Parents of prospective students often ask: “What are the chances of success?”
To ask, of course, is to raise other prior questions: “What is success?” “How would you know it when you see it?” In other therapeutic endeavors, it’s much more obvious what questions to ask. Considering heart surgery, a parent would ask for the odds of a child’s surviving the operation, the risks of untoward events, the chances for better pump function, reduced pain, and a prompt return to normal activities at school, at home and among friends. These would be measurable, objective indicators of a successful cardiac outcome.
For the kind of therapeutic work we do at the Academy, however, not all the wanted outcomes are readily measurable or objective. How measure “happiness” or a better “attitude?” This is harder to measure than simply counting how many cardiac patients get off the operating table alive. Yet we have to try, albeit some relevant evidence is subjective, even anecdotal. We think it may be helpful for parents if we describe “typical” passages through the Academy, rather than just reporting the objective fact, i.e., the “average program duration” for graduating MA students. We will list the percentage of enrolled students that graduate, but we think it also may help to post valedictory addresses from parents and students at graduation, and samples of letters from alumni and their parents.
Other metrics will be more objective. We have systematically collected parents’ ratings of the Academy’s clinical and academic performance and satisfaction (or lack thereof) with sons’ and daughters’ outcomes. We will summarize results from ongoing one-year follow-up surveys. We will rehearse parents’ and students’ ratings (before and after) of the quality of their own parent-child relations. We will cite parental ratings (before and after) of daughters’ and sons’ psychiatric symptoms, academic and interpersonal functioning, and (yes, even) happiness. We will record teachers’ aggregate ratings of students’ shifts in academic maturity and students’ changed grade-point averages (GPAs) as they progress through the program. We post an on-going list the colleges to which MA graduates have been accepted.
In order to gauge the shifts in maturation that take place at MA, and unable to find an extant measure to gauge the clinical changes we wanted students to make, we created the Montana Adolescent Maturity Assessment (MAMA)–a measure that MA parents have now helped us to test over the years by completing hundreds of MAMA-p ratings of the maturity of their own sons and daughters–before, during and after completing the MA program. We have presented these data at national meetings (NATSAP and IECA) and will present summary graphs here–along with simultaneous parental ratings of sons’ and daughters’ academic and interpersonal functioning, psychiatric symptoms and need for medication.
Moreover, during 2012-2015, with support from the Montana Academy Foundation (MAF), we refined and shortened the parent version of the MAMA, creating a teacher/therapist version of the Montana Adolescent Maturity Assessment (MAMA-t), and conducted four annual maturity assessments–by teachers–of normal students (freshmen, sophomores, juniors and seniors) in two local public high schools. These large studies have allowed us to describe “maturity” vs “immaturity” among normal (non-clinical) students in public high schools.
Using the MAMA-t at Montana Academy in 2012-2013, we also gathered therapist ratings exactly one year apart for all enrolled Montana Academy students. Among other results, these serial ratings allowed us to identify a sub-cohort of students who were present both times, and so were rated twice–once near the beginning of treatment, and then a year later, close to the end–so as to assay the change in maturity (as reflected in serial MAMA maturity ratings) over one year of treatment–in the same students, each rated twice.
These studies allowed us to put the relative immaturity of enrolling MA students into perspective–alongside a quantitative description of “maturity” vs “immaturity” in a normal high school. And they allowed a rough estimate of the magnitude of change (according to the MAMA-t) in maturity in 12 months of treatment at MA–and to compare this change, roughly, with the magnitude of normal shifts in maturation as “normal” students move through a public American high school.