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Feedback 2015

Our team is driven by a dedication to continuous improvement. That is why we seek input from team members, parents, and graduates each year. We honor their efforts by considering each suggestion, reporting responses transparently, and using the feedback – including criticism – to improve our program. 

Alumni Feedback

Exemplary comments:

  • “I was totally prepared for science because of all the chances for us to create our own experiments and complete lab reports.” (Class ‘14, Marymount)
  • “Mathematics [at Harlem Academy] has helped me to actually be ahead of most of the students in the class and has helped me to understand math even if it is introducing new techniques.” (Class ’14, Cristo Rey)
  • “The fact that Harlem Academy had challenging homework assignments thoroughly prepared me for my experience at York Prep. I find myself being ahead of my honors class pace…” (Class ’13, York Prep)
  • “I think my interdisciplinary class - constructing America - which combines both English and history, would have been a much more distressing class had I not had both the really good English class and the notoriously amazing history class opportunities. Really.” (Class ’12, Riverdale)
  • “Reason and rhetoric helped immensely with my writing and speech skills. Having a class dedicated to debate for three years really fine tuned my skills as a writer and public speaker, so that made English and history class easier.” (Class ’13, Chapin)
  • Reflecting on their achievements, students most often cited strong grades, taking on leadership roles, and participating in service activities.

 

Exemplary ratings:

  • Among freshman respondents, students felt prepared or extremely prepared in every core area (English, math, history, science reading, writing) as well as in organization and preparing for/taking tests, with an average rating across all areas a 4.1 (“prepared”). 
    • Preparation in math – average rating: 4.5
    • Preparation on writing assignments – average rating: 4.5
    • 100% of students said they were “prepared” or “extremely prepared” to succeed in English.
    • 100% of students said they were “prepared” or “extremely prepared” to succeed in science.
    • Students were asked to reflect on their success upholding the core values in our creed, including:
      • “I collaborate with peers from all kinds of backgrounds and with a all kinds of personalities” – average rating 4.8 “very strong.”
      • “I have developed close, positive friendships with one or more students in my new school” – average rating 4.7 “very strong.”

 

Opportunities for improvement:

  • Students rated their preparation for the homework load a 3.2 (neutral). 
    • This was the sole area where students felt somewhat unprepared. Half the students mentioned that high school week at Harlem Academy helped prepare them for the shift, and we will continue this initiative in coming years to help prepare students. In addition, we will continue our tradition of inviting alumni to speak to our eighth-grade class, which provides opportunities for authentic discussion and sharing advice. Finally, we will continue to help students develop organization and time management skills as a focus of our skills course (formerly known as reason and rhetoric), and through our after-school mentorship program.
  • Reflecting on their performance in living up to the values outlined in the school creed, students had somewhat lower ratings in the following areas:
    • “I take advantage of the non-required opportunities at my school.” – average rating: 3.6 (strong/neutral). One student noted, “I’ve only participated in one activity this year because I was scared of mixing that up with my school work”  (Class of 2014)
    • “I seek help from my peers when I need it.” – average rating 4.0. While this rating indicates strong performance, 41% of respondents rated their performance “neutral” or lower, with one student noting, “Being in such a small community, some things spread fast so I try not to reach out that much and only to the people I trust.” (Class of 2014)
      • This year, we did some restructuring on our team so that a veteran middle school teacher could be named coordinator of graduate support.  This will provide us with more bandwidth to reach out to students, help them to take advantage of the opportunities available at their schools, and encourage them to seek help as needed. 
Parent Feedback

Parents are asked to provide anonymous feedback on key areas, including program, family partnership, and communication at the end of each year. In 2015, 86% of parents responded to the survey.

Exemplary performance: 

  • Parents rated the degree to which the school is meeting its mission a 4.3 (strong/very strong) on a scale of 1 (very weak) to 5 (very strong). 
  • Parents rated family partnership at Harlem Academy a 4.2 (strong/very strong) on a scale of 1 (very weak) to 5 (very strong).
  • Parents rated their interactions with a faculty members and administrators a 4.2 (good/excellent) on a scale of (very poor) to 5 (excellent).
  • 93% of parents rated the school’s work teaching advanced academic skills in reading, writing, math, and scientific reasoning “strong” or “very strong.”
     

Exemplary comments:

  • Rigorous curriculum: “The staff at Harlem Academy are very energetic and knowledgeable, and we, as parents, feel that our students will be able to compete and excel in their academic endeavors.” (Grade 7 parent)
  • Extended day: “I am so happy that I don’t have to worry about things like before and aftercare. This has truly taken one burden from my shoulders.” (Grade 3 parent)
  • Individualized instruction: “Individualized tutoring … made a huge difference. She became excited and confident about the subject and started performing quite well. We are very pleased about the intervention by the school.” (Grade 1 parent)
  • Joyful environment: “My child truly enjoys his days at school. When asked, ‘How was your day?’ be prepared for a detailed story from start to finish.” (Grade 3 parent)
  • Partnership: “The school provides parents the opportunity to partner with teachers and staff to help students grow and benefit from the strong academic program the school offers.” (Grade 5 parent)
  • Secondary school placement: "Very detailed and individualized secondary school meetings as well as summer school scholarship assistance were greatly appreciated. Please keep up with the great work! " (Grade 7 parent)

 

Opportunities for improvement (with responses in italics):

  • The merit system should be implemented consistently, and information about progress on behavior should be shared frequently. 
    • While the vast majority of parents find the school’s overall focus on character development to be strong/very strong (average rating: 4.2 on a scale of 1-5), there were pockets of parents in some grades who were frustrated with the way the system was implemented. We learned that we need to be more explicit in the way our merit system and overall character growth program is explained in the staff handbook, family handbook, and with students to ensure both consistency of expectations and implementation. In response, we have revamped our family and staff handbooks, scheduled this topic to be an area of focus during staff work days and parent orientation in August, and highlighted it as an area for supervisors and veteran teachers to work on with newer team members. 
  • Some parents suggested more frequent communication and earlier notification when problems occur. 
    • Strong communication is central to family partnership, and each year we seek to strengthen our work in this area. To that end, we completed a revision to the family handbook to clarify expectations of parents, students, and teachers; highlight the student-driven rationale behind our policies; and outline opportunities for partnership.  We have also updated the handbook to include information about formative and summative assessments (what they are, how often to expect them, how they contribute to a student’s grade) – information parents can use to support their child and facilitate conversation with their teacher(s).  

      In addition, we have expanded or strengthened several early opportunities for parents to meet with teachers, which serves the dual purpose of building a relationship while also providing time to come to a shared understanding of how and when to expect communications. For instance, parent orientation will focus on what parents can expect in terms of communication around academic performance, character growth, and events at the school. Fall grade-level meetings are designed intentionally to foster communication, allow teachers to share grade-specific information, and develop a common understanding regarding communication. We also launched a monthly coffee with the head of school as an opportunity to discuss concerns and hear updates about the program.

      Finally, we have worked on clarifying internal protocols, including the development of a strategy for updating parents regarding student behavior every day, week, month, and trimester. 
Faculty Feedback

Exemplary comments: 

  • “As a first year teacher, my weekly meetings with [my supervisor] were the most helpful. Being able to go over lessons, different teaching methods, and tips on communicating with students and their families really made this year a breeze.”  –Teacher
  • “Identifying and connecting student needs with our school counselor have had a big impact on not only ensuring that the students remain organized and on top of work, but have also ensured that no (or at least fewer) students fall through the cracks and helps ensure strong family partnership and social/emotional well-being.” –Teacher
  • “Electives have also strengthened not just in the offerings but also the strength of the programs. In particular, the entrepreneur's club and Shakespeare elective have given our students great exposure and experience with fun and engaging extra curricular activities.”  –Teacher
  • “Outside partnerships in English (poetry, Shakespeare) and science (neuroscience) and the opportunity to participate in national math competitions went particularly well, with the students being engaged, excited, focused, and making the most out of the learning opportunity. The Princeton Blairstown Center and RPI trips continue to be valuable experiences and chances to connect for our students.”  –Teacher
  • “[My supervisor] continued to be an incredible leader and invaluable mentor to me personally and professionally. Our meetings always started with a personal check in to see how I was handling my workload and new curricular developments. [My supervisor’s] guidance and advice (not just this year, but truly over the entirety of the last [several] years) have shaped who I am as an educator and advisor immensely.”  –Teacher

 

Opportunities for improvement: 

  • Teachers highlighted some areas where we can tighten policies or procedures, such as protocols around study hall and coming in and out for recess, to ensure consistent implementation. 
    • We have revised our staff handbook with a focus on ensuring consistency in the way we introduce and enforce policies and procedures.  These policies are discussed and practiced during August team work days and reviewed during weekly meetings with supervisors to ensure consistent implementation. 
  • Teachers discussed developing parental buy-in regarding the school’s behavior system. 
    • To develop shared goals and expectations, we learned that we need to be more explicit in the way our merit system and overall character growth program is explained in the staff handbook, family handbook, and with students to ensure both consistency of expectations and implementation. In response, we have revamped our family and staff handbooks, scheduled this topic to be an area of focus during staff work days and parent orientation in August, and highlighted it as an area for supervisors and veteran teachers to work on with newer team members. The handbook now provides a detailed description of our character development program and the merit system, including a protocol for updating parents on a daily, weekly, monthly, and quarterly basis.

      In addition, we have strengthened opportunities early in the year for parents to meet with teachers. For instance, parent orientation (held in August) will focus on what parents can expect in terms of communication around academic performance, character growth, and events at the school. During the fall, grade-level meetings provide an opportunity to dive deeper into these areas with grade-specific information. Finally, a monthly coffee with the head of school will offer an opportunity for parents to discuss concerns and hear updates about the program. We are focused on using each of these opportunities to discuss the child-centered rationale behind our policies as we prepare bright, motivated children for success at top secondary schools.