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Amplifying and Listening to Student Voices Leads to Academic and Cultural Improvements: A Success Story

By: Phoebe Coughlin on October 23rd, 2023

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Amplifying and Listening to Student Voices Leads to Academic and Cultural Improvements: A Success Story

District Leadership  |  School Leadership  |  Data  |  7Cs Teaching Resources  |  7Cs Practices

In their 2nd year as a campus, South Texas ISD Virtual Academy saw very strong academic results - outperforming both their region and the state of Texas on end-of-year testing. However, they lacked insight into their students' perception of their experiences at school. Did students feel cared for, or academically challenged in their classwork?

Reflecting on research that shows more positive student perceptions contribute to continued academic growth, principal Maribel Valdez decided to conduct three versions of Tripod’s 7Cs Survey throughout the 22-23 school year. The Tripod 7Cs was used as one of the key metrics in the MET (Measures of Effective Teaching) Project which found that teachers who had higher scores on the survey were more likely to have students who scored higher on state assessments and generally had higher academic outcomes.  

South Texas ISD Virtual Academy worked with Education Elements' professional education services team to implement and interpret Tripod's established 7Cs. Both companies are part of the Scholarus Learning portfolio of companies. After getting the data back from their first survey, leadership chose to focus on two constructs; care and challenge. At the end of the year, they saw sizable growth in both of these. At the beginning of the year, 70% of middle school students responded favorably to the challenge construct question, “In this class, my teacher expects nothing less than my full effort.” At the end of year, that rose to 80%. With high school students, they experienced growth from 26% to 42% in positive answers to the care construct question, “My teacher seems to know if something is bothering me.” 

statistic from data

Education Elements supported Ms. Valdez through 1:1 data analysis coaching sessions and teachers facing professional development content creation as Ms. Valdez used the following five key strategies to drive her team to this growth: 

1. Intentionally create space for non-evaluative reflection and growth 
Before digging into their individual data, staff analyzed anonymous school-level data, with a focus on growing together. Ms. Valdez modeled vulnerability and reflection as she shared campus-wide  and growth areas. Teachers then individually reflected on their own data. While some were initially surprised by the data they kept open minds as they reflected and prepared to make shifts. 

"Using the 7Cs survey helped me tap into my students' perspectives, revealing that they appreciate deeper questioning. This feedback confirmed that I needed to elevate my approach to enhancing their metacognitive skills which is not only effective, but also valued by the students themselves." -STISD VA teacher

2. Make the connection explicit between the 7Cs and Existing Structures at the school 
The 7Cs survey is non-evaluative, but growth on it is directly connected to growth on existing structures. By making the connection between the survey and T-TESS (Texas Teacher Evaluation and Support System), Ms. Valdez was able to build further investment from her team in the importance of the 7Cs. 

T-TESS Domain 3 - Classroom Environment, Routines, and Procedures 

Related 7Cs Questions 

The teacher leads a mutually respectful and collaborative class of actively engaged learners.

  • Care: My teacher in this class makes me feel that s/he really cares about me.
  • Confer: My teacher gives us time to explain our ideas.

The teacher establishes, communicates, and maintains clear expectations for student behavior.

  • Consolidate: In this class, we learn a lot almost every day.
  • Consolidate: My teacher asks questions to be sure we are following along when s/he is teaching.

The teacher organizes a safe, accessible, and efficient classroom.

  • Classroom Management: Our class stays busy and doesn't waste time.


3. Identify Individual Strengths in to Achieve School Wide Growth 
Through analysis of individual teacher’s data, teachers who had strengths in the Care construct (a growth area for the school as a whole) shared their key, replicable strategies with the rest of the teachers. The teachers excelling in this area madetime for care by using check-ins at the beginning of each class. Teachers who weren’t using this practice were able to implement it, leading to increased Care construct scores by the end of the year. 


Tripod 7Cs CTA


4. Prioritize care at the school level by reflecting on existing school-wide practices, and making needed changes 
Improving 7Cs data meant not only change at the classroom level, but also change at the school-wide level. Ms. Valdez emphasized that increasing their Care score was not only a responsibility at the individual classroom level but also at the school level. They created and held more school-wide social events that gave students an opportunity to to engage in non-academic activities. 

5. Increase challenge through professional development and planning 
Teachers thought that they were challenging students, but the initial results on the 7Cs showed that students felt like they weren’t being challenged. This led to a school-wide focus on increasing the rigor of questioning, focusing on pushing students who were mastering content quickly. 

Through non-judgmental reflection, a culture of collaboration, and an action-oriented leader, South Texas ISD Virtual Academy leveraged the 7Cs survey to amplify their students' voices and improve academic outcomes.  


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