Turning the Tide: Inspiring Concern for Others and the Common Good Through College Admissions, by Richard Weissbourd in collaboration with Lloyd Thacker and the Making Caring Common team including Trisha Ross Anderson, Alison Cashin, Luba Falk Feigenberg, and Jennifer Kahn
Making Caring Common Project Harvard Graduate School of Education, January 20, 2016
This report examines the unintended consequences of the current college process and suggests how it might be changed for the better. The "tide" referenced in the title is the deleterious effect the college admissions process seems to have on students, families, and schools. As university admission became increasingly selective over the last few decades, high performing students increasingly risked becoming "Excellent Sheep," pursuing personal achievements tailored to the college process, rather than following genuine, intrinsic desires. Meanwhile, students without access to relatively high-performing secondary schools often found themselves locked out of the process because they could no longer meet ever-rising baseline admissions criteria. A trend among adolescents in general seems to be increased incidents of mental health issues triggered in part by the inordinate family, school, self-induced, and societal pressures of the college process. In an effort to address these concerns, an impressive coalition of educators and admissions professionals have come together to endorse three major changes to the college admissions process: (1) Promoting more meaningful contributions to others; (2) Assessing students' ethical engagement and contributions to others in ways that reflect varying types of family and community contributions across race, culture, and class; and (3) Redefining achievement in ways that both level the playing field for economically diverse students and reduce excessive achievement pressure. Having the Harvard imprimatur means that this report stands a chance of driving some meaningful change in the admissions process. It should be of interest to all independent school educators who embrace a college preparatory mission.