Assessing the Intangibles: Mission Skills Assessment in Middle School

By Susan Palmer, Head of Middle School

It’s the intangibles that really set Greenhill apart … relationships between students and faculty, developing qualities of character, fostering a love of learning, establishing readiness and resilience for challenges ahead.

Those of us involved in this work know that each day we focus on essential skills with our students, skills that will set them up for a lifetime of productive and fulfilling work. Until now, the challenge has been how we measure the skills that we intentionally teach. Do our programs and instructional strategies truly result in building qualities of character over time? Recently, Greenhill has established a partnership with our sister schools in the INDEX group** to formally assess how well our program develops the essential skills we all agree are so important: teamwork, creativity, ethics, resilience, curiosity, and time management. These qualities are all points of growth in the Middle School years.

We are now part of an innovative project, joining with many PK-12, co-ed schools just like Greenhill, which will result in objective, scientific feedback, called the Mission Skills Assessment. We will learn from the data how we as a school can do an even better job instilling these critical values in our students and how we can improve program and instructional strategies to garner the best outcomes.

Students in the sixth, seventh, and eighth grades will take an online assessment in the coming weeks. Designed to take 60 minutes, the items include both self-reporting and scenarios and are quite engaging for the Middle School student. Faculty advisors will also complete a separate assessment, and results from the two groups will be folded together to provide data designed to improve and enhance our instructional program in the middle years.

Greenhill will receive a school report in April. It should be noted that the report does not include tracking or reporting of individual student performance such as is provided by other standardized achievement and aptitude tests. The Mission Skills Assessment will provide information on how we as a school can improve in fostering skills that are critical for school and workplace success.

Middle School is a crucial window for transformation. Students tackle abstract thinking, complex problem solving, and critical analysis. At the same time, they are developing the qualities of young adults that are integral for success in the 21st Century workplace. These skills can be taught and built over time, and now we will have the objective feedback to create even more effective and innovative programs.

**INDEX stands for Independent School Data Exchange and consists of coed, pre-k-12 schools across the United States.