efforts are making a difference. Some plans may need to be tweaked over time, but we must remain steadfast in working toward the overall goal of educating the whole child in Crooksville Schools. This is a commitment that we reinforce in every meeting, at every level of the district.
Q: What lessons have you learned through this process?
A: The process of building student motivation takes TIME and must involve all stakeholders, including the district-level team, building-level teams, and teacher-based teams. It can also be messy work—tacking difficult family situations, dealing with poverty, and becoming an advocate for the student.
It’s important to set the expectation that test scores won’t go up overnight. We hope that by investing time and energy into educating the whole child, it will eventually lead to improved student achievement, and most importantly, help students become more productive, healthy, and well-rounded members of society.
Alea Barker is the Director of Curriculum at Crooksville Exempted Village Schools. Follow her on Twitter at @AleaBarker.