Saturday / June 22

Living Out our School Mission to Increase Student Aspirations

common formative assessment

Contributed by Dave Nagel

Student AspirationsDo your students have a strong sense of self-worth and feel they really belong at your school? Would your students say they have an adult they would refer to as a hero? Do they feel recognized for their efforts and have a sense of accomplishment? Dr. Russ Quaglia and Dr. Michael Corso are sharing why these questions matter and how schools can help students connect how their current actions and efforts need to align with their future hopes and dreams.

Their Student Aspirations Framework™ isn’t a program schools can purchase and put their teachers and school level leaders through several days of training and then monitor adult actions of fidelity of implementation through a check-list. It’s a way of establishing conditions and actions to afford every student the best chance to align their efforts toward achieving and attaining their dreams.

Guiding Principles and Playing the Odds

Quaglia and Corso highlight three guiding principles in schools that support student aspirations: Self-Worth, Engagement, and Purpose. Under each of these principles are conditions schools must set up that considerably increase the chances that every student will have the ability to dream about their future and be inspired to take actions today to get there. In working with schools and over the past thirty years, Quaglia and Corso have surveyed over a million students world-wide and are sharing the what student voices are telling us—and we all need to listen and act accordingly in their new publication, Student Voice: The Instrument of Change (Corwin Press, 2014).


One of the principles of the Aspirations Framework™ is that students need to have a deep sense of self-worth. This is cultivated when students feel individually valued, learn from and feel they can truly trust the adults in their school, and believe they can accomplish great things. Schools foster students developing a sense of self-worth when their systems and structures support conditions of belonging, heroes, and a sense of accomplishment.


When students truly feel they belong; that their school welcomes and accepts them, but also allows them to retain their sense of individualism, they are eight times more likely to believe they can be successful, four times more likely to feel comfortable asking questions, and three times more likely to say they put forth their best effort than students who do not agree they feel accepted for who they are (p.59). Do your students feel welcome in your school while still being able to maintain their individuality?


Next, self-worth is nurtured when students have a hero; someone that inspires them to excel and drive hard for their dreams. These are the everyday adults in the lives of students that inspire them to make the kind of meaningful changes in their mindsets and actions. Heroes are far more than just mentors. Students who say they have a teacher who is a positive role model are four times more likely to enjoy participating in class, four times more likely to enjoy learning new things, and three times more important to believe getting good grades is important than students who don’t have a teacher for a positive role model (p.65). Would your students call you one of their heroes?

Sense of Accomplishment

Finally, schools foster student’s self-worth by recognizing their sense of accomplishment through effort, stick-with-it-ness, and citizenship. When students feel a sense of accomplishment, they are more likely to say that getting good grades are important. These students are fifteen times more likely to say they put forth their best effort, eleven times more likely to push themselves to do better academically, and seven times more likely to indicate they enjoy learning new things… than students who don’t agree grades are important to them (p.71). How does your school/classroom foster students’ sense of accomplishment?

Knowing that a lot of school mission statements highlight some of the points mentioned above, maybe its time we start living them out through our day-to-day adult actions and asking our students some critically important questions. The answers may cause us to rethink some of our structures and systems in our schools.

Be that the case, I think the odds are worth investing in, don’t you?

Written by

Dave Nagel is an international educational consultant and researcher. His educational career started as a middle school science and high school biology teacher. His administrative experiences involved being a middle school assistant principal, high school associate principal, and director of extended day and credit recovery programs. In his former district, Dave was instrumental in implementing power standards and performance assessments. He was honored numerous times as a “Senior Choice” winner, with graduating seniors selecting him as someone who dramatically affected their life in a positive way. Dave has been a national and international presenter and consultant to schools for over 10 years. Using his experience and expertise, he has presented and helped schools, from pre-K through Grade 12, implement effective practices leading to gains in student achievement. His main focus when working with schools has revolved around assessment, instruction, leadership, and effective collaboration. He has worked specifically with schools in implementing the following topics: prioritizing standards, common formative assessments, building authentic performance tasks, effective use of scoring guides, data teams, rigorous curriculum design, and effective grading practices. Dave is the author of Effective Grading Practices for Secondary Teachers.

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