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Lower Merion School District


Redefining Success

LMSD's definition of success incorporates creativity, critical thinking, love of learning, and innovation for each and every child to encourage globally aware and engaged students. We reach far beyond standardized test scores, embracing and celebrating the many ways in which students demonstrate individual growth.

What is the big idea?

We will transform how we define, measure, and report student achievement with a focus on each student's individualized growth and mastery in areas that extend beyond traditional academic indicators.

Why do we need to do this?

Lower Merion School District has a long legacy of graduating successful students who go on to do great things in the world. The District is also committed to supporting the needs of every child and eliminating achievement gaps that have persisted for too long. For those who have lived the LMSD experience, we know that success has always been more than an answer on a test, a number on a chart. While there is value in measuring academic growth through standardized assessments, there are important outcomes worth measuring that state assessments aren't designed or intended to reveal. We believe there is a need to develop a holistic system of assessments aligned to our values and goals. What's most important - what we want to ensure - is that we have kids who are happy, who feel safe and supported and inspired, and who are prepared to overcome challenges, lead, and change the world.

It's time to redefine success. This is our obligation and responsibility to our children.

How will we do this?

  • Create protocols that measure development (i.e. social, emotional and physical wellness), creativity, critical thinking, love of learning and innovation so that growth is more broadly measured
  • Re-examine how student growth is reported so that it is more comprehensive (i.e. narrative)
  • Expand use of assessment protocols (e.g. portfolios) so that assessment practices are balanced; include more self-reflection, embedded formative assessment, criterion-based measurement (e.g. rubrics), performance-based measures (e.g. create presentations, complete projects) into curriculum
  • Transform graduation requirements and the distribution of courses and experiences
  • Provide professional learning opportunities

How will we measure progress?

  • A full range of measurement protocols that align with our expanding definitions of success, including:
    • Protocols that measure development (i.e. social, emotional and physical wellness), creativity, critical thinking, love of learning, and innovation
    • Student self-reflection of growth based on essential learning targets
    • Student surveys and exit interviews at each level
    • Traditional indicators of success, such as standardized assessments
  • Assessment calendar that balances students' well-being, the need to measure growth and allows professionals to collaboratively and promptly provide feedback
  • Evaluations of professional learning

Who will be responsible?

Superintendent and Superintendent's designees

How will we know we have moved the District forward?

  • Reduced standardized testing
  • Closed achievement, equity, access and opportunity gaps
  • Strong academic performance of students as measured by traditional indicators
  • Student reports of higher levels of social, emotional, and physical well-being and of feeling empowered to take academic risks
  • Multiple paths to success, before and after graduation, valued and celebrated by students, faculty and the community



"Success is being able to pick up your instrument and play a song for the joy of creating music. Success is hearing music and being able to understand what you have heard."

-Music Teacher, Elementary School

"Success is growth, not only in academics, but also in social-emotional areas. In order to recognize what growth looks like, you have to have a personal relationship with each student."

-School Counselor, Middle School

"By struggling with complex ideas out loud and generating my own questions, I try to model how learning takes shape and show that making sense of information isn't always a linear process. The real reward is that "aha" moment."

-English Teacher, High School

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