Strengthening Student Evaluations
At my studio, we’re trying something new this year when it comes to communications with parents: personalized progress reports for every student. Yes, that means HUNDREDS of families will receive a customized evaluation through a new system we’ve adopted. It’s called VAL™. And it has the potential to change everything about how we see the dancers’ progress!
We’ve always offered parent-teacher conference opportunities and open lines of communication. But until now, we’ve never brought detailed, individualized student evaluations directly to each family. It required bandwidth our team didn’t have. What changed my mind was the EASE in which my staff can use VAL™. What’s more, the setup looks clean and professional with our Misty’s Dance Unlimited logo and custom rubric.
Jennifer Tell, who co-owns VAL™ with her husband Jason (and is a studio owner herself) said that the idea came when her now-teenage daughter was in gymnastics many years ago. Jennifer knew her little girl was one of many at the large gym, and she was pleasantly surprised when her daughter received a personal progress report. She says she felt reassured that her child was seen—and that the coach was invested in her growth. It made Jennifer think that there had to be a way to systemize and simplify the process for other businesses, like her own dance studio.
That was one of the first things that appealed to me about VAL™—the system makes it super-easy for teachers to input their feedback; for them, it’s just like filling out a Google form. It’s equally easy for the evaluations to be approved (or edited) by the studio owner or director. I also loved that we could create our very own rubric using the template from VAL™ as a starting point.
I asked Jennifer how her studio sets up the rubric, knowing that like many studios, we would have different needs for different ages and levels of evaluations.
“I recommend evaluating on character qualities and citizenship,” Jennifer says. She explained that at her studio, they use criteria in their rubric like following directions, being a helpful friend, taking turns, adhering to the dress code, and more. These things “show the parents that the teacher knows their child and recognizes their strengths and growth areas. Then, for competitive or more serious dancers, skill comes into play. We’ve learned that those evaluations eliminate surprises when it’s time for auditions or class placement.”
Well, I LOVED hearing this! It’s exactly what I’d hoped we could accomplish. We didn’t want our younger and less experienced dancers to feel discouraged by being evaluated. Instead, we want to remind them that when it comes to the benefits of dance class, it’s not all about the steps. At the same time, we want to support the skills-related goals of our more experienced kids and give them an opportunity to use more specific feedback.
Here’s the coolest part: Because we’re implementing these progress reports, I know our communications with parents will be better than ever. Like Jennifer’s experience with her daughter at gymnastics, I have felt more connected to my kids’ teachers and coaches anytime I receive personal updates about school or activities. It’s meaningful in a way that every parent desires. <3
If you’re not already offering student evaluations, this is the season to do it! More than ever, our dance families want to feel involved. They want to understand their child’s strengths and help them with the areas that need improvement. They want to KNOW that dance is having the positive impact we’ve promised.
I encourage you to reach out to Jennifer with any questions or if you want to try VAL™ for free. Just by signing up you get the chance to test out the system for yourself at no cost and no obligation. How great is that!?
Here’s to awesome communications and encouragement for our kids!