SSATBThink Tank

The New York Times Notable Books of 2012 list was published this week, and it was good to see its recognition of Paul Tough’s new book, How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character. Surely many blog readers who have not yet gotten to this new book will recall Tough’s widely circulated article featured on the cover of the New York Times Magazine in October 2011: “What is the Secret of Success is Failure?”

That article, which sits at the center of the new book, describes the work being conducted at two New York City schools that serve very different populations: Riverdale Country School (a SSATB Member) and KIPP mid
dle school. School leaders at both schools, however, have teamed to develop new tools and techniques to both cultivate and assess a set of character—particularly so-called “performance character”—skills and attributes, believing them to be equally important or, if we look to the Darwin quote above, superior to traditionally defined intelligence in making for future success.

As is fairly well known within our association, Choate Rosemary Hall has undertaken such an experiment over the past decade in an extraordinarily impressive way, as part of a collaboration with Dr. Robert Sternberg, a former Choate parent, and at the time head of the PACE (Psychology of Abilities, Competencies, and Expertise) Center. Choate Admission Director Ray Diffley’s leadership of this project, and the lessons he has learned from it, have brought him to the leadership of our Think Tank.

Choate’s work expanding its range of admission assessments has had several iterations. In its earlier, expansive version, which included a wide array of student assessments and tasks, it found “three consistent variables among students best predicted a student’s ability to thrive at Choate….

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