April 2016 (Why Not Weston)

 

Upon coming to Weston as Superintendent, I found myself engaged in conversations about the number of school-aged students who live in town but do not attend our schools.  The obvious question was Why?  I heard as many possible reasons as the number of people with whom I spoke.  So, with the encouragement of the School Committee, we decided to ask the families who opted to enroll a child in a non-WPS school, ‘Why Not Weston?’

 

With the assistance of Social Science Research and Evaluation, Inc, we developed and administered a 13-item survey.  During the period that the survey was open, 236 people visited the website, and 160 parents completed the full survey.  Given our charge, we focused on the 113 parents who reported at least one child not attending WPS.  These 113 families have 244 school-age children (168 not in WPS, 76 in WPS.)  We estimate that this currently represents approximately 30% of the families living in Weston who have children not in our schools.

 

I recently reported the survey findings to the School Committee and  have posted a full copy of the report and the presentation slides on the left column of this page.  We hope you will look at both.  As you read these reports, I ask that you consider a few caveats to generalizing these results too broadly.  (1) The results are representative of the responding population of parents, not all WPS parents; (2) some responses are dated and do not reflect today’s WPS; and (3) we tested statistical significance where possible (highlighted in the report), but much of the data are qualitative perceptions and subject to interpretation. 

 

I clearly understand the adage, “don’t ask the question, if you don’t want to hear the answer.”  While we must be careful generalizing results, we also must avoid minimalizing them.  We thank those who responded for taking the time to help us and provide us insights into what we might want to do differently and what we have to do better. 

 

There is a lot to learn from the results, some things very specific, some more systemic.  I’ll share briefly the three (3) “take-aways” from the results that I believe we have to reflect upon more deeply and find ways to improve.  Respondents told us: 

 

1. They perceive a lack of customized, individual attention for their child.

2. You are not doing enough to meet my child’s needs regardless of his/her level (grade or academic).

3. The needs of all students are not being addressed in an equitable manner.

 

These underlying issues can be found in almost 99% of the responses.

 

So what’s next?  We will be sharing and discussing this report with our administrators and staff.  We will ask everyone to self-reflect on what it means to them and what we, as a system, might want to do differently or better.  We will be reminding ourselves that there are a lot of things that we do very well in supporting and preparing students for their futures and these can’t be lost or discredited. 

 

I unabashedly argue that Weston Public Schools are world class.  There is a growth mindset in world class schools and continuous improvement is in their DNA.  That is true for us as well.  Are we the right schools for everyone?  No. I respect a parent’s decision to select a public or private school that is “right” for their child.  Nevertheless, we have high expectations for ourselves and will learn and grow, and state with pride, Why Not Weston?

 
John Brackett
Superintendent
 

 
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