The latest fad sweeping Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) is linking “hope, engagement and wellbeing,” to academic success. Students in the school system will participate in a survey to measure these indicators from Tuesday, October 1, through Friday, November 1, 2013. The survey is administered to students in grades 5 through 12 via a secure website.”
The Gallup Student Poll claims that it “has harnessed years of research and development, and distilled three key indicators of student success into a single metric.” Of course, those three indicators are … drum roll please … hope, engagement and wellbeing. The Gallup website asserts that “the poll measures student hope for the future, engagement with school, and wellbeing - factors that have been shown to drive students' grades, achievement scores, retention, and future employment.”
How were these factors “shown” to be linked with student performance? The website provides a flyer on “Hope research,” authored by Shane J. Lopez, detailing the research behind linking “hope” to academic achievement. Hope scores, the publication asserts “are more robust predictors of college success than high school GPA, SAT, and ACT scores.” It is unclear how that conclusion was reached.
Gallup has provided parents with the opportunity to review the questions asked in the poll. They include “were you treated with respect all day yesterday?” and the students degree of agreement with the statement “in the last seven days, I have received recognition or praise for doing good schoolwork.”
Additional items on the fall 2012 survey, included questions regarding the student’s living arrangements at home, age, gender, and racial/ethnic origin. These items are, it seems, linked to the respondent’s name and other personal information. For example, on the basis of the survey administered to teachers, and other factors Gallup identified a Montgomery County teacher, Mary Hawkins-Jones, as the Most Hopeful Teacher in America. It should be noted that Gallup does assert that the questions “will not violate regulations set forth in The Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment (PPRA).”
However, according to newspaper reports, students at Weller Road Elementary School will have access to a new health center that serves both students and families. These students include fifth graders who will participate in the Gallup poll. Consequently, the school system will have the ability to access to comprehensive data on the personal lives of these students. There are concerns that MCPS has had little public discourse on privacy safeguards regarding these highly personal information sources.
Author's note: The MCPS Public Information Office informed the author that students may opt not to fill out the questionnaire.