What They Said About Trinity School

This is a report and reflection on the 2015 Constituent Survey for Trinity School.

The survey, designed and administered by the Southern Association of Independent Schools, was given to five constituent groups at Trinity between November 10 and 20, 2015: Parents, students, faculty, trustees, and alumni.  This is the second year we have given this survey, and we will be studying trends in our results as we develop the school’s next strategic plan.  448 people completed the survey, 242 of these parents, with an overall response rate of 43.2%, down from 522 total responses (321 parents), at a rate of 57.4% for the previous year.  We are not sure why the response rate is down this year, though we are well aware of survey fatigue in schools--already this year we have given a technology survey and a homework survey to parents and students.
Let me start with the best news from the survey, the things we can all celebrate heartily together:
  • Our faculty.  Trinity’s faculty receive the highest ratings across all constituencies--and this is a rare phenomenon in such surveys, where student ratings often differ widely from parent ratings.  Trinity’s faculty are commended for their care and concern for students, for their subject area expertise, and for their inspirational and motivating teaching.  Alumni reports agree with current students and parents on this assessment of Trinity.  
  • Safety.  The Trinity community, across the board, values physical, emotional, and spiritual safety as much as anything at the school; and all constituents rated these three in the top nine (out of 34 possible measures) in performance.  In other words, the school thinks that safety is important and that the school is doing a good job of making Trinity a safe place for students to learn.
  • Skills.  The formation and training of students to exercise curiosity, to act ethically, to demonstrate resilience, to practice teamwork, and to nurture creativity were again at the top of the list in both importance and performance.  
Among our parents, there is a strong congruence--really quite amazing--between those things that parents rate high in importance and in performance: ethical training, faculty care and concern, physical safety, emotional safety, inspirational and motivating faculty, character education, subject area expertise among faculty, and spiritual safety.  This means that Trinity is performing well (above 4.0 on a 5-point scale) the things that parents want most in a school.  In addition to these top nine, parents rate the school high for instilling in students the skills of curiosity and creativity.  
Not surprisingly, given our concerted efforts in the launch of our Digital Learning Initiative, parents and students rate the school’s performance in the area of technology very strong.  In fact, this is one area where our performance out-paces the parents’ rating in importance, and it is the area where we saw the greatest jump in performance.

When we look at the student responses, we see that six of the nine top priorities of parents are shared by students’ highest ratings.  Like their parents, students indicate strong appreciation for our faculty and for the safety of the school.  They also rate the school very high in academic rigor and in its preparation for college.  Students would like to see the school do a better job of training them in time management and in offering a greater variety of courses.

Alumni responses were low this year; those that did reply were mostly recent grads (most still in college, a few out by now).  It is gratifying to see these Trinity graduates affirm the value of our strong faculty, the safety of the school’s learning environment, the ethical training they received, and the academic rigor of Trinity’s programs.  Other learnings from this group: they think that Trinity did a particularly good job with athletics and with opportunities for participation in athletics, the arts, and co-curriculars.  Alumni also value highly skills like curiosity, resilience, creativity, and time management; and while Trinity does a good job at these, we note that our alumni think we could do better.  

The data across the two years is remarkably consistent.  From the two charts below, you can see that the order of importance for the nine major categories remains the same when measured for importance across the two years.

When we compare the two years on performance by major category, we see a similar pattern, with two exceptions (athletics and curriculum and programming switch places this year; and technology spikes).

As the board and leadership of the school analyzes these surveys, we are trying to observe larger patterns, longitudinal trends, and strategic questions.  For instance, I am particularly interested in the following:

  • Finding the things we do well, which all constituents value, which are missionally vital to the school.  Celebrate these, market these, make sure we continue to invest in these.  Faculty and safety are surely at the top of this list, and the school’s strategic initiatives going forward must reflect that we support these strongly.
  • Finding the things that all constituents value, which are missionally vital to the school, but where we could see improvement.  The school’s accreditation improvement plan and strategic initiatives should reflect new ideas and investment for moving the needle on these.  This needs more careful study, but my initial read is that concerted effort to improve our training in certain key skills like time management and resilience would be smart and wise.  
  • Finally, finding the things that are missionally vital to the school, where both our performance and our importance ratings are lower.  I would put diversity in this category: Most constituents rate this low in importance and low on performance.  But my own assessment, and that of the board, is that diversity is vitally important to the mission and health of the school and that we undervalue it at our peril.  Our work in areas like this is doubly hard: We must not only improve our performance, but also change the way our constituents assess the importance of this. 


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