Castilleja School

The Partnership for 21st Century Assessment 


The Challenge

The pursuit of our motto “Women Learning, Women Leading” has led Castilleja to infuse our curriculum with a scaffold of relevant, hands-on, and real-world educational experiences, in order to educate young women to become the innovators and change agents who will tackle the complex challenges of tomorrow. Along with many independent schools, we have developed innovative programs that aim to instill in our students the confidence and competence they need in several key areas: curiosity and intellectual risk-taking; collaboration; initiative and self-direction; multicultural and global awareness; and creative problem-solving.

We have struggled, however, to assess how successfully these programs have instilled these increasingly crucial habits of mind. In a time of escalating costs, and therefore a greater demand for accountability, we now must quantify beyond anecdotal evidence that these innovative programs are meeting our learning objectives. We must ascertain precisely which programs and which learning activities promote these “21st century skills,” by finding new ways to assess what we cannot easily evaluate using traditional methods, such as testing and essay writing.

The Search for Solutions

With the support from the Edward E. Ford Foundation, Castilleja will launch The Partnership for 21st Century Assessment, a collaboration whose aim is to develop meaningful and valid assessments of experiential learning, to apply these tools to improve the effectiveness of innovative experiential programs, and to share these best practices with other educators. The Partnership for 21st Century Assessment will focus on three primary goals: 1) curate and create new assessment tools; 2) implement and validate tools; and 3) build an assessment learning community.

The Partnership's director will lead projects to research and curate existing assessment resources; to collaborate with faculty on implementation of assessments in their classrooms; and to facilitate external partners’ work with our faculty. In addition to assessing programmatic efficacy, we will also develop and implement tools that give students meaningful feedback on their own experiential learning, that encourage students’ self-assessment, and, ultimately, that capture students' growth over time.

To share our work and build a robust assessment learning community, the Director will also build and maintain a web presence; design an online course to be shared with other educators; oversee a longitudinal research study on our graduates; and plan and organize both a Think Tank for School Leaders: Innovative Program Assessment and a Summer Institute for Faculty: Experiential Learning Assessment.