Feedback From The First EduChat
October 20, 2011 § 1 Comment
On Tuesday night we held the first of what will hopefully be a series of conversations with citizens interested in learning more about school design and the public school options in New Orleans. It was an exiting beginning to a potentially transformative journey.
Seventeen people attended. Fifteen attendees were parents, and all of the parents either currently have, or will soon have, pre-school aged children. The group consisted primarily of New Orleans transplants: there were only two ‘native New Orleanians.’ It seemed that nearly everyone there had a connection to at least one other attendee and received a personal invitation from a friend.
Parents who attended expressed confusion, anxiety and unfamiliarity about the Kindergarten application process and public school options they will shortly face. Many attended to gain a little more clarity on both issues.
During the EduChat. I shared the latest School Performance Scores and a graph that showed the relationship between New Orleans public school performance on the 8th grade math test and the income of students in the school. All of that information was important and I got the sense that most of it was new to the attendees. People want more of it. However, at future EduChats I think that info will be provided in handout form, so good time can be spend in small-group and whole-group conversation. It took a while, but once the conversation got going, it got lively and exciting.
It is clear that New Orleans parents are hungry for something different in the schools available to them. The focus of the conversation wasn’t the new school I am thinking about per se, but rather addressed the question: “What elements contribute to a great school?” I’ll make that guiding question even more prominent in future discussions.
One of the coolest parts of the evening was a survey where I asked everyone to reveal the relative importance of popular school attributes. Folks were presented with 20 attributes, ranging from “ability to walk to school” to “tutoring for all within the school day,” and each given 100 points to allocate to the various attributes. If they felt that a particular attribute was critical, they might give it a ton of points, while if they did not place a priority on another attribute, they might leave it blank. You can see the an example of the activity here: 100 Point School Attributes. I hope to get an online poll similar to this activity up on this blog shortly.
The evening was a success. We did have some small failures, and without a doubt each EduChat will improve as I learn how to run them better. Still, Tuesday evening was an important moment in this project. I am incredibly grateful for all of the people who attended. I think we’re on to something.