Tim's Blog

Tim Bazemore

Welcome to my blog, a way to present ideas, reflections, and observations with the school community and beyond. I blog on a regular basis, commenting on a thought-provoking experience, a significant development in education, and news of student and teacher work here at Catlin Gabel. My goal is to make you think, provoke a reaction, elicit diverse points of view, and affirm your faith in our school's mission. I hope you'll share with me and other readers any reactions you may have to my posts.

The Math Phenomenon

Catlin Gabel students take math seriously – and do well. While standardized measures are inherently flawed, outcomes here are impressive. Our students scored in the top quartile on the SAT and ACT math sections compared to students in 38 independent schools in last year’s nationwide INDEX benchmark report. The average BC Calculus score for students over the past 5 years is 4.87 (out of 5), and Catlin Gabel graduates universally report they are well prepared and ready for high-level mathematics in college.

But here, as with every school in which I have taught or led, mathematics is the academic subject that draws the most attention. Responses on our bi-annual community survey and an informal check-in with division heads show that we receive more questions about math than any other subject. Why is that? Is math so much more important than science or English that it deserves an inordinate amount of student focus, parent conference time, and curriculum revision? In …

Posted by Tim Bazemore in Innovation, measuring success, math on Monday April 9, 2018 at 09:48AM
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MTC: Designing a New Pathway Through High School

One of our two strategic plan goals is to be an education laboratory, in which our teachers are inspired to do their best work and to pursue new ways of teaching and learning that benefit their students. In an ed lab environment, relevant research informs curriculum design, feedback and data guide next efforts, and student engagement and achievement are the goals. Teachers break out of silos, learn and plan together in new ways, and make learning objectives more visible to students. They share what they are learning, and seek promising ideas from colleagues at Catlin Gabel and from other schools. They are fearless in pursuing innovation in education.

In that spirit of discovery and leadership, we recently hosted a two-day workshop for schools who belong to the Mastery Transcript Consortium (MTC), an exciting initiative we co-founded which seeks to address shortcomings in our traditional education system and in the college admission process. Seventy-five educators from 54 …

Posted by Tim Bazemore in Experiential Learning, Diversity, Innovation, measuring success, Inclusion on Wednesday November 29, 2017 at 11:27AM
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Hearing Different Voices

Last month, I attended a heads of school meeting at a national conference in Baltimore. Around the table sat school leaders from almost every state. When the conversation turned to how national political events are affecting our schools, I was struck by how many schools are struggling to stand up for their school values in response to incidents of prejudice, and be places where diverse points of view and voices are truly valued.

It is hard to tell these days whether the divisive national mood is a cause or effect of our tendency not to seek, hear, and value other points of view. In the academy, conservatives have long argued that liberal groupthink dominates academic and social discourse, and that being inclusive does not extend to valuing their points of view. Author and professor Bill Deresiewicz agrees, arguing that most selective private institutions “suppress expression of unwelcome beliefs and ideas” and promote a “dogma of “correct” opinions and …

Posted by Tim Bazemore in Experiential Learning, PLACE, Diversity, measuring success, Inclusion on Wednesday April 12, 2017 at 04:29PM
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The Future of Education?

In 1892, ten college presidents, high school principals, and headmasters met to standardize education for students intending to attend college. The goal of the “Committee of Ten” was to democratize education for America’s growing immigrant population and to provide a trained work force for the world’s dominant industrial nation.

Varying approaches to teaching methods, curriculum, and college admission processes were causing confusion. As a remedy, the committee recommended a core set of academic subjects, eight years of elementary education and four years of high school, “Carnegie units” of 120 hours of instruction in each subject, and a transcript listing courses and grades so colleges could easily sort and select applicants.

Fast forward to 2017, and the educational experience at Catlin Gabel. The academic and character skills our students learn are complex and interdisciplinary. In every class students learn to research, write, analyze, compute,…

Posted by Tim Bazemore in Experiential Learning, Innovation, measuring success on Monday February 27, 2017 at 09:52AM
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¿Qué está pasando? Idiomas en Catlin Gabel

(What's happening? Languages at Catlin Gabel)

What’s the point of learning a second language? There are many answers, including developing neural pathways, expanding communication skills, understanding a different culture, enhancing learning in other subjects, and learning geography. Being proficient in a second language connects us to other people and experiences that deepen our understanding of the world. It is a ticket to literature, arts, travel, and experiences that would otherwise be inaccessible.

For these reasons and more, most schools have long included second language study as a core course and graduation requirement. That will not change at Catlin Gabel School, but how we teach language is changing significantly. In keeping with our emphasis on experiential learning, deep understanding, and being able to transfer, or apply, what you know to real-world situations, language study is moving away from traditional methods to a more dynamic and powerful approach.


Posted by Tim Bazemore in Experiential Learning, Innovation, measuring success on Wednesday December 14, 2016 at 11:53AM
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The Potential of our Strategic Priorities

Facing an ever-more unpredictable future, our students not only need a solid academic foundation; they need the skills and habits of mind which will equip them to ask insightful questions, analyze information, think creatively, communicate in compelling ways, and work with all kinds of people.

This fact is at the heart of our two new strategic priorities: deepening our commitment to experiential learning and creating an unrivaled educational laboratory. Last month, I sent to our community an introduction to these priorities, and since then I have been banging the drum at divisional back-to-school nights. I want all parents and guardians to know what they are and where we are heading, and because I believe they will be transformative for our students.

These two concepts are not new to Catlin Gabel, but we must commit to them with a new and deeper sense of purpose. They are core features of a progressive education model that we know is best for students and teachers, a model more …

Posted by Tim Bazemore in Experiential Learning, PLACE, Strategy, Innovation, measuring success, Inclusion on Friday October 7, 2016 at 10:11AM
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Why Diversity and Inclusion?

One of the reasons I joined Catlin Gabel School last year was the opportunity to build on the work of previous years in the areas of diversity and inclusion. In 2013-14 we conducted the Assessment of Inclusivity and Multiculturalism (AIM), which helped us to set goals related to leadership, community, employment, and professional development. Those included creating a new senior administrative position, the director of equity and outreach; a standing board committee on diversity and inclusion; an inclusivity leadership position on the PFA executive council; and a variety of community events, forums, and activities.

We have taken these steps in response to AIM and because I believe that creating a diverse community in which every child feels safe, known, and valued is a precondition to effective learning. I am not surprised, given the complex nature of diversity and inclusion and the changes that we have made, that some people in our community have questions about this institutional …

Posted by Tim Bazemore in Experiential Learning, Diversity, measuring success, Inclusion on Thursday April 21, 2016 at 12:14PM
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The Science of Progressive Education

At this significant moment in the life of our successful school, we have a choice to make. We can let fast followers catch up to us, or we can leverage our progressive history, our commitment to inquiry and experience, and our independence, to reimagine how we can be even better. What will distinguish a Catlin Gabel student and graduate in ten years? How can we question and challenge what we believe to develop new insights? What structures, processes, and distinctive ways of working will sustain our excellence? 

These were some of the questions I considered as I traveled to San Francisco recently for the 2016 National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) Annual Conference. Four Catlin Gabel colleagues and I joined over 5,500 educators from around the country to explore topics including technology integration, social justice, and educational innovation. I have been to this conference over 20 times in my career, and I was struck by the dynamism and variety of innovative …

Posted by Tim Bazemore in Experiential Learning, Strategy, Innovation, measuring success on Wednesday March 16, 2016 at 02:38PM
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Defining Success at Catlin Gabel

Last year, as a new head of school, I asked the school community how we define success. I was heartened to hear that people at Catlin Gabel understand we must use a variety of measures to answer that question. Assessing the success of our school requires us to think in three dimensions. The first is student achievement and well-being; the second is institutional performance; and the third is the causal relationship between inputs and outcomes across the first two dimensions.

Every year we collect and analyze a wealth of academic, operational, and financial data to help us measure our success. Recently I had the opportunity to attend a conference of the Independent Schools Data Exchange (INDEX), a consortium of 35 selective PS-12 schools similar to Catlin Gabel in size and structure. Over two days, with school heads and CFOs, I pored over our institutional numbers to better understand how we currently allocate our time and resources, and how we compare to other schools across many …

Posted by Tim Bazemore in Strategy, measuring success on Wednesday November 18, 2015 at 03:31PM
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