As a part of our commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice, we recognize observances and holidays that center the voices and experiences of historically excluded peoples in the United States. As an educational organization, we want to lift up the words of others who share our commitment to learning, and amplify LGBTQIA+ voices during LGBTQIA+ Pride month in June and throughout the year.
Learn about the history of Pride: Pride began as a political commemoration of the 1969 Stonewall riots and protests–spurred and led by Black and Latinx trans women–in New York City and evolved into a month-long affirmation and celebration of LGBTQIA+ identity.
Recognize LGBTQIA+ Pride in your school and community: Access lesson plans about the history of Pride and LGBTQIA+ history and activism in the U.S. from the Human Rights Campaign’s Welcoming Schools initiative. Want to learn more? The Association for Academic Leaders June 2023 Forum features Cheryl Greene, director of the Welcoming Schools initiative at HRC!
Listen to LGBTQIA+ Voices: Teach for America alum Dwayne J Bensing reflects on his experiences as an out gay middle school science and social studies teacher. Now Legal Director of Delaware’s ACLU chapter, Bensen writes, “I brought my full, authentic self into the classroom. I believe my students benefited. I take pride in that.”
Marking the Moment 2023: Artificial Intelligence and the Student Experience at the Association for Academic Leaders
Right now, everyone knows they need to talk about AI–and they’re not sure where to look. The Association for Academic Leaders is making sure that members have the resources they need to tackle top-of-mind issues and lead conversations with confidence and knowledge.
To help Academic Leaders power end-of-year meetings and lead conversations on crucial topics like AI, we built Marking the Moment 2023, an exclusive member resource designed to help Academic Leaders power end-of-year meetings and lead conversations on crucial topics.
We know that Academic Leaders are invested in the effects of generative artificial intelligence (AI) on the student experience, so we’re sharing a section from Marking the Moment 2023. Take a look at just one of the resources we’ve developed on AI for our members, and download the slide below.
Want more like this? In Summer 2023, we’re providing Association members multiple opportunities to ask the questions that generative AI raises–and find the answers that are right for their school. We’ll spend time in June during our Academic Leaders Forum in learning the latest developments around AI and discussing the implications in like-role groups. We have a meetup in June for Academic Leaders to learn and share about how AI is helping them in their work tasks. Then in July, we’re offering AI Considerations for Academic Leaders, a one-week asynchronous online course designed to get you up to speed on the right conversations to lead in August and September on your campus.
Generative AI is Changing the Student Experience.
Spring 2023 Takeaway: Broad context and narrative that has shaped the year in independent schools.
Research and Data: Key points from surveys, research, and academic journals. Review our source document for each slide’s citations.
Discussion Questions: Opportunities to reflect on the challenges and opportunities for growth in your community.
Why a forum? We call this the Academic Leaders Forum because at its heart, these two days are about coming together–giving Academic Leaders the opportunity to connect, learn in inspiring workshops and round table conversations, and take a moment to renew and recharge in a relaxed and inspiring atmosphere for the coming year.
We have lined up two powerful hands-on workshops for participants.
Storytelling can be a powerful tool for leaders to inspire and motivate their teams; whether those are internal teams of educators and students or the larger community of families or peers at a professional conference. Proficient storytellers know how to tailor their stories to different audiences and communicate in a way that resonates with diverse perspectives and backgrounds. Academic leaders attending the workshop will learn to use stories to communicate vision and values, build trust, and inspire action.
Beyond the workshops, we’ll have some interactive small group informal conversations on topics that are top of mind for participants. We’ll have opportunities to explore the impact of generative AI (artificial intelligence) on the work done by Academic Leaders. We’ll also look into the coming year and outline the questions that AI sparks about teaching and learning in independent schools. Answers are likely to be ephemeral, but the questions, when founded in schools’ values, can help Academic Leaders manage the ongoing conversations that will need to happen on campus.
Beyond these, we’ll also have good food, abundant coffee, and time to reconnect and relax with your peers from independent schools across the country.
Learn more, become a member and join us at the Forum!
Conversations Around Artificial Intelligence at the Association for Academic Leaders
Academic Leaders are continuing to have important conversations around AI on campus and with peers in other schools. When the advisory council met to generate ideas around the topics that would be included in this year’s Marking the Moment, there was unanimous support for including AI, not just once, but twice: there’s teaching and learning about AI, and then there’s educator use of AI. Even with two distinct areas of exploration, we still find major intersections. The framework still holds for the guidance the Association issued in January, and can help Academic Leaders think through emerging developments and next steps.
In his recent webinar, Questions to Ask Yourself When Grappling With AI at Your School, Vinnie Vrotny, Technology Director at Kinkaid School, pointed out that humans "are really terrible.... really terrible predictors in terms of where we think things will go right and where they won’t.” Vinnie went on to say that in order to avoid this trap, the first question Academic Leaders need to ask themselves about AI is “Okay, what might happen because of this?”
Back in January, our first recommendation to Academic Leaders was “figure out what AI actually is–and what it isn’t.” That advice still holds. Thinking about Vinnie’s that people struggle to perceive the implications of technology innovations and how they’ll impact our lived experience in both the near and the distant future, let me propose two (admittedly enormous) questions for Academic Leaders to explore this summer.
How will AI have an impact on hiring and job responsibilities in the education sector? (In other words: What if our jobs change?)
If your immediate response to this question is “certainly not” you, like the majority, fall in the category of respondents in the Pew research study who said artificial intelligence will have a major impact on jobholders overall in the next twenty years, but it won't affect them personally.
Allow me to humbly suggest that this stance almost certainly guarantees that at some point you’re going to be really caught off-guard by AI developments. We recommend that Academic Leaders take a deeper dive into both general and education-related topics to better understand what is and could be happening in the professional world of work. Our source document for Marking the Moment includes a number of resources, and I’ll add a couple here that have been released since that document (did we mention that this is a fast-evolving and exponentially growing topic?) For the curious, the Washington Post just released this interactive tool, cleverly titled: Type in your job to see how much AI will affect it. Give it a go!
A couple of other new resources:
Harvard Business Review is in the middle of a special series of podcasts titled How Generative AI Changes Everything. The first episode was fascinating, I plan to keep listening.
News stories abound, such as IBM CEO Arvind Krishna’s announcement that 7800 back-office jobs could be replaced with AI in the next five years and as a consequence, IBM is instituting a hiring freeze. Here’s one take on this news
How will we prepare our students to critically think about AI’s impact on what it means to think and create? (In other words: What if our students have to navigate a future in which “creator” is a meaningless term?)
As Vinnie put it in our webinar, educators need to think about our students’ futures in the many roles they’ll have for years to come “How might we leverage generative AI within the context of the various subjects to prepare students to lead, serve, and become contributing citizens in the future?”
Teaching about AI will be far more important in the long run for students’ futures than focusing on academic honesty issues. What do classroom educators, curriculum designers, and instructional coaches need to explore to be able to do this adequately within their divisions and disciplines? How will you engage your colleagues in active research? Will it be acceptable for some to simply say “I don’t get it” and avoid the conversation?
The tension between process and product has been swirling in independent schools for decades. Many independent school educators and leaders have stressed that the process of student learning is equally, if not more important than the products generated. We have aspirational portraits of our graduates as “life-long learners.” At the same time, product is intelligible to parents (report cards!), admissions offices (resumes! transcripts!) and, yes, teachers (final exams!).
AI lays this argument bare. If people focus on academic products–the answer to a problem set, the final draft of an essay, or a completed lab report–they also have to come to terms with the fact that students have access to machines that can produce the same (or better) product. Check this out: ChatGPT recently passed the theory portions of the Master Sommelier test, despite the fact that it’s never tasted a sip of wine. (See the full list of exams ChatGPT has passed.)
Educators may not have the answers about the new world that generative AI will help create. More than most, however, they are exquisitely prepared to find the questions about how to approach this world that’s in the messy process of creation.
Here’s an essay that posits that humanities degrees are more essential than ever, not just for writing and thinking about AI but for managing it and interacting with it too. Magic for English Majors.
This summer, we’re providing multiple opportunities for Academic Leaders to find answers to the inevitable question “what are others thinking about ….” when it comes to AI. We’ll spend time in June during our Academic Leaders Forum in learning the latest developments around AI and discussing the implications in like-role groups. We have a meetup scheduled in June for Academic Leaders to learn and share about how AI is helping them in their work tasks. Then in July, we’re offering AI Considerations for Academic Leaders, a one-week asynchronous online course designed to get you up to speed on the right conversations to lead in August and September on your campus.
Expanding Calculus Access
Unsurprisingly, enrollment in Calculus courses started to rise dramatically. Calculus enrollment more than doubled from 7% in 1990 to 19% in 2013. (Paradoxically, enrollment in Calculus did drop to 16% in 2019). Data also demonstrates that Calculus enrollment is not equitably distributed; 6% of Black high school students took Calculus, compared to 18% of white students. In public schools where fewer than 25% of students are eligible for free lunch, 25% of students take Calculus; in schools where more than 75% of students are eligible for free lunch, only 9% of students do.
Access to Calculus is not a reflection of students’ ability to complete higher-level math courses. Often, it’s a reflection of the middle school students attended. That’s because in order to take Calculus in the senior year, students need to have completed Algebra I before starting high school. That’s fairly standard in independent schools, but just 24% of public school students take Algebra I in eighth grade.
As a result, independent high school math placement in ninth grade often aligns with whether or not a student attended an independent K-8, and because white students are dramatically over-represented in independent schools, white students are typically over-represented, first in ninth-grade Geometry, later in twelfth-grade Calculus, and, ultimately, in selective college admissions.
Math achievement in high school shouldn’t be determined by the education a student has access to in middle school–and it doesn’t have to be. Imagine a ninth grade curriculum that covers the material of Algebra I, well-scaffolded by explicit instruction in executive functioning skills and growth mindsets, followed by a summer program that guides students through Geometry coursework. Those students return to school in the fall of tenth grade, ready for Algebra II, on track for Calculus and the college application process in their senior year.
We’re proud that our summer math courses are used by schools to help build equity in their academic programs. Frequently, schools subsidize or cover the cost of the course as part of their tuition assistance package. Since first offering the course, Geometry has consistently been one of our top-enrolled summer courses.
Let’s go back to that enrollment data. It’s worth noting that these are pre-pandemic numbers, and 2019 is the last year that data was available for this study. We do, however, have access to the number of students who took the AP® Exams in Calculus AB and Calculus BC. (Of course, the number of students who take the AP Exam isn’t equal to the number of students who completed the course, but that data isn’t readily available.) Between 2019 and 2020, the number of students who took the tests dropped 10%. Between 2020 and 2021, it dropped another 5%. It’s not possible to tease out the reasons for these drops, but the pathway to Calculus seems to be narrowing–and that’s not good for equity or achievement.
The College Board is trying to bridge the achievement gap with their new AP Precalculus course designed to expand the path to Calculus. The goal, says Trevor Packer, senior vice president, AP and Instruction, is to “prepare a much broader group of students to thrive in college math courses, regardless of where they start in high school math.” Any move to further equity and access is a good one. At the same time, AP Precalculus doesn’t question the assumption that Calculus should be the zenith of the high school math curriculum–it cements the assumption instead. For a great conversation about the high school math curriculum, check out this 2019 Freakonomics podcast episode featuring professor Jo Boaler and College Board CEO David Coleman.
Math educators don’t want Calculus to be the solitary endpoint for high school math. The Mathematical Association of America and the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics issued a joint position statement in June 2022 that “a high school calculus course should not be the singular end goal of the PK–12 mathematics curriculum at the expense of providing a broad spectrum of mathematical preparation.”
How might college admissions offices rethink their allegiance to Calculus? That’s a question math teachers, college counselors, and researchers are trying to answer. A 2021 report sponsored by Just Equations and NACAC, A New Calculus for College Admissions: How Policy, Practice, and Perceptions of High School Math Education Limit Equitable Access to College offers research and proposals to widen the pipeline to advanced mathematics, and to challenge college admissions officers’ assumptions about high school math.
Until college admissions offices shift their thinking about Calculus, independent schools are stuck with an intractable problem. Highly selective colleges demand that students take Calculus, but students’ ability to take Calculus in high school is inequitable and determined by factors outside their control. In addition, taking Calculus in high school doesn’t necessarily serve students as well as advanced topics in statistics, data science, or other branches of applied mathematics. Schools need to ask how they can expand equity and justice and provide students with the math knowledge they need to thrive in a rapidly changing world. We’re happy to be one of the answers.
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Brad Rathgeber (he/him/his)