Is Data King: What really matters?

Lately, there has a lot of talk about data being king. When I explore what data constitutes parents most strongly consider prior to enrolling their children in our school, they most often refer to college acceptance as a significant demonstration of success among our students. We are happy to report 100% acceptance at 4-year colleges with impressive academic scholarships.

However, lately I have found myself taking a broader look at the measure of success, particularly as alumni return to me bemoaning the straight path from college and internship to career, financial security, and happiness. What exactly constitutes success in the minds and heart of Voyagers’ alumni?

According to Madeline Levine in The Atlantic Magazine, “Financial independence is one way to measure success, a sense of doing meaningful and fulfilling work is another, and raising a healthy family and contributing to one’s community yet another.” (February 2020) The question is in the order of importance and the significance of each factor on the whole person.

When I consider the Voyagers’ students who have moved on to college, I find most have managed the academics admirably, completed interesting and challenging internships, and graduated. Many have traveled and studied abroad and some have moved on to graduate school. There are others who chose a different path. They opened businesses, moved on to earn a certificate in a trade, served communities overseas, and established nonprofit organizations and small businesses. Many, whether in or outside of college, have taken meandering paths that have revealed opportunities to be flexible, try new things, turn passions into profit, and hold onto happiness.

Often, Voyagers’ graduates consider themselves successful because they are passionate about the work they do and find that this passion drives them to work harder than others, handle mistakes effectively, and learn from failures. They feel what they do has an impact and this is the indicator of success, and where satisfaction and happiness is rooted. While money must be earned for most, real success has many other characteristics for these adults.

While the tale of success for our high school students often, like so many others when moving on, involves a seemingly straight line, from grades and SAT scores, to admittance to colleges and the completion of an internship and graduation, our data tells us they are meandering within and outside of tradition, having graduated, taken sabbaticals, transferred, changed majors, initiated startups, toured with a band, and opened small businesses.

Our graduates continue to prove that anything is possible and that many are following circuitous trajectories that are of their own making and driven by a desire to be contributing members of society with financial stability, personal satisfaction, and happiness. They continue, after Voyagers’, on a path that leads to success as defined by them. They live the Voyagers’ Vision as they grow and learn as a whole person; develop thinking and working attitudes that empower them to take over their own growth; reflect their vision, tenacity, initiative, imagination, generosity, and exploration ; approach life with a bounding level of excitement, enthusiasm, creativity, ingenuity, inquisitiveness and individual satisfaction; invoke vibrancy and trust in themselves; find their voice and participate in a democratic community; and where their learning and life is defined by no one and by everyone.

About the Author: Karen Giuffre’, M.Ed is the Founding Director of Voyagers’ Community School, soon celebrating its 15th year. She is staunchly dedicated to constructing joyful learning spaces with children from 12 months through 12th Grade. She finds kindred spirits among other innovative educators who are dedicated and work every day to ignite students’ curiosity. In the coming months, she will introduce Journal readers to Innovation In Education.

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