Our Whole Child Perspective on the School Mission

Announcing ERB’s New Data-Driven Whole Child Solution

Every educator knows that students are more than a neural network waiting to be further developed. They are human beings. 

As fellow humans, we know what that means. Students come into school with a set of life experiences that makes them happy or sad, that may or may not be stressful, that may or may not cause them to feel they belong to a supportive family and community. Any or all of these factors may affect a student’s academic performance.

As students mature, they also develop the tools essential for navigating their environment – some more fully than others. These include self-management and executive functioning, empathetic insight into others, and the ability to form and maintain relationships. 

Teachers, advisers, and learning support specialists understand this process and become adept at “reading” their students. They know, for example, when a child needs encouragement as opposed to a nudge. But daily observation may not reveal everything about a child’s sense of belonging in the school community, their confidence in their ability to navigate their social environment, or their level of interest and engagement in the classroom. Nor can observation alone provide a clear indication of any trends – positive or negative – in those aspects of a student’s perceptual world.

“Students come into school with a set of life experiences that makes them happy or sad, that may or may not be stressful, that may or may not cause them to feel they belong to a supportive family and community. Any or all of these factors may affect a student’s academic performance.”

Tom Rochon, ERB President

ERB’s Whole Student Approach to Education

ERB has developed a Whole Child Solution that combines insights into a student’s academic performance with an understanding of their sense of well-being, belonging, and engagement in the school community. The ultimate goal is to inform educators’ decision-making and ultimately equip students with the tools they need to navigate their school’s academic and social demands. It all ties back to the data educators collect through ERB’s product “bundles” which provide a holistic picture of a student’s strengths and areas for improvement.

As part of the solution, academic performance is measured by our long-standing Comprehensive Testing Program (CTP) summative assessment – known by many students and families as “the ERBs” – and by our much briefer Milestones interim assessment for use throughout the school year.  

A student’s state of mind is measured by the ERB Check-In Survey, 15 questions on the student’s emotional well-being, academic engagement, and sense of fairness and belonging in the school community. And, our SelfWise inventory draws upon the CASEL framework to understand the student’s skills in self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making.

The Check-In Survey takes less than 10 minutes to complete, and the SelfWise inventory less than 30 minutes. This respects the need to minimize time spent on assessment while also making it possible to identify trends with multiple administrations during the school year. It may be of value, for example, to measure the growth of a student’s sense of belonging during the first months of the year, particularly to ensure that first-year students are successfully integrating into the school community. It may also be valuable to have periodic soundings of student stress levels to understand the impact of any stress-inducing event at school or in the students’ external environments.  

While the behavioral, introspective and relationship skills in the SelfWise inventory are likely more consistent over time than student emotional well-being, academic engagement and sense of belonging, it is nonetheless valuable to conduct that assessment two or three times during the school year in order to monitor student development.

At ERB, we know fairness and belonging are the foundation for student well-being and development, with emotional well-being and academic engagement developing as key steps in the student journey.

Measuring Student Well-Being and Development with Data

What is the value of using a formal measure of student well-being and development when educators are already trained experts at observation and inference? There are several benefits to deploying the same standardized assessments used in many peer schools, parallel to the benefits of a standardized test of student learning:

  • These ERB assessments are benchmarked, thus helping leaders identify where their school stands in relation to peers on student stress levels, academic engagement, sense of belonging, and the core CASEL competencies
  • Viewed in our ERB 360 Access data navigation portal, results can be used for early and precise identification of any significant changes in a class, grade, or the entire school, beyond the day-to-day ups and downs of individual students
  • They can be used at the individual student level as an early warning system to identify students who are struggling – and the specific areas in which they are struggling – even if they are making satisfactory academic progress

This last point calls attention to the fact that a whole child assessment program is more than a proliferation of tests. For specific insight into how a whole child assessment program enables educators to identify the best path forward in helping each student reach their potential, please see my companion blog post titled “5 Students, 5 Stories.”  

Embracing a Whole Child Approach at ERB

The power of ERB’s Whole Child Solution, both to understand the total school environment and to identify the needs of individual students, was demonstrated for us in a 2022-2023 pilot program involving 11 ERB member schools. Schools in the pilot administered CTP, the Check-In Survey, and our SelfWise inventory to their students.

Our debrief conversations with school heads, division directors, learning specialists, and counselors identified general trends that will be of interest to all ERB members, as well as school-specific findings that were sometimes indications of mission success, and in other instances, areas in which the school leadership decided to give additional attention. We will have more to say about the types of specific insights that can stem from the Whole Child Solution in the coming weeks.

ERB has been innovating over the last half-dozen years to keep pace with the changing needs of your students and your school. The SelfWise inventory gives you insight into the tools that enable students to work effectively and navigate their school and social environments. The Check-In Survey of student well-being, engagement, and belonging in the school community helps identify blockers that may affect student learning and benchmarks your understanding of the school culture as a whole.

Putting these assessments together with CTP, our long-standing measure of student learning achievement, provides a perspective faithful to what all educators know: that a strong and supportive educational environment rests on attention to each student’s cognitive, social, and emotional development.

Learn more about ERB’s new Whole Child Solution, which provides data-driven insights for educators and families surrounding academic growth and achievement, social and emotional skills, and levels of student well-being and belonging.

About the Author

Thomas R. Rochon became president of ERB in 2017. He has held faculty appointments at Princeton University and Claremont Graduate University, a postdoctoral fellowship at Stanford University, and a year as Fulbright Scholar in Japan. Administratively, Tom has served as dean and provost at Claremont Graduate University, as provost at the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota, and as president of Ithaca College in New York. During the 1980s and 1990s, he was a regular speaker on European political trends for foreign service officers in the U.S. Department of State. Within the world of educational assessment, Tom has served as executive director of the GRE testing program at the Educational Testing Service. 

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