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Return on Investment: Measuring Student Success

Our vision at Da Vinci Schools is that all students graduate as collaborative, informed, resourceful and reflective individuals who are college-ready, career-prepared and community-minded. We will know this vision is fulfilled when students come back years after graduating and tell us about their success in college, their accomplishments as career professionals, and about their overall attainment of happiness in life. As we currently evaluate our progress in supporting students toward these outcomes, we hope to blend both current student achievements as well as alumni outcomes to guide our practice in generating the greatest impact on success for the students who we serve.

For our currently enrolled students, we measure achievement on an ongoing basis, using multiple measures to assess what students know and can do through projects that foster real-world connections and college and career-preparedness. We look at indicators such as successful completion of high school coursework, presentations of learning, Real World Learning work experience and internship participation, and college level course completion prior to high school graduation. Annual student, parent, and staff surveys help us stay in touch with the success of our work in less tangible areas such as connections with peers and school staff, academic and social preparedness, and well-being. Though standardized testing is not something that drives our practice, we continue to look at it as part of the big picture as well, including state mandated testing and other nationally normed college prep tests such as PSAT, SAT, and ACT. College application and acceptance rates also help us evaluate whether or not students are succeeding in high school, and all Da Vinci students are expected to graduate with course work beyond the University of California and California State University course entry requirements (A-G eligibility).

Our interest in ensuring college success further drives us to keep up with our alumni and how they fare in the college experience. We currently track college enrollment information such as where students attend directly after high school, as well as where students currently attend each semester. We use National Student Clearinghouse data to keep an eye on college persistence (whether or not students choose to continue in college), and their college transfer patterns. As our first graduating classes have begun to earn college degrees, we are also tracking college graduation rates and looking at areas of study (majors) and whether or not they align with areas of focus in elective career pathways or Real World Learning that our alumni completed with us when they were in high school. Da Vinci Alumni Coordinators utilize this information to keep in touch with alumni, monitor and support students considering leaving college, and connect our graduates with additional resources as they continue on their path through college and career. Our alumni also play a role in the success of our current students, as many alum return to Da Vinci each year to speak to their younger peers about the knowledge and experience they’ve gained beyond our walls.

At our core, our mission is that our Da Vinci students go on to lead happy, productive, and engaged lives beyond our walls into college, career, and life. Defining and evaluating happiness in life beyond school into the world of work and personal life experience is a tall order, but one that we aspire to achieve. We have begun to engage in the process of researching and identifying non-traditional data that we hope to utilize to determine some of our tough to quantify goals for students. We are actively pursuing a broader scope of evaluation inspired by many sources, including the Gallup-Purdue Index report Great Jobs, Great Lives, the Gallup study State of the American Workplace, and the Search Institute’s 40 Developmental Assets. As a team, we are discussing the significance of these findings and their application to our work not only internally, but with key industry and funding partners as well, and we look forward to developing our evaluation practices to include happiness indicators for current and former Da Vinci students in the near future.