What’s Missing from School Responses to our Black Students and Alums? | 4 Min Read

Ask a recent graduate of a school what they are good at when they leave, and how they know? They will likely respond that they were good at this subject or content area and received good grades. But what about those personal attributes often touted in a school’s portrait of a graduate, mission statements, and admission brochures? Compassionate? Culturally Competent? A Critical Thinker? You know the ones that are assumed to be part of the culture and community, and the ones that Ms. XYZ, founder of said school, embraced and celebrated. The Black Lives Matter protests (and the Black@[school name] hashtags that accompanied them particularly in independent schools) have exposed the awful experiences of black students and should be a reminder for educators that nothing can be assumed when we are dealing with developing minds.

I have been reading the responses of independent schools to the Instagram and Facebook shaming by black alums and current students (for the racist experiences they have had at their schools), and there is one key word missing from administrators: lots of mentions of re-examining and improving policies, procedures, admissions, financial aid, curriculum, training, student support, college advising, and hiring. Not one mention of assessment. Not one mention of competency-based assessment. Independent schools are known for devising strategies that allow themselves to appear as if they are embracing something, but not holding themselves accountable: examples include joining one of the many consortia or coalitions that represent “excellence by association” or by adding an elective or advisory discussion or assembly speaker or a club, and of course, the easiest avenue of all, attending a Conference for People of Color on Diversity or Racism. If real change is to come to schools, then not just curriculum and co-curriculum have to be targeted, but students need to understand that competencies are assessed and appear on a transcript and a list of graduation requirements. Cognitive and non-cognitive competencies can, in our view, be assessed.

Anabel Jensen, Founder of the EQ/SEL non-profit network, Six Seconds, long-time independent school educator, and current Board Chair, puts it this way:

“We get what we measure. This was the reason for creating assessment tools for social/emotional learning competencies. If we are going to grow our emotional intelligence, we need to know the baseline.”

It takes ownership to get there and it does not mean that you proceed immediately to the extremes, such as…

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Sanje Ratnavale

Sanje founded OESIS in 2012 and serves as the President of what has grown to become the leading network for innovation at independent schools: the acronym OESIS grew from the initial focus on Online Education Strategies for Independent Schools. He has held senior administrative positions at independent schools including Associate Head of School at a K-12 school for seven years, High School Principal for three years, and CFO for seven years. Prior to making a switch to education, Sanje spent 15 years in venture capital, investment banking, and senior C-level (CEO, COO, CFO) management. He was educated at Christ Church, Oxford University (B.A. and M.A. in Law/Jurisprudence). Sanje is based out of Santa Monica.