30 Oct

Message from Kathy Christoph


It’s hard to believe that November is next week, and with that, we are quickly approaching our first formal written communication about your child’s progress. (Just a reminder:  There is no school for your children next Friday, Nov. 6) As you approach the process with your child, let me share with you a personal story and a short review of what D-E is striving to emphasize in our assessment process.

As many of you may know, my husband and I have two children, now young adults finding their way in the world. Each daughter attended private school in her formative years and went on to successful college graduation and beyond. As I listen to their stories about their jobs and life experiences, I have come to re-affirm my deep and abiding belief in the importance of two sets of different skills: academic skills and ‘non-cognitive’ skills. My daughters have each mastered the art of learning new skills, new content, new approaches, and new ways of doing things. I think the ability to be a life-long learner is one of the many gifts of an independent private school education. At the same time, what contributes just as importantly, if not more so, to their success—or challenge—in any situation is their ability to persevere when faced with a challenging situation, to collaborate in all sorts of work situations, to take risks and step out of their comfort zones, and to look for creative solutions to problems. In essence, it is their acquisition and deployment of these non-cognitive traits that give them the necessary ‘oomph’ to succeed.

I share my perspective with you because it ties in well with the direction that D-E is taking with its traits initiative and assessment process and because we are approaching our first formal communication with you about your child.  As Head of School Dr. DeJarnett often shares with our community, researchers have proven that non-cognitive skills and attributes are just as important as cognitive skills in determining academic and life success.  D-E  has adopted eight traits that we, as a School, believe will help contribute to life success and happiness for each and every child. These traits are referred to as our D-E Student as Learner traits.

The faculty and I are concentrating on recognizing and communicating these traits to your sons and daughters and to you. Each department chose three to five traits upon which to focus, learning to how to recognize and foster these in the classroom and in the HomeBase.  During the course of regular classroom interactions this fall, teachers have been dialoguing with your child about these traits.   In HomeBase, your child’s advisor has begun to engage the group in activities and discussions that illuminate the traits; activities and experiences that will continue throughout the year. In assigned assessments, these traits have been taken into consideration. And now, with these interim comments, teachers are communicating with both you and your child.

The HomeBase teachers share the written comments with each child during an extended HomeBase on November 12. We then release the comments to parents on Friday morning.

As you read your child’s comments, I urge you to think along several concurrent lines. First, look for overall strengths and challenges. Secondly, look for academic growth and performance. And third, look for mention of the Student as Learner traits.  You should find evidence of at least one in every comment. Engage your child in a conversation about his/her perspective. Help your child set reasonable goals and develop an action plan. There is much to be gained in this process, and it will reinforce the reflection your child does here at school with his/her HomeBase advisor. Working together, we can help our children learn the skills of self-reflection, mid-point adjusting, and goal setting.

We do not send out a hard copy of the comments or the 8 Traits themselves, so the D-E Student as Learner Traits are briefly summarized for you below.


How well is the student able to:

  • Exhibit intellectual curiosity and seriousness of purpose about the subject matter and course assignments
  • Embrace challenges and high standards
  • Demonstrate and maintain focused attention
  • Demonstrate responsiveness in ways that include but are not limited to oral, in-class participation
  • Be physically present


How well is the student able to:

  • Work at a challenging task for an extended length of time
  • See setbacks as opportunities to grow

Critical thinking

How well is the student able to:

  • Examine implications and consequences of a belief or action
  • Question the validity of claims and sources
  • Suspend judgment to check the validity of a proposition or action
  • Take into consideration multiple perspectives
  • Examine implications and consequences of a belief or action
  • Use reason and evidence to resolve disagreements
  • Re-evaluate a point of view in light of new information


How well is the student able to effectively work in a small group and full-class setting to:

  • Respectfully listen to and empathize with the point of view of others
  • Include and encourage the ideas of others
  • Communicate, contribute and compromise
  • Work towards an equitable distribution of tasks
  • Manage conflict
  • Keep the group’s goal above one’s own


 How well is the student able to:

  • Think about how something might be done differently,
  • Change perspective,
  • Generate new ideas and alternatives,
  • Consider novel suggestions from others


How well is the student able to:

  • Try something new and different while facing the fear of making mistakes and failure
  • Try something unfamiliar and challenging which is outside their comfort zone


How well is the student able to:

  • Comply with the organization created by the teacher
  • Create and maintain his/her own systems to keep track of information, tools, and materials