You'll Peek at What Our Seniors Choose From in English
Please click here to be exposed to a rigorous and, yet, enjoyable literary wonderland offered to Episcopal’s seniors for 2018-2019.
Each senior makes a choice for Fall and Spring Semesters, respectively, among five or six seminar-style courses.
The seminars cover the fiction-to-memoir-to-poetry-to new media waterfront in offerings such as:
These seminars build upon more foundational English I and American and British Literature courses in grades 9, 10, and 11.
I hope you will at least scan these materials and think for a second about how well Episcopal’s English offerings and faculty prepare graduating Knights for their college work.
Episcopal has adopted a program of Academic Distinctions applicable to Upper School students beginning in this school year-- 17-18. You can read a description of the Academic Distinctions here.
In prior “Academic Points,” you may have read about the high percentages of Episcopal’s students who perform at or above national testing averages. Certainly, we want to serve those students well, but we also want to serve the other students here just as appropriately. In particular, we want to ensure that all students are recognized when they combine their interest (or “passion”) with ability and dedication. Distinctions is a way of recognizing students who have high levels of interest and success in one or more subjects.
It is commonplace in independent schools to find a “closed circuit” of student recognition in which the same few students receive National Merit, Valedictorian, Salutatorian and other classic academic achievement awards. Those classic awards tend to test the same skills and they tend to favor students who do well across the board in traditional academic settings. The same few students—say, the top 5% in GPA’s---seem to walk away with the preponderance of the classic annual and graduation awards. Episcopal will retain all of these classic awards.
The Distinctions program adds the opportunity for a student with great passion and ability in a subject or two—say, French or Physics---to earn recognition as a distinguished student in a particular academic subject. Such a student may miss the GPA-based classic awards due to a let-down in other subjects, say, English and Math, but be a star-- with high grades – in French or Physics. The Distinction or Distinctions will be reflected on the student’s transcript and, therefore, identify the student in their college opportunities as someone with strength in the subject areas about which the student cares greatly.
Our Distinctions program requires accomplishments both in the classroom and outside the classroom. When a student strikes for a Distinction, faculty advisors work with the student to delineate (and agree upon) which experiences outside the classroom will be necessary. For example, a Math Distinction may call for participation in Mu Alpha Theta and an approved service learning project. Among other reasons, the outside the classroom activities are included to reflect to the college and our community a “passion” or “great interest” the student has in the subject area.
I predict that Distinctions will engender from within the students a deeper love of learning. Student choice, ownership, and mentoring are elements of Distinctions which are known, thru educational research, to result in commitments to being a life-long learner. In other situations, Episcopal students have blossomed when they are partners of a kind in their academic adventures.
Over time, Honors Thesis became the only method of graduating “with Honors” at Episcopal. The Class of 2018 will be the last class for which the “with Honors” route will pertain. As we developed more avenues of achievement for students ---ESTAAR is a fine example --- the use of Honors Thesis as the safe route to a main recognition began to appear out of date. “Thesis” will now be a “Distinction,” which maintains the substance of the very valuable Honors Thesis program. In short, the Distinctions program replaces, with it multiple routes to being recognized, the single-route approach which Honors Thesis had become. Those who seek the “Thesis” Distinction will have access to the same program that has been known as “Honors Thesis.”
As with all new items, Distinctions may be altered over time as we learn from experience. Additional Distinctions may be added, including a Distinction in Global Studies. However, I do not anticipate any major changes in the use of Distinctions as one of Episcopal’s primary vehicles for recognizing and publishing the academic achievements, abilities, passions and interests of Upper School students.
In the main, Distinctions was, in my view, mandated by the enhancements in academic ability which accumulated in Episcopal’s student body over the last decade. Keeping the “Thesis” experience available as a Distinction, while opening up a much broader range of skill and interest recognitions seemed both fair and reinforcing to our student body. Rather than one route to graduating “with Honors,” many more students will be able to be recognized for their academic achievements and hard work.
One of my goals for Distinctions is that a wider range of colleges (say, those with strong engineering programs) will be able to identify our students as appropriate for admission. My hope is that students, while at Episcopal, will uncover, by striking for a Distinction or two, their innate abilities and interests in depth.
Doing the Best and More for Students
How We "Punch Above Our Weight" in Preparing Students
To paraphrase, “No school is an island.” Over the last few years, Episcopal has developed relationships with a number of well-known institutions to give teachers first-class opportunities for continuing development and to support our efforts to be the best we can be. In a sense, these off-the-island relationships and experiences help us to “punch above our weight” or be “more than just Episcopal” for students and families. I hope you find this partial list insightful:
A balanced approach that keeps us grounded here at home and informed of best and emerging practices around the country seems best for us. Episcopal graduates compete with students educated in other schools across the country—for college admissions and jobs after college. Our strategic relationships and on-site programs help us prepare our students to be fierce competitors in their rapidly changing world using the best and emerging education practices and techniques.
“Effective professional development programs engender an atmosphere of excitement, intellectual stimulation, and collegiality… They generate faculty enthusiasm, and there is a ‘trickle down’ effect: an energized faculty leads to energized students.” - Lynn Friedman, Ph.D., Johns Hopkins University.
Quiet Determination and Success: Jacob DeWitt ’17
Preparing for the Academic Points series took me back to 2010 when we put out a series of short notes entitled “60 Days of Good News.” Here is one of the treasures uncovered:
As the twig is bent, so the tree is inclined---Jacob’s career at Episcopal stands for many things, including the value of copious early reading. All, as you will see.
In 2017, Jacob DeWitt graduated as the Valedictorian of his class. Jacob will be able to tell his grandchildren of his following exploits and achievements from 2010 and through his graduation night in 2017:
He feels Episcopal “prepared him.” I hear he is doing well---Dean’s List last semester, staffmember of the Eco-Rep Leadership Program, and member of Engineers Without Borders USA Lehigh Chapter. He is also diligently taking seven courses. I am confident he will go on in quiet determination to make a place for himself in the post-college world with his focus on alternative fuels. Jacob worked diligently. He took advantage of what Episcopal offered in spirit, mind, and body. No excuses. To me, Jacob stands for the proposition that a very strong math and science secondary preparatory education is available at Episcopal, just for the taking. And, it combines nicely with well-rounded experiences in state-title level sports, music, language, and service.
Don’t you just love it when things come together? I do!
We are pleased year in and year out with our 7th grade students participation in the Duke University TIP Talent Search. The program is well known across the country and is designed to identify students with above average promise to become outstanding scholars. Participation requires parental consent.
A seventh grader must score at or above the 95th percentile on an approved standardized subtest, such as an ACT series test, during 5th or 6th grades to enter the TIP program through the 7th Grade Talent Search. It is typical for 66% of Episcopal 7th graders to qualify to enter this nationwide program, which requires these young students to take an official ACT or SAT test alongside high school students at a local testing center.
In a recent five-year span, 175 of Episcopal’s 7th graders participated, around 35 a year more or less. More than half of those received either Duke TIP State or Grand recognition. Those students now populate the graduating classes of 2018 to 2022.
Students with “Grand” recognition, in a given year, have achieved skill levels equal to the 90th percentile of all college-bound seniors, in that year. The “State” recognition level scores rival those of half of all college-bound seniors, in a given year.
My hat is off to Ms. Lucy Smith, the Head of Middle School, and to the faculty and staff in Middle School for providing students sensible and effective strategic skill development. The dedication and teamwork of Middle School faculty and staff are impressive. If you want broader insights into the significance of Middle School academic life, you may find the “Forgotten Middle Research Study” interesting; published in 2008 and updated in 2014, it sets out major challenges and expectations in Middle School education.
After the formation of a new Middle School class each year as a result of our significant entry point in 6th grade, Duke TIP serves in 7th grade as a worthwhile check on the progress of students before they launch into the rigors of 8th grade work, some of which counts for Upper School credit. Further, we welcome the nationwide comparisons obtained through Duke TIP and are pleased with the outcomes.
Episcopal's Collaborative College Fair
Four years ago Episcopal’s three college counselors created – on our campus -- the Episcopal Collaborative College Fair for local scholars. Originally, 30 colleges showed up. In 2017, the college counselors added case studies and, in 2018, 50 colleges sent representatives.
Click here to see the list of colleges who were on our campus recently. You will note in-state colleges, such as LSU, LSU Honors College, ULL and Tulane, as well as colleges nationwide, such as MIT and Dartmouth, were engaging our students and other high school scholars from our area.
Episcopal is a “college preparatory” school, according to the big sign on the main Boulevard entrance! The on-campus college fair gives our Upper School students (focused on their sophomore and junior years) and their parents a very “homey” opportunity to learn about the college admissions process from the “horse’s mouth”---the visiting college admissions officers. And, with the Main Gym filled with tables, admissions officers, and brochures, the students have a chance to learn in more-than-internet search-detail about the colleges they may not have an opportunity to visit. Importantly, students have a chance to begin a personalized relationship with college admissions officers.
From the beginning, we saw the opportunity to serve other high school scholars in Baton Rouge and western Louisiana. Every year, the Baton Rouge Youth Coalition -- “BRYC”-- sends a group of its students. We work with EBR and Cristo Rey Franciscan School to bring some of their outstanding students. We invite our Episcopal friends from across the river --- Episcopal School of Acadiana and Ascension Episcopal School -- to send their outstanding students, too.
We run the Collaborative College Fair for local scholars without charging fees to anyone!
ESTAAR, Scholarships and Sports
How Episcopal’s Academic Changes Came Together for Connor Pellerin (’17) and Scott Wicker, Jr. (’18) —Athletes and Scholars
Connor Pellerin – Coastal Habitat, Baseball and Football
Connor Pellerin (’17) joined Episcopal in the 9th grade. Immediately, he became part of the 80% of Upper School (and Middle School) students who compete in team sports. He applied himself academically, demonstrating an interest in science. As a junior, Connor began participating in our ESTAAR program which, in a nutshell, places students in university labs run by research scientists to work on specific projects—for Episcopal course credit. Connor’s work involved Louisiana coastal habitat issues. Connor was recognized by high school science fairs and with his research work being published in a journal article along with the work of The Water Institute of the Gulf scientists. All along at Episcopal, Connor developed as a strong multi-sport athlete, eventually earning postseason accolades, multi-year varsity letters, and being named by his teammates as a Team Captain to both our varsity football and baseball programs. In short, Connor led a busy, positive student-athlete life at Episcopal.
When it came time for college admissions, Connor’s record of hard work and good grades combined with his unique ESTAAR experience and his baseball accomplishments served him very well. In the normal college admissions time, he was admitted to colleges of his choice to continue his scientific studies. Then, late in his senior year, he found himself in a rare situation. His baseball pitching had matured and, with a senior year record of 9-3, an ERA of under 1, and 108 strikeouts, he had drawn the attention of college baseball scouts, including Tulane University. Connor accepted Tulane University’s attractive scholar-athlete package and is now finishing his freshman year at Tulane. In his young collegiate athletic career, Connor has already made 17 appearances for the Green Wave, including 2 wins and a save. Needless to say, Connor has worked hard and done well academically and in baseball at Tulane.
Scott Wicker, Jr. – Non-Traditional Heating Methods for Petrochemical Manufacturing, Football, Baseball and Powerlifting
Scott Wicker, Jr. (’18) also applied himself academically, demonstrating an interest in science and participated in ESTAAR. He qualified to present his university-level research in May 2018 at the 56th National Junior Science and Humanities Symposium. Scott will be one of the 230 high school students who qualified to make a presentation by submitting and presenting original scientific research papers in regional symposia held at universities nationwide. He qualified for the national competition at the Louisiana regional event that was held at LSU in January. Scott also won 1st place in his category at Region VII Science Fair and 3rd place in his category at State Science Fair. Scott played football and baseball and did powerlifting. He placed 2nd Team All District in Football and placed 6th in State Powerlifting.
Next year Scott intends to study science and do more scientific research at Rhodes College (Memphis, TN). At Rhodes, a NCAA Division III College, he will be back on the football field as a "Lynx."
Louisiana and its ports, industries and agriculture are deeply involved in global commerce and global affairs. Episcopal’s students can engage in global studies through a range of curricular and co-curricular undertakings.
Two experiences of Ms. Alex Nelson, a freshman, point toward how Episcopal students engage in global issues. The Selection Committee for the National Spanish Exam Global Citizen Scholarships recently awarded Alex a scholarship to attend a two-week Spanish immersion program through the Concordia Language Villages in Minnesota this summer. This semester she also won second place in the senior individual website at the State National History Day Competition at the WWII Museum in New Orleans. Her website project, Weaponized Disinformation: Compromised Truth in the Korean and Vietnam Wars, compared pro- and anti-communist propaganda during the Korean and Vietnam Wars. Her achievement qualifies her to compete at the National History Day Competition at the University of Maryland, College Park in June.
In the 18-19 school year, the World Language and Social Studies departments will operate as a single department labeled Global and Social Studies Department. I look forward to the proliferation of “global studies” courses and activities to be made possible by this combination.
Strong, Sinewy, Sweaty, Synergistic Scholarship
Around 80% of Episcopal’s Upper School students compete in a full range of 17 sports under the aegis of the Louisiana High School Athletic Association. Let’s look through the lens of the Swim Team to get a feel for how academics and sports naturally intertwine at Episcopal.
These few facts about our brand of "strong" academics reviewed through the highly competitive swim team speak volumes about how students have highly personalized opportunities to learn and be coached at Episcopal.
In the next four graduating classes --- 2018, 2019, 2020, and 2021 --- 38% of all students rank in the top 10% of all students testing nationally.
Standardized testing begins at Third Grade at Episcopal with the age-appropriate test labelled ACT Aspire. At Sixth through Eighth Grade, Episcopal employs the ACT Explore, ACT Plan and ACT series tests, depending on the student level. Comparing our students’ scores to national norms is one way we gauge how Episcopal is doing relative to students across the country.
One could look at it this way: Episcopal has more than a third of each class scoring in the top 10% nationwide.
Over the last few years, we have worked hard to retain great teachers, attract great teachers, train the integrated faculty, and make curricular advances to draw out the potential of such a bright and motivated student body. It seems to me that a core of bright and motivated students has attracted even more bright and motivated students to participate in the renewed educational community at Episcopal.