Strategic Focus: Academic Programs

By Adam Dubé, Head of School

“We aspire to develop programs that are dynamic and individualized. We seek to build an engaging learning environment that encourages collaboration, innovation, and entrepreneurial thinking with a goal of creating lifelong learners and active global citizens.”


Each of our four areas of strategic focus begins with an aspirational goal. As Robert Browning famously wrote, “(A) man’s reach should exceed his grasp.” At CIS, we constantly aspire to be more. To improve. To guide our students to pursue excellence. To exceed our grasp. We actively do this by encouraging a growth mindset in our faculty, staff, and students.

Our aspirational goal for Academic Programs focuses on those skills and competencies we believe our students need to develop not only for success in college, but also for success in life. To that end, there are four areas of focus related to this goal:

  1. Adopt a student assessment program that balances content acquisition with skill mastery so that faculty can individualize instruction, promote innovative thinking, and encourage student initiative.

  2. Create a seamless curriculum from JK through 12th grade that encourages student curiosity, engagement, and innovation in order to foster collaboration among peers and between faculty and students.

  3. Create engaging learning environments that result in lifelong learners. Engaging learning environments spark curiosity and provide the necessary tools to pursue knowledge beyond the formal education system

  4. Develop global citizens who can and should impact the lives of others. Global citizens need to be flexible, creative, and proactive in order to solve problems, make decisions, think creatively, communicate their ideas effectively both verbally and in writing, and work well with teams and groups.


These four goals can be summarized by four words: innovation; collaboration; communication; and engagement. The first three are skills. A recent article in the Harvard Business Review states that more than “one in three workers may need to adapt their skills mix by 2030.” Of the skills identified as necessary for success in the future, innovation, collaboration, and communication regularly make the list of critical skills for the future, not to mention the present. By shaping our curriculum to encourage the growth of these skills, we aspire to move students towards mastery of them.

Engagement is the final word, and it speaks to the relevance of learning. Traditionally, schooling is something that increasingly happens to students as they get older, rather than being an active participant in the learning. We seek to turn that model on its head. CIS graduates have always been well-prepared for the rigors of selective colleges. We seek to keep students actively engaged in their learning through problem-based instruction, hands-on activities, and higher-order thinking, creating lifelong learners (see the HBR article referenced above).

While schools can prepare students to succeed on paper-and-pencil-style tests, we realize that many of life’s most important tests don’t involve paper and pencil. A strong foundation must include both knowledge and skills, and should be flexible and adapt to our changing world. At CIS, the skills of innovation, collaboration, communication, and engagement will continue to inform and shape that foundation.