In the spring of last year, 647 parents and guardians completed our Parent/Guardian Survey, which was designed to learn about your experience at Brentwood—what was working well and areas for improvement. Thank you to everyone that completed the survey, as it was extensive and this return rate is much higher than the norm for other schools.
Before getting into the major takeaways, I want to describe our process. Once the survey closed, we sent the raw data, including all of the comments, to a UCLA statistician for analysis. The results and comments were shared with the Division Directors and other administrative leadership at the school over the summer. This ensured that some of the observations would be incorporated into goals and action items for this year. In early September, this same information was presented to the Board of Trustees at our annual retreat. Finally, we shared the results with each division's faculty and staff over the course of this semester.
One of the standout pieces of information from the survey is that a primary reason families choose, and are pleased with, Brentwood is because they value the quality of our academic program alongside multiple other opportunities the school presents, which is in perfect alignment with our school philosophy. From athletics to the arts to service learning to college placement, respondents value that Brentwood is a school where students can have a great academic experience alongside a variety of opportunities to explore other aspects of themselves. Our academics are rigorous yet still allow our students to have full lives.
General school culture, community, and a focus on the student-teacher relationship were far and away the most cited items that respondents hope never change about Brentwood. And the quantitative data reinforced this by highlighting our strong, close-knit community and faculty-student relationships that include support along with high expectations.
In general, while respondents were pleased with their Brentwood experience, there are areas for improvement. From the narrative portion of the survey, constructive criticism fell
into roughly one of four categories:
- A classroom experience where there was not alignment or connection between their student and the teacher.
- An administrator or teacher who did not respond promptly to a concern or who did not agree with their assessment of the situation.
- A discipline situation that a family disagreed with, whether about their child or another.
- A philosophical disagreement about a particular curriculum in a specific class.
The quantitative data focused on improvement in the areas of further promoting our Core Values (especially diversity) and accessibility/responsiveness, especially from administrators.
We have taken these results to heart in all three divisions and are working to improve the areas of concern as well as building off of our strengths. I hope that you are seeing some this in your children's experience as Brentwood students. As always, if you have questions please reach out to me.
On one final note, there was a surprising change between this survey and the one given in 2014. In this most recent survey, when asked to identify What Matters Most, the response of "Very Important" increased across the board, typically by 5% to 11% —essentially making everything "Very Important." I think this is representative of the intense societal pressure our students, families, faculty, and staff feel to be perfect. As an educator, this is troubling. This concern is magnified when, in separate meetings with college admissions directors from two different, ultra-competitive colleges, the common lament was that students do not know how to fail. Or, more precisely, to rebound and learn from mistakes.
This next week, as Upper and Middle School students head into reviews and finals, let's embrace this insight. Support their hard work without getting attached to the results. Expect a few miscues along the way and do your best to help them learn from these mistakes.
Have a great weekend.