Latest Head of School Blog Posts

January 07, 2016

Life’s Most Important Tests

In the age of “big data” and the “internet of things,” we have more ways to measure and quantify the success (or failure) of a school and its students than we have ever possessed at any previous time in history. Since the 1983 report A Nation at Risk by President Reagan’s National Commission on Excellence in Education, the statistics demonstrating the erosion of our country’s competitive ability in education have gone steadily in one direction. In an increasingly global society, it’s important to note these statistics and consider their long-term implications.

Because of the availability and access to data, I am often asked how CIS students perform on measures of academic achievement. Last year, I gave a presentation on this topic in which I cited some of the relevant statistics for our school. Here are just a few:

  • Over the past five years, CIS students have an average ACT score of 29 (National Average: 21 ; Missouri Average: 21.7);
  • Over the past five years, CIS students have taken 306 AP exams (all upper school students complete AP courses prior to graduation) with 84% of exams receiving a score of “3” or higher (Missouri Average: 64%);
  • Nine seniors have been recognized by the National Merit Scholarship program over the past four years as finalists, semi-finalists, and commended scholars;
  • On the Iowa Test of Basic Skills, which students in grades 3-5 take every fall and spring at CIS, our students’ average rank is the 89th percentile nationally (i.e. for every 100 students who take the test, our students score better than 89 of them).

These statistics represent quantifiable ways in which... » read more

October 07, 2015

Leaning Into the Wind

The other day as I drove to school, I noticed a grasshopper sitting on my side view mirror. Expecting him to jump off as soon as the car got moving, I was surprised to see him still perched on top when I reached the end of my block. So I watched him to see how long he would remain in place. As my speed picked up, he did something unexpected. Instead of retreating from the strong headwind, he lowered his body and inched his way forward. The stronger the wind pushed him backwards, the further forward he moved.

Over the past several years, there has been increased interest in students’ affective development. And this new focus is a good thing. Researchers like Carol Dweck and Angela Duckworth have shown us that a student’s mindset can have profound effects on a child’s self-perception and the academic challenges and opportunities he might take-on. The ability to be resilient in the face of challenges, setbacks, and even failure (a word schools have unwittingly demonized through the use of a letter grade), is a measure of a child’s grit. Most of us are now familiar with Walter Mischel’s famous “Marshmallow Test” and the predictive outcomes of a child’s ability to delay gratification from a young age. These researchers have shown us that mindset, grit, delayed gratification, and many other skills can have a profound effect on a child’s ability to be successful as a student and an individual; however, the research isn’t about the presence or absence of these skills per se; the key take-away from the research is not simply the benefit that possessing these skills can convey, but that these skills can and should be actively cultivated by teachers and parents.

At Columbia Independent School, we believe deeply in cultivating these skills and others such as: empathy, cooperation, self-regulation, and self-reflection. Through regular conversations about our monthly... » read more

More recent posts

October 07, 2015

Leaning Into the Wind

The other day as I drove to school, I noticed a grasshopper sitting on my side view mirror. Expecting him to jump off as soon as the car got moving, I was surprised to see him still perched on top when I reached the end of my block. So I watched him to see how long he would remain in place. As my... » read more
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