Assessing What Actually Matters

  • Head's Note
Tobin Bechtel

The pandemic has provoked reflection at all levels of education - not only how we approach it but also what we value in teaching and learning for our future. Through all the debate over whether schools will open or not in the coming weeks, we need to really focus on what education will be for our children no matter in what circumstances it is experienced. The need for challenge to provoke critical thinking and connection to create links, empathy and community are paramount. The experiences we create for our students need to foster the development of the dispositions that become part of the intellectual character we need in our graduates to make a difference.

In these ‘interesting times’ delving into the essential questions of being and meaning are more important than ever.  This is actually the core focus of a liberal arts and sciences education. As new and refined approaches develop, the purpose and promise to prepare our children to become engaged citizens who seek to solve the issues of their times and make our world a better place remains universal. 

Because of current challenges, college admissions believe they are undergoing a revolution in their processes. They are placing more emphasis on what we have always valued in our Pillars at Sage Ridge and looking for guidance from experts like Angela Duckworth on gauging the ‘grit’ of their applicants. At a recent conference for the Common Application, she worked with university officials “on how to consider ‘personal qualities’ in the application process” as well as “measure  ‘character skills,’ ‘life skills’ or ‘noncognitive skills.’“ At Sage Ridge, our founders recognised that academic excellence is not enough - we must ensure our students develop as a whole, that they explore, participate, serve and reflect.  Professor Duckworth claimed at the same conference that, “whatever you call them, the take-home message is these things matter, and in some cases, matter as much as IQ.”  

The challenge for college admissions is “trying to suss out students with intellectual curiosity, for example, and creativity, generosity and problem-solving skills.”  The idea is that students deserve credit for skills such as persistence, willingness to take risks and the ability to overcome adversity. There is no straightforward test for this and admissions officials more than ever will be relying on the ability of schools to produce graduates that they know will thrive in their programs. Sage Ridge has built a strong reputation with schools nationally and internationally because our students embody, and act in accord with, our Pillars. As we continue to grow, our roots will only deepen and the education we can deliver in the best and worst of times will serve our students well.

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