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Grading Gets a D-

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From the Winter 2012-13 Caller

By Vicki Swartz Roscoe

As a young, conscientious teacher I wanted to figure out a way to grade my 3rd graders fairly. I asked colleagues to show me how they assigned letter grades; the more I asked, the more confused I became, and the more I questioned how grading worked. I talked to my principal, then my professors in graduate school, and decided to take it on as my master’s thesis. I truly wanted to grade well.
For years and years we have accepted letter grades as a natural part of schooling. It has been part of the education system, so there must be a good reason for it. You can imagine my surprise to learn that this practice is actually unsupported in research.
My goal was to evaluate and compare research that supported grading with the research that supported non-graded alternatives. However, after a year of searching, I found so little research to support letter grading that I had to convene a gathering of my thesis committee. How could I compare the balance of research that was utterly lopsided? Should I reframe my initial goal?
With knowing glances, they suggested that I instead conduct interviews of educators and parents who favored letter grades to analyze the perceptions that have kept grading practices alive and well. So I did. These perceptions are the same I hear from some of our prospective families who ask why we don’t give letter grades.

The perceived advantages of grading students, based on interviews, include:

Grades are objective and clear. Parents can understand them, for society in general likes to classify things.
Grades focus the school’s efforts into measurable academic skills and content rather than on hazy areas that are best dealt with at home. The premise here is that perhaps we should not be dealing with the “whole child.”
Grades and percentile rankings give parents an idea of where their student stands in comparison to other students.
Grades promote healthy competition with self and others, motivating students to work harder and try more.
Top students are recognized and reinforced.
Students take their work more seriously when they know they are being graded.
Grades are a valid predictor of future achievement, which helps college admission officers select whom should go to college.
Grades offer a ranking scale to determine those students most worthy of scholarships, or participating in student government, sports, and other special privileges and programs.
Most of us were raised with grades and people feel more comfortable with the familiar. It is much easier to keep things the way they are.

Based on research that has grown exponentially over the years since I began my own research, disadvantages of grading students include:

Grading encourages lower-level, rote-memory learning. Student and teacher energy is focused on those tasks that lend themselves to being measured, making goals that aren’t or can’t be graded less valuable such as critical inquiry, engagement, problem solving, perseverance, creativity, or working cooperatively with a group.
Grading discourages individualization or differentiation, since grading involves comparing students to a single standard. Grading essentially places in order, from highest to lowest, the students on a given test or skill to show group comparison. The focus of teaching is on the group, and everyone goes through the same curriculum at the same time. Grades are not part of the learning process; they are a consequence of it.
Grades do not motivate most students. Many parents are deceived by a belief that grades are a strong motivating factor for learning. This fallacy continues in spite of much evidence that far greater and more beneficial learning takes place through individual goal setting and the development of self-commitment based on personal meaning. Current research on the “growth mindset” (see article by John Mayer and Dawn Sieracki) shows that students who believe they can improve their abilities have greater motivation and higher achievement than do students who believe their abilities and grades are fixed, and that teachers can be a powerful influence on students’ mindsets. This includes establishing high expectations for each student; creating a risk-tolerant learning zone; giving feedback that focuses on the things students can control such as their effort, challenge-seeking, persistence, and effective strategies; and introducing students (even at a very young age) to the concept of the malleable mind.
Grades have a built-in system of failure, and make teachers less accountable. By simply pointing to a student’s low marks, a teacher is not accountable for a student’s failure. All one needs to do is point to the famous “bell-shaped curve” to justify the awarding of a spread of letter grades. Competent teachers know better; it is our job to pick up the stragglers, motivate the indifferent, challenge the able, and completely replace the normal curve by affecting qualitative changes in our students. n Grades create unhealthy competition and cheating. Competition exists only when there is not enough of something to go around. If graded on the “curve,” where the number of As given is controlled, there really aren’t enough marks to go around. For every winner, there must be a loser. There is ample evidence that students achieve better in a cooperative social context.
The reason for a grade may be unclear. What does a B in math mean? Does it mean that Sue did excellent work in multiplication, probability, and 2-D geometry, but “blew it” in fractions? Does it mean she had excellent scores but was absent for one test, lowering the final average? Does it mean she didn’t hand in some of the daily work, yet aced the tests? Does it mean that Sue mastered most of the skills taught? Or that she was virtually failing math until the last two tests, and was rewarded for her marked improvement? Or might it mean that in actuality Sue already knows these math skills and is feeling a bit unmotivated to strive for excellence? If Sue wants to improve this B to an A, what must she do?
Research points out over and over again that grades are in fact subjective and not objective. Teachers have different values and expectations that influence the way they grade, causing great discrepancies in grading practices. Even young students perceive inconsistencies in the grading process, which causes them to mistrust their school experience.
Grading does not foster favorable attitudes towards school and learning by most students. The vast majority of research shows a more favorable attitude toward school when students weren’t graded. Some students see grades as restrictive—they may not explore a personal interest or a challenging class because they might be penalized with a lower grade. Lower-achieving students are constantly reminded of how poorly they do in school, even if they are making strong growth and working to their potential. The pressures for good grades can smother students’ innate quest for learning. Many of the brightest students do not wish to play the grading game and would much rather be challenged with appropriate curriculum. Another group of students finds grades repulsive and a direct threat. The one group of students who had a more positive attitude toward school when they received letter grades were the higher-achieving students who liked having their achievement recognized. Fortunately, this band of students can be motivated in a number of intrinsic ways that will prepare them to be lifelong learners, so they are not dependent on outside recognition.
Graded programs have not proven to produce higher academic achievement. The vast majority of studies cited advantages in achievement for students attending schools employing non-graded alternatives. n Grades do not provide helpful feedback to students. Formative assessment, consisting of ample feedback and opportunities to use that feedback, enhances performance and achievement. Such feedback is goal-referenced, differentiated, tangible, transparent, actionable, user-friendly, timely, ongoing, and consistent. According to researcher Grant Wiggins, letter grades are utterly useless as actionable feedback.
Grades encourage extrinsic and not intrinsic rewards. When self-discipline, self-awareness, efficacy, intrinsic motivation, and lifelong learning are the ultimate goals, grades just do not cut the cake. Students have the ability to do well because they want to do well—if this attitude is nurtured and valued. Even at a young age, students can come to know their strengths and weaknesses and set their own goals, which is much more meaningful. n Abstract activities and tests used to determine grades are developmentally inappropriate for youngsters who are not yet at the abstract level of reasoning. Elementary and middle schools overuse paper and pencil tests and activities to come up with letter grades even when students are at a concrete level of development.
Grading encourages “academic cloning.” Teachers typically give the highest grades to students who think along the same lines as they do. Opportunities must be provided for students to exercise some degree of freedom, nonconformity, originality, and uniqueness; indeed, the notion of “academic cloning” rubs against the very heart of freedom and democracy.
Supposedly there is about a 5-year lag between research and practice in the business world, but that there is often a 25-year lag in education. In the case of letter grades, there is an inexcusable gap of more than 100 years. Well-meaning and skillful teachers across our country are put in the position of figuring out how to work within a system requiring the assignment of letter grades, which is actually incompatible with the learning process. Administrators are put in the position of justifying letter grades that were never meant to show learning.
Letter grades are found in most schools in our country and are still required for admission to most colleges. Because we want our Catlin Gabel students to go on and further their education, we give “grade equivalents” in the Upper School. But our goal is to send intrinsically motivated learners on into the world.
Alternatives to traditional letter grading, many of which we employ, include written narrative evaluations, developmental continuums, self-evaluations, student goal setting, parent-teacher conferences, student-led conferences, performance-based rubrics, and competency-based assessment and reporting.
Progress reporting and evaluating student learning are outgrowths of a school’s philosophy of education. If a school has a clearly defined mission and core values—as we do here at Catlin Gabel—then we know what we are aiming for. Our evaluation process must support what we believe. It has been a pleasure to come to Catlin Gabel and join a group of educators who have known the limitations of letter grading all along and have been courageous enough to swim upstream and align our assessment and reporting with our values.

Vicki Swartz Roscoe has been Lower School head since 2002. She holds a BA in early childhood from Central Washington University, an MA in teacher education from the Bank Street College of Education, and an educational leadership certificate from Lewis & Clark College. 


Azwell, Tara & Elizabeth Schmar, editors. Report Card on Report Cards: Alternatives to Consider. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 1995.
Brookhart, Susan. “Preventing Feedback Fizzle.” Educational Leadership, Vol. 70, No. 1, ASCD, Sept. 2012.
Chappuis, Jan. “How Am I Doing?” Educational Leadership, Vol. 70, No. 1, ASCD, Sept. 2012.
Di Michele Lalor, Angela. “Keeping the Destination in Mind.” Educational Leadership, Vol. 70, No. 1, ASCD, Sept. 2012.
Fisher, Douglas & Nancy Frey. “Making Time for Feedback.” Educational Leadership, Vol. 70, No. 1, ASCD, Sept. 2012.
Goodlad, John I. & Robert H. Anderson. The Non-graded Elementary School. New York: Teachers College Press, 1987.
Goodlad, John I. A Place Called School. New York: McGraw Hill,1984, 2004.
Himmele, William & Persida Himmele. “How to Know What Students Know.” Educational Leadership, Vol. 70, No. 1, ASCD, Sept. 2012.
Hattie, John. “Know Thy Impact.” Educational Leadership, Vol. 70, No. 1, ASCD, Sept. 2012.
Kohn, Alfie. No Contest: The Case Against Competition. New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1986, 1992.
Argues that competition is counterproductive in all areas of human life—work, school, play, and family—undermining achievement, damaging self-esteem, and poisoning relationships.
Kohn, Alfie. Punished by Rewards: The Trouble with Gold Stars, Incentive Plans, A's, Praise, and Other Bribes. New York, Mariner Books, 1995, 1999.
Makes the case against using rewards with students, children, and employees; lengthy chapters offer alternatives to traditional carrot-and-stick practices at school, home, and work.
Kohn, Alfie. Beyond Discipline:From Compliance to Community. Alexandria, VA: ASCD, 1996, 2006.
Kohn, Alfie. The Schools Our Children Deserve:Moving Beyond Traditional Classrooms and "Tougher Standards." 
New York: Mariner Books, 1999.
Kohn, Alfie. What Does it Mean to be Well Educated?And More Essays on Standards, Grading, and Other Follies. Boston: Beacon Press, 2004.
A collection of articles originally published between 1999 and 2003, dealing with topics ranging from the purposes of schooling to the SAT to the implications of Sept. 11.
Lehrer, Jonah. How We Decide. New York, Mariner Books, 2009.
Nichols, T. Philip. “Feeback in an Age of Efficiency.” Educational Leadership, Vol. 70, No. 1, ASCD, Sept. 2012.
Sousa, David A. & Carol Ann Tomlinson. Differentiation and Brain: How Neuroscience Supports the Learner-Friendly Classroom. Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree Press, 2010.
This book describes the key elements in a full model of differentiation (e.g. learning environment, curriculum, assessment, readiness, interest, learning profile, classroom management) as well as current research from neuroscience that relates to those elements. Each chapter also includes classroom scenarios and application examples.
Tomlinson, Carol Ann & Marcia Imbeau. Leading and Managing a Differentiated Classroom. Alexandria, VA: ASCD, 2010.
Addresses two key elements for guiding the work of students in a flexibly organized classroom: leading students and managing details. The first half of the book explores what it means to leader students in a differentiated classroom. The second half provides practical guidance for dealing with issues such as assigning students to groups, handling student noise, movement around the classroom, using materials, grading, and so on. A toolkit at the end of the book provides additional illustrations.
Tomlinson, Carol Ann & Jay McTighe. Integrating Differentiated Instruction and Understanding by Design: Connecting Contents and Kids. Alexandria, VA: ASCD, 2006.
Tomlinson, Carol Ann, Kay Brimijoin, & Lane Narvaez. The Differentiated School: Making Revolutionary Changes in Teaching and Learning. Alexandria, VA: ASCD, 2008.
Tomlinson, Carol Ann, Sandra N. Kaplan, Joseph S. Renzulli, Jeanne H. Purcell, Jann H. Leppien, Deborah E. Burns, Cindy A. Strickland, & Marcia B. Imbeau. The Parallel Curriculum: A Design to Develop Learner Potential and Challenge Advanced Learners. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press, 2008.
Tovani, Cris. “Feedback Is Two-Way Street.” Educational Leadership, Vol. 70, No. 1, ASCD, Sept. 2012.
Wiggins, Grant. Educative Assessment: Designing Assessments to Inform and Improve Student Performance. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Wiley,1998.
Wiggins, Grant. “7 Keys to Effective Feedback.” Educational Leadership, Vol. 70, No. 1, ASCD, Sept. 2012.
Wiggins, Grant & Jay McTighe. Understanding by Design, Expanded 2nd Edition. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, 2005.
Wiggins, Grant & Jay McTighe. Schooling by Design: Mission, Action, and Achievement. Alexandria, VA: ASCD, 2007.
William, Dylan. “Feedback: Part of a System.” Educational Leadership, Vol. 70, No. 1, ASCD, Sept. 2012.
Wilson, Maja. “Look at My Drawing!” Educational Leadership, Vol. 70, No. 1, ASCD, Sept. 2012.


Can Praise Harm?

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 From the Winter 2012-13 Caller

By Dawn Sieracki & John Mayer

Our 2nd grade class is huddled in a circle on the rug, we’ve cleaned up from our math workshop, and we’re about to leave for lunch. Before we go, we attend to our daily ritual of discussing what we found challenging during math time. I ask, “Did any of you have any ‘Aha!’ moments during math today?” At least five hands shoot into the air, students eager to share what new learning happened for them. Sydney responds, “I was trying to balance a number sentence, but I couldn’t get it to work. I kept trying different numbers and then I realized there was a pattern. I tested the pattern and it worked!” “Hmm,” I respond, “I notice Sydney mentioned it was hard for her, but she kept trying different strategies.” Alex interjects, “Yeah, she didn’t give up because if she did she wouldn’t get smarter.” Twenty heads nod in agreement as they scamper out the door.
During lunch, my students sit casually discussing the perennial thought of seven-year-olds, “What do I want to be when I grown up?” They give varied answers from scientist to writer to doctor. The reality is, in our world where the amount of information continues to grow exponentially, they don’t know—as their teacher, I don’t know—what jobs will look like a decade, two decades from now. I do know they will need to know how to access information, how to learn, and, perhaps most importantly,they will need a highly defined internal drive to become flexible, continuous learners. Gone are the days when someone could develop a specific skill set—say, become a software engineer—and then work at that job until retirement. Instead, today’s students will need to survive in an ever-changing environment where the necessary skills and knowledge are continuously expanding.
Catlin Gabel has long dismissed the outdated factory model of education, with teachers as dispensers of information, and students as receptacles, moving passively through the system. In the 21st century, we do not need students who are compliantly ingesting information; we need students who are actively creating knowledge. How do we create classrooms that, by their very structure, build a capacity for continuous learning?

What is a growth mindset?

Through the ways we talk to and praise children, parents and teachers are passing along our society’s notion of intelligence. According to psychologist Carol Dweck, four beliefs about success are common in our society:
• students with high ability are more likely to display mastery-oriented qualities (the desire for challenge with an attitude of perseverance in the face of adversity)
• success in school directly fosters mastery-oriented qualities
• praise, particularly of a child’s intelligence, encourages mastery-oriented qualities • students’ confidence in their intelligence is the key to mastery-oriented qualities
Surprisingly, research shows those beliefs are not true. Dweck’s research has demonstrated that children who have internalized our society’s beliefs about success develop a fixed mindset, the idea that intelligence is wholly innate and they do not have control over it. Children who have internalized a fixed mindset are more likely to shy away from challenges and give up when faced with setbacks. These children often seek out easy successes in order to confirm their self-perception. In other words, the very praise teachers and parents bestow on them, believing it will shore up children and enable them to take on challenges, may be having the opposite effect. In contrast, those with a growth mindset, the notion that intelligence is malleable and they can choose to strengthen it, are more likely to seek challenges and persevere when faced with difficulties.
Although language and behaviors fostering a fixed mindset are common in our culture, they are not necessarily prevalent across other cultures. Education researcher Jin Li has studied the cultural frames of children’s learning beliefs, as well as conversation patterns between mothers and children. She found European-American mothers often spoke to their children in ways that supported a fixed sense of self, “I’m so proud of you. You’re so smart.” In contrast, Eastern Asian mothers were more likely to reinforce a malleable sense of self, “I remember when you weren’t very good at _____. How did you get better?” Other cultures are developing a growth mindset in their children; how can we do the same for our children?

What we can do to support a growth mindset

Luckily for all of us, human experience has taught us that the growth mindset can be cultivated, and neuroscience is catching up with supportive evidence of our brain’s malleability. Knowing so, we want to empower children to have a shame-free and lifelong relationship with the possibility of growth. A classroom is the perfect place for such a relationship to begin.
Just as any of us can practice in order to learn reading, writing, and arithmetic, so too can we can encourage the habits of mind that help children see challenges as possibility and recognize that easy is not always good. Sydney and Alex’s willingness to discuss challenges is an example of children in the midst of developing a growth mindset. How did we get here?
In our classrooms, we have purposefully created a community that honors challenge. We have done so by ritualizing conversations in which perseverance is of primary value because we know it will lead to mastery and success. Dialogues such as the one between Sydney and Alex are now commonplace in our days. In addition to being delightful to listen to, they are important markers of a shift in the tone of the discussions.
We teachers are intentional about orchestrating every aspect of our classroom to support this notion of growth. In response to correct math answers, we don’t celebrate with high fives and cheers, but rather ask, “How did you do it? How are you sure? Could you do it another way?” or, depending on what the child had been doing recently, we might respond with, “Last week that was hard for you, what did you change?” Likewise, incorrect answers are not met with, “Try again” but rather we might say, “Aha! Now you’re doing a mathematician’s work . . . let’s find where it went wrong.” These are very small adjustments to any classroom, but the pattern serves to buttress the idea that we are all on a path, moving forward is our goal, and mistakes help us get there—even more than “being correct.”
Something meaningful happens to a child’s affect in the classroom with these types of interventions and praise. Many children stop asking if they got it right, because they know that such a question will be met with the challenge for the proof. Rather, they approach the teacher—and one another—with something more like, “I think this is the answer and here’s why.” This confidence and independence is ultimately our goal in the early years of education, when children learn the fundamentals of how to learn—which means to be independent, reflective, and thoughtful about the process. When confidence is paired with a lack of shame that comes from mutual celebrations for sticking with something hard, children know they are on a path like we all are 

Stretch projects: a shift in thinking

In combination with these everyday ways of talking to children, perhaps the most profound shift in our classrooms happened when we implemented what we called “stretch projects.” Students designed and built projects where they would intentionally work on getting better at something that is hard for them. We’d been learning about Harvard researcher Howard Gardner’s multiple intelligences. We presented the idea that we are all good at lots of things but also have plenty to stretch towards, and that no two people’s stretches would be exactly the same. When asked early in November to articulate their struggles to the class, there was a predictable embarrassment from some kids until one brave boy spoke clearly and openly about his struggles to learn to read. “I’ve been trying and trying and I see some of my friends reading hard books that my mom reads to me. I know I’ll get it, but it’s hard for me.”
Here is a child who inherently understood that his struggles were just that, his struggles, nothing to be ashamed of. At this public admission, the ice broke; the empathic stories of struggling to learn to ride a bike, write letters in the right direction, or make a friend on the playground came pouring out. The truth that we all struggle was coming out into the open. Once there, we decided to collectively tackle these challenges by designing projects that would stretch us in purposeful ways. Upon systematizing the practice, and giving language to what it is to struggle, the playing field of the classroom was newly leveled. There weren’t smart kids and less smart kids; there weren’t math kids and reading kids. Instead the classroom identity is a collective one of learners grappling with how to grow purposefully.
Second grade teacher John Mayer has been at CG since 2006. He holds an MAT from Lewis & Clark College. Dawn Sieracki has been a 2nd grade teacher at CG since 2011. She holds a BS in elementary education from Bradley University and an MA in educational leadership from Maryville University.


Boulanger, Lisa M. “Immune Proteins in Brain Development and Synaptic Plasticity.” Neuron Review 64 (2009): 93-109.
Dweck, Carol. “Even Geniuses Work Hard.” Educational Leadership 68 (2010): 16-20.
Dweck, Carol. Self-Theories: Their Role in Motivation, Personality, and Development. Philadelphia, PA: University Press, 2000
Kanevsky, Lannie. “Deferential Differentiation: What Types of Differentiation Do Students Want?” Gifted Child Quarterly 55 (2011): 279-299.
Li, Jin. “Cultural Frames of Children’s Learning Beliefs.” In Jensen, Lene Arnett, Bridging Cultural and Developmental Approaches to Psychology: New Syntheses in Theory, Research, and Practice, 26–44. New York: Oxford University Press, Inc., 2011.



Spring Break Reads: The US Library Recommends...

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Where in the world are CG students?

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Mid-March is go time for Catlin Gabel’s global education program. Five groups, three from the Upper School and two from the Middle School, are spread across three continents.

Upper School students are traveling to Guatemala, France, and China.

Middle School students are traveling to Costa Rica and Taiwan.

» Visit the global education section of the website for trip details and to follow student blog posts 


March 12 US concert canceled

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 Stay tuned for information about rescheduling this event.

Robotics team wins top regional award, qualifies for world championships

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The Catlin Gabel Flaming Chickens won the Chairman’s award for the fourth time! The team will go to the world championships in St. Louis, April 24–28. They've qualified for the world competition five out of six years, more than any other team in Oregon.

» Check out the Flaming Chicken's website for details

Word & Hand brings together student artists & writers from CG & Wilsonville HS

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 Students from Catlin Gabel and Wilsonville High School are working together on a groundbreaking program, Word and Hand. Its aim is to build new creative skills in young artists and writers by having them responding to each other’s work. Four student writers and four students who are visual artists from each school are paired with their opposite in the other school. In this pilot program funded by the William T. Colville Foundation, the students learn how artists and writers can derive inspiration from each other, and how that unleashes a new area of creativity that most of them—and most mature artists and writers—have never experienced.

Word and Hand projects have taken place in the past 12 years, but only between adult artists and writers. This is the first time it’s been tried with high school students, who send their poem or artwork anonymously to their partner. The partner then sends a work in response, and the cycle continues. Each student keeps a journal of the process. The last exchange takes place on March 22.
The first time these students will get to meet their creative partner will be at an opening of their work at Portland’s Blackfish Gallery in late May or early June (date TBA). The exhibition will be paired with a catalog about the project, featuring all the students’ work. The Colville Foundation hopes to write a curriculum for other high schools based on this pilot project.
The results are phenomenal, says Catlin Gabel art teacher Dale Rawls, who guides the project along with English teacher Ginia King. He says that his students have made great conceptual leaps in thinking about the way their work communicates to others, and how they can make their writing or artwork say what they want it to. They are challenged creatively and intuitively by Word and Hand, and they are excited by those challenges.
Dale and Ginia’s counterparts at Wilsonville High School are art teacher Christopher Shotola-Hardt and English teacher Jay Rischel. The project was the concept of sculptor Steve Tilden, who has done Word and Hand projects (as has Dale), and is on the board of the Colville Foundation.




Video: Diversity Conference a cappella performance, "Shosholoza"

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"Priority Male," the male section of the Catlin Gabel a cappella choir, performed the South African freedom song "Shosholoza" at the Upper School Diversity Conference on February 27, 2013. The choir is directed by Charles Walsh.

"Spelling Bee" musical photo gallery

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Upper School production of "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee"

 Click on any photo to enlarge it, download it, or start the slideshow.

FREE bus service in April

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 Dear Families,

We are excited to offer FREE bus service for the entire month of April. Get on board!

• There is NO COST for riding the Catlin Gabel bus in April.

• The school will WAIVE April's bus fee for families who have already paid for bus service.

• Existing arrangements made for Beginning and Lower School students remain in place. After-School Care should be notified only if there is a change.

• Students who will ride the bus for the first time this year must complete two required documents, which posted below for your convenience.

• Parents of Beginning and Lower School students should take special note of the section about arrangements for afternoon rides. (See Parent/Guardian Guidelines 2012-13.)

• Riders DO NOT need to sign up in advance to reserve a seat. Contingency plans are in place should ridership exceed bus capacity.

» Link to Catlin Gabel’s transportation page  where you will find a route map and bus schedules.

If you have questions, please email Chris Balag at balagc@catlin.edu.

The school offers this month of free bus service to address campus parking and traffic congestion during peak drop-off and pick-up times. Let’s see if we can change habits and make a difference.

If your children have never ridden the CG bus, April is the time to give it a whirl!

Vicki Roscoe, assistant head of school

Parent meetings with head search consultants

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All current parents and guardians are invited to attend one of two meetings with search consultants Bob Fricker and Sherry Coleman of Carney, Sandoe and Associates.

Meeting #1 is on Tuesday, March 5, from 6 to 6:55 p.m., in Gerlinger (lower level of the US library)

Meeting #2 is on Wednesday, March 6, from 8:30 to 9:30 a.m., in the Cabell Center Theater


CG team wins 2nd in World Quest competition

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 Captain Curtis Stahl ’13, Terrance Sun ’13, Theo Knights ’14, and Tyler Perzik ’14 placed 2nd at the Oregon Council on World Affairs World Quest state competition at Portland State University on February 17.  Nathaniel Hamlett ’12, Chris Park ’12, and Hunter Ray ’12 also competed and finished in 10th place.  It was Catlin Gabel's best showing to date, with only one point separating the 2nd place team from the 1st place finisher. Congratulations to all!

Head search – community input meetings and survey

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A letter from Peter Steinberger inviting parents to meet with the search consultants and complete an online survey

UPDATE: February 20, 2013

The survey deadline has been moved to February 21.


February 12, 2013

Dear parents and guardians,

Catlin Gabel’s search for a new head of school is under way, and it’s time for our first round of community input. As I will explain below, we are very hopeful that you will:

• Complete the confidential online survey by February 20. 

• Make time to meet with our search consultants when they visit campus on March 5 and 6.

As I wrote on February 1, we have retained the services of Bob Fricker and his associate Sherry Coleman—both representing the nationally prominent firm of Carney, Sandoe and Associates—to serve as our search consultants. (Link to letter) Bob and Sherry will be on campus March 5 and 6 to meet with community members and to engage firsthand with Catlin Gabel’s culture and program. During their two-day visit, they hope to meet with people from many parts of the Catlin Gabel community.

The members of the search committee are eager to learn as much as possible so that we can develop a complete and comprehensive picture of the school’s future leadership needs. Toward this end, and using the information they collect both during their visit to campus and from an online survey, Bob and Sherry will prepare a position statement that will focus the search for our next head of school. Thus, we need your help. The more people participate either in the on-campus meetings or in the survey, and ideally both, the better our information will be.

All current parents and guardians are invited to attend one of two meetings.

Tuesday, March 5, 6 – 6:55 p.m., Gerlinger Auditorium


Wednesday, March 6, 8:30 – 9:30 a.m., Cabell Center Theater

I would ask all community members, whether they are able to attend a meeting or not, to complete a brief survey between now and February 20. Survey link.

The search committee aims to make the process as open and transparent as possible while maintaining confidentiality as appropriate. We welcome your involvement and your thoughts along the way.

If you have any questions about the meeting schedule, please contact Jill Jones. Faculty-staff, and groups of students, alumni, and friends have also been invited to meetings with our head search consultants.

Peter Steinberger, trustee, parent of alumna, search committee chair

Search committee members

Dave Cannard, Jr. ’76, trustee (1997-07), board chair (2004-07), current parent, parent of alumnus, alumnus

Li-Ling Cheng, Middle School Mandarin teacher, parent of alumna

Clint Darling, interim head of school (1982-83), Upper School head (1973-86), retired Upper School English and French teacher, parent of alumnae

Isaac Enloe, kindergarten teacher

Aline Garcia-Rubio ’93, Upper School assistant head, dean of students, science teacher, current parent, alumna

John Gilleland, trustee, board chair (2009-12), current parent

Alix Meier Goodman ’71, trustee, endowment committee member, board chair (2007-10), parent of alumni, alumna

Vicki Roscoe, associate head of school and Lower School head

Eric Rosenfeld ’83, vice-chair and treasurer board of trustees, current parent, alumnus

Miranda Wellman ’91, director of advancement, alumna

Jim Wysocki, Upper School math teacher and department chair



2013-14 calendar highlights

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First days of school, holidays, breaks, and end-of-year info

Upper School orientations, book pick-ups, locker assignments (specific dates and times for each grade level to follow)
Tuesday, September 3

Middle School classes begin
Tuesday, September 3

Lower School open house
Tuesday, September 3, 10 a.m. – noon

Lower School classes begin
Wednesday, September 4

Upper School classes begin
Wednesday, September 4

Preschool classes begin for half of class
Kindergarten orientation
Wednesday, September 4

Preschool classes begin for half of class
Kindergarten classes begin
Thursday, September 5

Beginning School – all classes in session
Friday, September 6

Faculty professional development day – no classes
Friday, October 18

Thanksgiving break
Monday, November 25 - Sunday, December 1 (yes, it’s the whole week!)

Winter break
Friday, December 20 - Sunday, January 5 (note: Friday is a no-school day)

Classes resume
Monday, January 6

Martin Luther King Jr. Day - no classes
Monday, January 20

Faculty professional development day – no classes
Friday, February 14

Presidents' Day - no classes
Monday, February 17

Spring break (note: Friday is a no-school day)
Friday, March 21 – Sunday, March 30

Memorial Day – no classes
Monday, May 26

Last day of classes
Friday, June 13

Saturday, June 14

Reserved days for closure make-up (if we have three or more unplanned closures)
June 16 – 18

New student enrollment for 2013-14

Send by email
Please carefully read these instructions

Each signer will receive an email from DocuSign with his or her own link to each child’s contract. Each of you must use your own link to access your copy of the contract, complete the form, and add your signature. DocuSign will combine everything into one contract per child, with multiple signatures. Once all parties sign, the contract is complete and each party receives a confirmation email. Detailed enrollment instructions follow and DocuSign help line is available at 1-866-219-4318. 

STEP 1 — Open the DocuSign link

When you first open the link, you will see a small overview screen that gives you the following options:

  • agree to do business electronically with Catlin Gabel, and go on to review and sign your documents
  • decline the contract using the button at bottom right 
  • finish later saves your work for finishing later
  • sign on paper leads to options for downloading, printing, and sending hard copy by fax or mail
  • change signer is only for cases in which the original recipient should not be a signer, and wants to transfer that to someone else

STEP 2 – Review, sign, and confirm the online enrollment contract

Each signer should access and sign the electronic contract(s) via the link sent to his/her email account.

Pages 1 and 2:  Click "Start" and select a tuition payment plan. All parties need to select the same option. The first signer’s selection is visible to successive signers.

Consider tuition insurance. The option to decline ("no") or accept ("yes") tuition insurance must be selected to complete the contract. Your family is responsible for the year’s tuition even if you leave before the end of the school year. More information on tuition insurance is attached to this email.  All parties need to select the same option. The first signer’s selection is visible to successive signers.

Page 3:  Add your electronic signature. DocuSign will generate different styles for you. The style you select will be saved so next time you sign, you’ll use the same signature.

Complete the billing information. If more than one household is responsible for monthly charges, please specify which charges are for each household and let us know if you would like a statement showing only these specific charges.

Page 4:  Choose a payment method so we know how to expect your payment. If you are bringing in or sending a check, please print this page and include it with your payment. If you are selecting method 4 to set up automatic payments for your bank account, use the ACH form on the next page. Please review all of page 4 before confirming your signature.

Page 5:  ACH form for people who set up automatic debit payments. This form can also be downloaded below.

After you have confirmed your signature, you will be able to print, save or download the contract for your records. A copy will also be sent to all signers via email when the contract is complete.

STEP 3 — Send payment to the business office by the date specified in your contract 

Please use one of the following methods to pay your deposit

  1. Mail or drop off a check to: Catlin Gabel School, 8825 SW Barnes Rd, Portland, OR 97225  attn: business office
  2. Make a payment through your bank’s online bill pay service
  3. Set up an ACH debit to pay the deposit and ongoing monthly and tuition charges. Use form and include bank information or contact Mary Ann Rogers in the business office at 503-203-5114 or rogersm@catlin.edu.

Both the completed contract and deposit amount are required for enrollment to be complete.

Helpful tips

  • Please contact DocuSign's help line at 1-866-219-4318 if you have questions or difficulties with the online process.
  • Contracts signed by one parent from one email are not considered complete. Each signer must complete the contract using the link in his or her own separate email.
  • Sometimes we send both contracts to the same email, but in that case each parent/guardian still needs to sign the contract from that email address.  
  • The forms and your signature are absolutely secure. DocuSign is used for many confidential transactions such as mortgage closures. More information is available on the DocuSign website  
  • Payment must be submitted separately.
  • If you wish to re-enroll but do not want to use our online system, use the Sign on Paper option.

If you still have questions…

…about re-enrollment, please contact Marabeth Passannante in the admission office. 
…about billing options, please contact Mary Ann Rogers in the business office.
…about financial aid, please contact Mary Yacob in the financial aid office.

We look forward to seeing your family on campus next year!

Supporting links and documents

Catlin Gabel Bus Service
Before and After-School Care

Science Bowl team places 2nd in regionals

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Terrance Sun, Valerie Ding, Lawrence Sun, Ben Hutchings, and Nick Petty beat out 64 other teams from Oregon and Washington to earn the 2nd place trophy in the BPA Regional Science Bowl. The competition was fierce.

We congratulate our scientists and the scientists from Mountain View High School for their 1st place finish.  

Head search committee chair invites community participation, announces search firm

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A letter from Peter Steinberger

Dear Catlin Gabel community members,

On behalf of the Head of School Search Committee, and even as the search process is just getting under way, I am writing to the entire Catlin Gabel community to describe where we are and how we intend to proceed.

I should say at the outset that the members of the committee are all honored and delighted to participate in this important process. Of course, the responsibility is daunting. We have very large shoes to fill, and it will be a challenge for all of us. Nonetheless, the committee is confident that we will find a terrific Head of School who will build wonderfully on the many great accomplishments under Lark’s leadership.

Let me also say that you should not hesitate to contact me if you have any suggestions, concerns, questions or comments. This is an honest invitation. The committee is committed to a process that is open, inclusive and, to the greatest degree possible, transparent; and we frankly seek your advice and counsel. As the process unfolds, formal opportunities will exist for a great many members of the Catlin Gabel community—teachers, staff, trustees, students, parents, alumni and friends—to provide input. But in the meantime, and indeed throughout the search, you should feel free to share your thoughts; and certainly could include thoughts about who, in your opinion, might be a strong candidate for Head of School. For convenience sake, the best way to communicate would be by email at searchchair@catlin.edu, or by phone (503-777-7231). I would be delighted to hear from you, and I can assure you that I will act as a faithful messenger to the search committee.

I am extremely pleased to report that we have retained the services of Bob Fricker and his associate Sherry Coleman—both representing the nationally prominent firm of Carney, Sandoe and Associates—to serve as our search consultants. The process of selecting a consultant was intensive and highly competitive, and we are thrilled to have the opportunity to work with Bob and Sherry. Together, they bring to the search not only a wealth of experience and insight, but also a deep understanding of all things that make Catlin Gabel such a special place.

As a first step, our consultants will work with the search committee to write a profile. This central document serves to introduce the school to prospective candidates, describes our goals and ambitions, and effectively functions as a job description. Toward this end, Bob and Sherry will visit campus in early March for a whirlwind series of meetings with members of the Catlin Gabel community. Details will be worked out shortly, but it is certain that all constituencies will be well represented, and we hope to have one or more open forums that will allow all lovers of Catlin Gabel to participate.

From there, the process is apt to be relatively straightforward. The spring will largely be devoted to building the applicant pool. During the summer, our consultants, along with the search committee, will work to construct a short list of preferred candidates and, from there, a small set of semi-finalists for the search committee to interview face to face. On the basis of these interviews, and if all goes according to plan, we hope to have perhaps two or three finalists on campus for open, public interviews, possibly as early as mid-to late-September. We would like to be able to announce our new Head of School sometime in October.

Of course, the most rigorous and well-conceived plan rarely unfolds exactly as anticipated. We are searching in a complex environment, and this may indeed require us to be flexible. As contingencies arise, we will endeavor to keep you posted. Be assured, in any case, that we are strongly committed to finding just the right person for Catlin Gabel, and to do so in a way that is fully faithful to the spirit and tradition of the school.

On behalf of the search committee, I can say that we very much look forward to working with the entire Catlin Gabel community. And again, I would be delighted to learn of any thoughts you might have regarding this very important project.

Peter Steinberger, Chair
Head of School Search Committee

19 students receive a record-breaking 45 awards from the Portland Metro Scholastic Art Competition

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Students were honored in photography, sculpture, drawing, painting, and mixed media

Congratulations to the following Upper School students who helped Catlin Gabel sweep the competition! Several students won more than one award.

Xander Balwit, Matt Junn, Fiona Noonan, Maya Rait, and Zoe Schlanger earned Gold Key honors.

Matt Junn won Silver Key honors for his entire portfolio and for individual pieces.

Other Silver Key honors were awarded to works by Katie Fournier, Max Luu, Hayle Meyerhoff, Nadya Okamoto, Kristin Qian, Craig Robbins, Hannah Rotwein, Zoe Schlanger, Alexandra van Alebeek.

Honorable mention recipients are Violeta Alvarez, Anna Dodson, Adele English, Kelsey Hurst, Matt Junn, Kallisti Kenaley-Lundberg, Thomas Newlands, Fiona Noonan, Craig Robbins, Hannah Rotwein, Zoe Schlanger, and Alexandra van Alebeek.

Next stop regionals, followed by the national competition.