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School Stories

Challenge Success: Partnering to Enhance Our Students’ Experience

Marti Champion, Head of Middle School
Educators are devoted to the constant and never-ending practice of improvement. Whether it is engaging in personal growth opportunities that help clarify our purpose in the important work of educating children or professional development opportunities to improve curricular and classroom experiences for our students, we are very rarely static in our practices as we hone our craft. Similar to individuals, it is good practice for institutions to adopt this same philosophy.
As an independent school, we participate in an accreditation process every ten years where we are asked to reflect on Graland’s practices, programming, and curriculum. While this is an externally driven process, we also initiate some best practices when it comes to self-reflection, hence our work with Challenge Success this year.

Challenge Success is a non-profit organization affiliated with the Stanford University Graduate School of Education. They partner with schools and families across the nation to provide practical, research-based tools and strategies to transform the student experience in order to create a more balanced and fulfilling life for all students. With the creation of a Challenge Success Task Force, composed of administrators, the Middle School counselor, teachers, students, and parents, Graland has embarked on a three-year partnership with Challenge Success. Although this partnership will directly impact student and faculty wellbeing, it will also have implications for the Character Task Force, the Strategic Plan, and future programming.

In October 2021, students, parents, and faculty participated in a survey to collect data about time/schedule, motivation, assessment, school climate, anxiety, learning conditions, and the overall experience of being a student at Graland. Although the data is focused on the Middle School, we expect that any programmatic changes recommended by the task force in conjunction with the Strategic Plan and the work of the Character Task Force have the potential to impact a student’s entire Graland experience, Pre-Kindergarten through Grade 8. 

Looking ahead, this promises to be a dynamic process where parents, students, and faculty/staff will learn and teach each other about the challenges that come with parenting, teaching, learning, and living in this day and age. Challenge Success is not a “plug and play” program for schools to implement. Rather, it is an honest, open, and iterative investigation that allows Graland to take the reins to become our best selves based on the data that was received from our community. We are looking forward to piloting some programmatic changes based on themes that were uncovered during the data analysis. These pilots will then inform how we, as a school community, will move forward with any changes while also holding true to our north star, maintaining a rigorous program in tandem with preparing students to be engaged citizens and thoughtful leaders in an ever-changing world. 

What has been the best part of participating in the Challenge Success Task Force?
“The best part of participating in the Challenge Success Task Force for me was learning about the challenges that other students are going through. Reviewing the results of surveys and hearing about what other students are struggling with let me know that I am not the only one going through these problems. It also taught me how I can help others succeed in the Graland environment.” - Everett G., Grade 7 

Upon your graduation in June 2024, what changes do you hope to see at Graland based on Graland’s partnership with Challenge Success?
“One of the ideas that I would like to see the Challenge Success group pilot is supporting communication between parents and teachers. My proposal would require developing a portal or website that would more easily allow parents to view their child’s schedule and progress. At the moment, the current LMS (Learning Management System) doesn’t quite live up to that expectation. In our pilot, parents could schedule a Zoom with a teacher and talk about what their child is doing in school and what they are excited about.

I know this is an ambitious idea, but as the youngest member of the task force, I will be here the longest to see and experience our progress. By the time my brother graduates in 2026, I think this pilot may help parents, teachers, and students come together to understand and value many different types of student success. I think this appreciation of different definitions of success would be something I would be proud to help create.” - Jacob B., Grade 6

What do you wish your classmates knew about your experience working on the Challenge Success Task Force?
“I wish my classmates knew that Challenge Success is working to improve our stress and hear our voices. Challenge Success isn’t just a survey that no one ever sees again. The Challenge Success Task Force Team analyzed the data and brainstormed ways to improve student well-being. We worked with a team leader who ensured that the areas that students identified as recurring causes of stress and anxiety would be addressed in a meaningful way. It’s a relief to have our voices heard and to have teachers and administrators who are passionate about making a change to improve our daily lives.” - Olivia S., Grade 8 

Graland Country Day School

Graland Country Day School is a private school in Denver, Colorado, serving students in preschool, kindergarten, elementary, and middle school. Founded in Denver in 1927, Graland incorporates a rich, experiential learning approach in a traditional classroom setting, emphasizing the development of globally and socially conscious leaders who excel academically.