Administrators, staff ask: ‘Do Moorestown students have grit?’

At the most recent Moorestown Board of Education meeting, administrators discussed the data they’ve compiled surrounding students’ social-emotional learning.

Are Moorestown students able to persevere through setbacks to achieve their long-term goals? This is one of the questions teachers and administrators have been tackling as they take an in-depth look at students’ social-emotional learning.

At the most recent Moorestown Board of Education meeting, administrators discussed the data they’ve compiled surrounding students’ social-emotional learning as well as the steps they’re taking to ensure Moorestown students have the coping mechanisms in place to help them succeed.

Last spring, the district administered a Panorama survey to students in grades three through nine. Director of Guidance Services Kat D’Ambra said the district wanted to have baseline numbers on students’ social-emotional learning to work with, so 1,982 students were surveyed.

David Tate, director of special education, presented the data compiled from the third graders who were surveyed at South Valley Elementary School. He said administrators and staff examined the data as it related to growth mindset, which looked at student perceptions of whether they have the potential to change those factors that are central to their performance in school.

Based on their data, the third graders ranked in the 75th percentile for growth mindset compared to the national average. He said they asked teachers and administrators to infer what that data might be telling them. The feedback they received was that staff think students are aware of perceived social expectations, and students may have a sense of a fear of failure but generally had a positive outlook as well.

Tate said staff suggested encouraging perseverance and developing the idea of “not yet” with students. He said staff said there should be more time for individual student-teacher interaction.

Staff also looked at the data as it pertained to grit, which looked at how well students are able to persevere through setbacks to achieve their long-term goals. Tate said Moorestown’s third-grade students ranked in the 50th percentile compared to the national average.

The feedback they heard from staff was, again, students may experience a fear of failure. Tate said staff discussed the need for strategies to help students feel confident to try again.

Looking forward, the district’s goal is to extend teaching grit and social-emotional learning beyond guidance.

“What we’re really seeing is a paradigm shift, we believe, in the district where social-emotional learning is being thought of as something we need to teach intentionally not just because it happens whenever it happens or just in guidance,” Tate said.

Tate said the next steps are for the district to take all this data and form a small committee of all elementary schools and determine what they’re going to do. He said this could mean implementing some sort of program or a possible change in the elementary schedule to create time to teach these concepts. He said he expects these changes to start occuring at the end of this school year and into next year. Tate said they are currently in the process of reviewing data from the Upper Elementary School, William Allen Middle School and Moorestown High School.

D’Ambra said studying students’ social-emotional learning is a continuous process for the district as it works toward a long-term approach.

“We want to generate a cohesive, comprehensive program for students that is well-articulated and more importantly sustainable over time,” D’Ambra said.

The next meeting of the Moorestown Township Board of Education will take place on Tuesday, Nov. 13, at 7 p.m. in William Allen Middle School.