#Success: Beyond Just The Numbers

I am old enough now that I am challenged to remember it with certainty, but I think the number is correct: 1090.

Yes, my SAT score (on a scale of 1600). Accurate or not, it was inarguably unspectacular. That I have trouble remembering it with any exactitude some three decades later is equal parts understandable and telling.

I also took a handful of advanced placement courses at Kentucky Country Day, the independent school from which I graduated in 1985. My memory is equally hazy on my scores in AP Bio, AP English, AP European and AP American History – they were mostly 3s and 4s, I think, but no 5s to be sure. (Mrs. Monaco followed along in the KCD class of 1989, by the way, with MUCH more impressive numbers!) 

But I know this (and here is what is so telling): Since providing these scores as part of my college applications, I have not been asked to do so again in a context that matters. My college professors didn’t ask me as I sat in my first classes at Hamilton College. I did not have to place them on my application for Teachers College, Columbia University when I applied to graduate school. I have never included them on a resume or been asked to defend them during the job interviews which have brought me to my present post leading Parish.

My scores on these highly visible and regularly touted standardized scores are part of my academic history, but alone do not provide a complete picture of my capabilities, nor would these relatively modest scores have been a completely accurate predictor of my future “success,” professionally or otherwise.

Indeed, one does not need a 1600 SAT score or a pocket full of “5s” on Advanced Placement tests to lead a meaningful and impactful life.
Yet, in the 30 years since I was a high school student, tests like these – and those associated with the accountability movement in public schools – have assumed an inordinately large place in the educational conversation. Too often, results on these standardized tests are used in isolation to define an institution’s quality or a student’s likelihood of success.

So what are forward-thinking schools like Parish doing when it comes to measuring student progress and program effectiveness in a broader, more nuanced way? As my #success campaign continues, my next couple First Monday’s will demonstrate how a rich array of assessment tools; our relationship with the Simmons School of Education at SMU; and our participation in a highly regarded network of national independent schools have positioned Parish to do just that.

Now, traditional measures of success like the SAT, ACT and Advanced Placement tests have a place in our dashboard. As you can see here, we monitor our students’ scores on these tests in isolation and benchmark against students’ from other independent schools in the country.

But we seek to produce students with powerful habits of mind – as analytical thinkers, effective collaborators, powerful communicators and influential creators – and richly developed capacities of heart and spirit. Standardized multiple choice tests like the SAT and ACT do this only so well. So, which tools provide us such insights?

One is the College Work Readiness Assessment (CWRA+). The CWRA+ was created in 2002 by the Council for Advancement in Education “to measure analysis and problem solving, scientific and quantitative reasoning, critical reading and evaluation, critiquing an argument, as well as writing effectiveness and mechanics using real-world performance tasks.” Over 200 middle and upper schools use the CWRA+, including nationally recognized schools such as Hotchkiss (CT), Riverdale (NY), St. Margaret’s (CA) and Lawrenceville (NJ). Only six schools in Texas, including Parish, use the CWRA+.CWRAperformance

Our freshman began taking the CWRA+ in 2010. Students take it again as seniors so we can compare their growth in skills we value and ones which are not measured in typical standardized tests: providing solutions for real problems using authentic resources. As you can see in the accompanying box, the questions on the CWRA+ differ from those any of us experienced on past tests.

The skills assessed on the CWRA+ align with those articulated in our Parish Practices, ones which are central to our PreK-12 program. As you can see in the box to the right, Parish students achieve slightly ahead of 9th and 12th grade students at independent schools across the country who take the CWRA+.

The CWRA+ complements the data we receive from more traditional standardized tests. Next month, I will share results from the High School Survey of Student Engagement, another tool which provides powerful data on the health and quality of our program

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