Talking to Your Community about CS

A critical part of school change is getting buy-in and commitment from all school community stakeholders – staff, students, and parents. Below you’ll find some resources to help you communicate with your stakeholders about Challenge Success. 


Challenge Success Overview Slide Deck

This deck provides an overview of Challenge Success, which may be useful to share with members of your community. You may also download the full deck.


Frequently Asked Questions

What is Challenge Success?
Why is it called Challenge Success?
We are partnering with Challenge Success. What does that mean? Why are there multiple stakeholders – including students and parents – on our school’s Challenge Success team?
What have other schools done with Challenge Success?
What about rigor? I’m worried about “dumbing down” our curriculum or coddling our students.
Kids need to learn to deal with stress – it is part of life. Can’t some stress be okay or even helpful for students?
If our school makes changes do we risk making our kids less competitive in the college application process?
Why do we need to change anything? I think our school is great as it is.
We’ve got so many initiatives already. Why do we need something else?
Are we going to fix everything in a year? How long will it take?
How can I learn more and get involved in school change efforts?


What is Challenge Success?
Challenge Success is a non-profit organization affiliated with the Stanford University Graduate School of Education. Challenge Success partners with schools, families, and communities to embrace a broad definition of success and to implement research-based strategies that promote student well-being and engagement with learning. For the past 15 years, the organization has had a proven track record working with over 350 schools (public, private, and religious) across the country to share research-based solutions and tools including:

  • Student and parent surveys designed to help schools make data-informed decisions
  • Schoolwide reform initiatives centered around SPACE, a research-based framework that addresses students’ Schedule and use of time, Project & problem-based learning, alternative & authentic Assessments, Climate of care, and Education for the whole community
  • Parent education programs, research-based tip sheets, and white papers
  • Professional development programs for educators

Why is it called Challenge Success?
The name Challenge Success reflects the belief that when society becomes too focused on narrow definitions of success (like grades, test scores, prestige, and performance), kids have less space to develop the skills they need to become resilient and engaged learners and to grow into healthy young adults. Research affirms that a broader approach to success does not come at the expense of academic rigor.

We are partnering with Challenge Success. What does that mean?
As a partner school, we are committed to a year-long collaboration with Challenge Success. During this time, our team – comprised of administrators, teachers, parents, and students – will explore research-based policies and practices that improve student well-being and promote academic engagement. Throughout the year, we will:

  1. Work with a Challenge Success coach or School Program Director to set our vision for change and identify action strategies
  2. Attend two Challenge Success conferences where we work with our coach, attend workshops, and network with other schools
  3. Explore research-based tools to inform our efforts
  4. Learn from and alongside a cohort of 50+ other schools from across the country

One size does not fit all. We recognize the importance of focusing on research-based actions specific to the needs of our school.

Why are there multiple stakeholders – including students and parents – on our school’s Challenge Success team?
Our school is a community of educators, families, and students. We recognize that for real, lasting progress, we need our whole community involved in both identifying challenges and driving solutions. We all have a part to play. Student voice is especially critical. Our students have unique insights into what works and what doesn’t and can help us identify specific actions to support their overall school experience.

What have other schools done with Challenge Success?
A lot! There is a wide range of examples of what other schools have done within the SPACE Framework to improve student well-being and increase engagement with learning. Challenge Success shares these resources and connects us with other schools who have experience in particular areas where we hope to make change.

What about rigor? I’m worried about “dumbing down” our curriculum or coddling our students.
Academic rigor and student well-being are not mutually exclusive. It is possible, even essential, to prioritize both for our students. Schools in the Challenge Success network provide nice examples of how this works in practice. Case studies from some of these schools are available in Overloaded and Underprepared: Strategies for Stronger Schools and Healthy, Successful Kids.

It is also important not to confuse “rigor” (how assignments challenge, interest, and engage students) with “load” (how much work is assigned). Research suggests that school workload – and the “more is better” mindset – is a primary source of stress for students and is associated with higher levels depression, sleep deprivation, and other physical health problems.

Kids need to learn to deal with stress – it is part of life. Can’t some stress be okay or even helpful for students?
Absolutely. Stress operates on a continuum and can take both positive and negative forms. Some kinds of stress (called eustress) can be motivating and support healthy development of confidence and competence. Many kids, however, are burdened by distress: ongoing stress that can be harmful to their health and interfere with positive growth and development. Chronic distress can lead to mental and physical health issues like anxiety and depression, disengagement from learning, risk-taking behaviors, and disconnection from family and friends. Challenge Success works to decrease the unhealthy forms of stress, so that students can thrive as learners and contribute to their schools and communities.

If our school makes changes do we risk making our kids less competitive in the college application process?
No. In fact, colleges are looking for students with skills like collaboration, creativity, and critical thinking, and they want healthy kids who are ready to explore, engage with, and master material. Additionally, colleges are seeing unprecedented rates of anxiety and depression in their students and are concerned that kids are not healthy and able to make the most of their college experience. Many colleges are shifting admissions practices and including more project-based learning and interdisciplinary opportunities that require students to be self-directed and mastery-focused, rather than performance-based. Challenge Success advocates for research-based pedagogical approaches that develop these college-oriented competencies.

Some students experience tremendous pressure to attend a highly ranked or selective college because of the perceived impact it has on their future. Challenge Success summarizes research about rankings, college outcomes related to selectivity, and fit in their white paper, A “Fit” Over Rankings: Why College Engagement Matters More Than Selectivity. Additionally, Challenge Success partners with organizations – like the Mastery Transcript Consortium and Turning the Tide – that are actively trying to change current admissions processes and priorities to be more aligned with the types of skills, competencies, and characteristics that make students successful in college.

Why do we need to change anything? I think our school is great as it is.
Yes, our school is great! Many schools with strong academic reputations are part of the Challenge Success program. We partnered with Challenge Success to make our school even better for students by applying the latest educational research and practices.

We’ve got so many initiatives already. Why do we need something else?
The Challenge Success SPACE Framework acts as an umbrella that helps to connect and unify the things we are already doing to support students and improve our school. Challenge Success helps us synthesize our current efforts. This is not a new initiative, as much as it is a way to connect and energize our efforts to better support our students to be healthy and engaged with learning.

Are we going to fix everything in a year? How long will it take?
The Challenge Success program is set up to match our academic school year. Some changes may go into effect this year while others will take more than a year to implement. Part of why this takes a long time is that we need to test and pilot our ideas, integrate with other work we are doing, and learn more from our students and community in order to deeply understand challenges and craft meaningful and sustainable solutions. Some initiatives will happen this year, including data collection, conversations as a community, and pilot initiatives that bring both awareness and momentum to our vision and longer term goals.

How can I learn more and get involved in school change efforts?

  • Talk to a member of our school’s Challenge Success team to find out how to support the work at our school. We welcome your questions, contributions, and conversation.
  • Visit the Challenge Success website at www.challengesuccess.org.
  • Review Raising Well-Balanced Kids and Tips to Help Your Child Thrive, which offer common-sense tips based on children’s developmental needs and research on child and adolescent well-being.
  • Read Challenge Success White Papers that summarize research and offer practical suggestions on topics including homework, cheating, college admissions, and Advanced Placement (AP) classes.
  • Browse book recommendations and read Challenge Success blog entries by authors including Dr. Denise Pope, Dr. Madeline Levine, and Dr. Ken Ginsburg.
  • Follow Challenge Success on Facebook and Twitter, sign up for their newsletter, and stay connected with our ever-expanding community of families and educators.