Measuring Success

I felt very fortunate to be at the Open House student panel last month. Over thirty minutes, I listened with pride as Catlin Gabel seniors interacted with the audience of hopeful and attentive prospective families. The questions touched on school culture, courses, friendships, time management, extracurricular interests, and college.

The cheerful panel eagerly responded, sharing their knowledge and personal experiences with warmth and humor. I marveled at their ability to share detailed, focused answers and to reflect on what they have learned at Catlin Gabel and how that will shape their lives in years ahead.

The confidence and poise of our seniors at the Open House certainly counts as one measure of our school's (and their) success. What other measures have value and validity at Catlin Gabel—and to whom? What outcomes matter most in our school community? What is distinctive and better about a Catlin Gabel education—and how do we know we are providing that?

As I begin my first year as head of school, I have been posing many questions to our community. Our school is thriving, and I want to understand why and how. I also want us to articulate the implicit assumptions and beliefs we have about the mission and purpose of Catlin Gabel. A key area has to do with outcomes and measures. Being explicit about these will be essential in developing a shared vision for future success.

What matters most to us? High performance on cognitive measures such as SAT scores and exams? Demonstrable student improvement in noncognitive skills such as collaboration, leadership, resilience, and confidence? A college list with high-quality schools and a high percentage of first-choice acceptances? The many individual honors and awards earned by Catlin Gabel students? Beyond student learning outcomes, what measures are most important in assessing institutional quality? Our ability to attract the best professional talent? High levels of family satisfaction and support? Admission selectivity? Financial sustainability?

Great schools align curriculum, hiring, resources, and assessments to achieve their mission. They foster a culture of professional and personal growth, and equity and inclusion. They invite stakeholders to share their perspectives in the pursuit of improvement. They have a strategic orientation. They measure what they do to provide focus and feedback. Like each student in our care, the school is in a constant process of becoming. I look forward to sharing with you what I am learning and working with all of you to ensure that a Catlin Gabel education is mission-driven, distinctive, and powerful.

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The Future of Education?

This spring’s pivot to full-time remote learning sparked many questions about school, from the profound and challenging to the mundane yet urgent. The most fascinating question to me during this time has been: What will this mean for the future of education?