A longtime trustee turned to me after a middle school concert and said, “You should not be allowed to see the spring concert unless you go to the fall show as well. You have to go to both to truly understand our school. Marshall is all about the gain.” He makes a good point. In the course of the school year, each musician acquires new skills. When the curtain rises, those new skills are on display, and we get to see and hear what our children have learned.
This notion of gain is something independent school families understand and embrace. It is why independent schools offer so many activities and commit to keeping class sizes small.
More than 70% of high school students attend a school with an enrollment greater than 1000. Typically, at those schools, students have to choose between arts and athletics. A decade ago, 73% of public school students quit sports by the start of high school. For these students, doors shut on opportunity, robbing students of the gain. By contrast, many independent school students try new sports and new activities after the start of high school.
This year, fifty Marshall students will demonstrate language skills they had gained while travelling abroad in Germany, France and Colombia. Studies show that independent schools students start language study earlier, stay with language study longer and graduate with significantly higher rates of proficiency than their public school peers.
Independent school students also start the Algebra sequence earlier and, therefore, are more likely to complete Pre-Calculus. On average, students at independent schools write papers more frequently, do presentations more frequently, collaborate more frequently, and hold leadership positions at a higher rate—and each of these is an opportunity to demonstrate understanding.
Simply put, opportunities to demonstrate new understandings abound at Marshall. And with each new opportunity, students derive more confidence. From the sixth grade play to Genius Hour, from Menogyn to Senior Projects, our students are asked to gain a full complement of skills and understandings. This expectation to participate is a norm in our student community, which is important because adolescents emulate what they see.
So if you are asked about the value of independent education, think of the concert anecdote. Families who invest in independent education have greater assurance that their children will experience “high gain.” It is nearly impossible to attend a school like Marshall without branching out and trying new things. Participation and engagement are the life habits we inculcate. I’m fortunate; I get to see gain every day. I measure the value of an independent education by observing the richness of the lives our students and graduates live.
Head of School
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