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Tilton School
One of the signature components of the redesign of a Tilton School education has been the way in which the school has taken the charge to be on the front line of innovative change. During the school year, teachers brought innovation into their classrooms when they explored new ways to challenge their students by redesigning their classes and taking students into the community. The Mastery Transcript Consortium is another large part of the innovative change at Tilton. 
But the work has not stopped there. From the beginning, the Tilton community has pressed deeper with its “What if” questions, challenging old assumptions, outdated paradigms, and the overly-relied upon status quo.
  • What if we didn’t use grades to evaluate progress?
  • What if students created their own program of study?
  • What if teachers better understand the skills and aptitudes of the students in their classroom?
  • What if we used time differently?
Many ideas came from this form of uninhibited brainstorming but two of the biggest concepts and two into which we are diving deeper this school year are involvement with the Mastery Transcript Consortium, and the implementation of personalized assessment tools for all 9th- and 10th-grade students.
 
“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” We’ve all heard this old saying, and many times it holds true. But what if something is broken? What if the tools we have been using for years don’t serve us any longer? When and how do we summon the courage to make a change?
 
The Mastery Transcript Consortium (MTC) is a group of more than 100 independent schools that was founded in early 2017 on the premise that high school transcripts are broken. They no longer truly serve our students, their teachers, or the world in which they enter. To answer this challenge, the Mastery Transcript Consortium came together to develop and disseminate an alternative model of assessment, crediting, and transcript creation; a new way of presenting high school graduates to the world.
 
The MTC aims to fix that which is broken.
 
Tilton School first entered the MTC conversation in fall 2016 when the concept of changing the high school transcript was in its infancy. Today, Tilton is one of the 18 founding schools with another 130 member schools. As a founding school, Tilton has the unique opportunity to be on the ground level of this exciting, education-changing work.
 
The MTC vision to “change the relationship between preparation for college and college admissions” aligns with the mission of Tilton School to “be a recognized leader of independent schools, known for creating an environment where its graduates reach their potential.”
 
As a founding member, Tilton School will be an integral part of planning, designing, and creating the new high school transcript of the future. To oversee this task, English Department Chair Darren Redman was selected as Tilton’s MTC site director. He quickly assembled a team of colleagues to begin planning how best to move Tilton School forward as a partner in the MTC. Tilton’s MTC team consists of Kate Saunders, Assistant Head of School; Mike Landroche, Academic Dean; Angela Keef, Director of the Center for Academic Achievement; and Colin Kuusisto, Associate Director of College Counseling.
 
Since its formation in fall 2017, Tilton’s MTC team has met with Julie Wilson, founder and Executive Director of the Institute for the Future of Learning, for a team-building retreat, and has attended various professional development activities on and off campus to become more acquainted with the MTC. Through the retreat with Wilson, the team drafted and adopted an ambitious team mission statement:

“Together as a community we will create pathways for deep, purposeful, self-directed learning that support lifelong curiosity, creativity, and growth, hone skills essential for maximizing potential, and fuel passion and courage to address the world’s most challenging problems.”
 
While the MTC “movement” is still young, the idea continues to grow that current college application models depicting student achievement are antiquated and ineffective, even harmful. As stated in Tilton School’s mission, we remain focused on cultivating within our community, particularly our students, “the curiosity, the skills, the knowledge and the understanding, the character and the integrity requisite for the passionate pursuit of lifelong personal success and service.”
 
“A mastery transcript could ultimately help all of our students... the kids we currently serve must be better prepared for a less-predictable economy and a more connected world.”
 
PERSONALIZED ASSESSMENT TOOLS
Imagine what it would be like if your high school teachers and advisors truly understood what made you tick. What if they knew your personality traits, understood your anxieties, could play to your strengths and help you turn weaknesses in triumphs? That’s the reasoning behind the personalized assessment tools being offered to all 9th- and 10th-grade students who entered this school year.
 
Three different tests were employed this year:
The LASSI looks at a student’s learning and study strategies and measures these areas through 60 questions over 10 scales: anxiety, attitude, concentration, information processing, motivation, selecting main ideas, self-testing, test strategies, time management, and using academic resources. Through the information gathered, the LASSI allows students to reflect on their own learning.
 
A LASSI pretest was given to all 9th graders at the start of the school year. Once that was complete, Ms. Keef met with the students to go over study skills tactics and what tools they could employ based on their individual LASSI results. Advisors were also given the LASSI results for their advisees to help support the work they do with the students on a weekly basis.
 
In November, the 9th-grade students took a deeper look at their own personalities through the 16 Personalities test. This web-based assessment helps support the work done in the dorms, where students need to be aware if they are introverts or extroverts; if they like their space or need interaction; and how they respond to personal conflict.
 
The GALLUP StrengthsFinder was reserved for 10th-grade students and went even deeper into showing students what they do best, how to develop their talents, and how to become more self-aware. From this assessment, students were given their top five strengths over four categories: executing, influencing, relationship building, and strategic thinking.
 
Using these assessment tools is a crucial step in helping students create their own personalized Guided Program of Study (GPS).
 
“These tests give us a better view of the students and how they operate,” said Ellissa Popoff, Director of the 10th-grade Ignite Program. “You can’t help a student design a personalized plan without knowing how that individual kid ticks.”
 
Eliza Smith, 9th-grade Forge Program Director, concurred. “Through these tools, teachers get a better sense of a student. For example, the LASSI shows a student’s level of anxiety in certain situations. That’s stuff you can’t tell all the time and kids aren’t open about it. These assessments give kids the tools to understand themselves. They can look at the results, digest the information, and learn why it’s important.”
 
After each of the tests, Smith, Popoff, and other faculty members helped the students reflect on the results. What did the tests show? Do you agree with these results? If you don’t agree, why not? What was accurate and what was not? What can you learn from this experience?
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