What Is Academic Excellence?

The first line of Park’s mission statement reads, “The Park School is dedicated to excellence in education.” We, parents, teachers, and students, would all agree, I think, that academic excellence is important, vital even. But what does that really mean? And, more importantly, what does academic excellence look like?

A few years again, the Upper Division faculty took on this question. What follows is a list generated by Park teachers. It is by no means exhaustive, and yet it gives a sense of what we look for when we look for examples of academic excellence in the classroom.

ACADEMIC EXCELLENCE can be seen in the following student behaviors …

  • problem solving, asking questions, critical, creative thinking, taking intellectual risks are the cornerstones
  • meeting challenge and difficulty with strategies
  • looking for deeper sense of understanding, rather than simply the “right” answer
  • tenacity, responsibility for learning, asking questions or asking for help
  • willingness to dig in and work hard
  • ability to self assess/ self awareness as a learner
  • ability to make connections, synthesize information, look at something from a new or different perspective
  • intellectual energy/engagement in the subject and the process of learning

How can we as parents help our children to develop these skills? I have a few suggestions

  • focus on process rather than the end product
  • ask “What do you think about X?” when children are talking about schoolwork
  • see mistake-making and asking for help as an important part of learning
  • adopt a growth mindset  – help children to see that effort is more important than simply being smart

I see academic excellence in action in classrooms at Park every day. I invite you to take a look at your child’s work or the way he or she that approaches work or what is on the bulletin boards at Park or presented in Morning Meeting and think that you, too, will see what academic excellence looks like in the Upper Division.