What We Learned
December 12, 2013
During October and November, Director Matt Allio, Director of Admissions and Communications Sarah Lougheed-Gill, and Director of Studies Terra Toscano visited nine local independent schools: Barnhart School; Chandler School; Clairbourn; Flintridge Preparatory School; Mayfield Junior School; Polytechnic School; Sequoyah School; The Waverly School; and Westridge School. Matt writes about what we learned:
We visited the schools for three reasons. First, we wanted to see how Walden alumni were doing in the schools. We wanted to speak directly to the alumni and get a sense of the academic and social transition into the schools. We wanted to see the alumni, on their campuses, and hear directly from them.
“The transition to [numerical] grades wasn’t hard at all. I was ready for it, and I like grades because at any moment I can check how I’m doing,” shared Poly student Rowan Bortz, Walden School Class of 2013. Fellow alum Daniella Gersh, now at Barnhart, said, “ I felt like Walden did its job to get me ready for the next step. I’m not afraid to try the work, or share my opinion.”
Second, we wanted to further our understanding of the overall program of the independent schools. We spend considerable time working with our Sixth Grade families during the matriculation to middle school process. By being on campus and talking with teachers and admissions people, our direct experience is helpful to our graduating families. Middle School Director Bridget Kelly-Lossada told us, “Walden students come to our school with a social skills set that enables them to transition into middle school life with great ease. They are self-aware and can navigate interpersonal relationships seamlessly which make them quite successful at our school. We can always tell which students come from Walden because of their ability to be open, honest, and communicate with confidence.”
Third, we wanted to see how the Walden mission was translated as our graduates progress to middle school. Do they still display initiative, responsibility, and creativity? Do they still value and respect diversity? Are they still able to work with Socratic discussion, learn through experience, as well as direct instruction? Walden alumni John Murphy’11 told us, ““Creative thinking is expected [at Flintridge Prep] and we talk a lot about ideas and thoughts in classes. We practiced that a lot at Walden. There is a lot of thinking and a lot of doing.”
Seeing the Walden mission manifested beyond our own 1.3-acre campus was fundamentally important in our visits. With retention rates of 90% and 93% at Walden School over the past two years, our knowledge of the middle schools is crucial as we work with our families in the matriculation process. Sarah, Terra, and I know how important it is we remain informed about how well Walden students matriculate to middle schools. The fall visits were instructive for us, and will ultimately benefit all Walden students.