An Update on Mission Skills Assessment at Burke's

This season of conference and reports is a good moment to share information about some of the ways Burke’s reflects on and assesses its work as a school teaching girls both academic and non-academic skills.

To get a sense of how our students perform on basic reading- and math-related academic skills, we administer a standardized test common to independent schools — the Educational Records Bureau’s CTP — each spring to third through seventh graders. (More information is available on your Resources page.) The results of this testing both assures us that Burke’s students are on par with students in other independent schools — as our median scores are generally close to or above median independent school scores nationally, and by seventh grade, our medians are routinely above independent school medians — and also give us a way to track the impact on scores of changes we make in our curriculum and teaching.

But a Burke’s education is not just about reading, writing, and mathematics. How do we measure the impact of our work with girls on the non-academic skills that we focus on in our social-emotional learning activities, report on in the Approach to Learning sections of our progress reports, have tried to capture in our model of how a Burke’s girl learns in the 21st century, and allude to in our mission commitments and the “outcome statements” that describe our vision of the “21st-century Burke’s girl”?

We use the Missions Skills Assessment, an instrument designed by the Educational Testing Service in collaboration with member schools of INDEX — an independent-school data-sharing collaborative — to measure students' proficiency and growth in six non-cognitive skill areas: teamwork, creativity, ethics, resilience, curiosity, and time management.  

The assessment, which combines student self-reporting with brief, multiple choice scenarios, takes one class period; students who are unable to complete the assessment during that time are allowed to finish during advisory or conference time. In addition, advisors assess their students, providing the third “leg” of this “multi-trait, multi-modal” testing.

Lisa Spengler administers the test in her role as Assistant Director of Upper School for Student Life and Leadership. What she stressed when explaining the test to students last fall, and will stress again in preparation for this year’s administration of the MSA the first week of December, is that the MSA is an institutional assessment. We do not receive scores for individual students, but rather by grade-level and overall. This is not a way of assessing individual students, but a tool for looking at how we are doing as school in developing these skills which we deem important as part of a Burke’s education.

During the summer, we received the results of the 2014 MSA administration. We are considering these results as a baseline against which to compare subsequent results. As such, and because the spread in scores between schools is not considered statistically significant, we are cautious about sharing detailed results. That said, we were gratified to see that Burke’s students’ scores in most areas of the test were above the average of the 88 schools tested. We will be most interested, though, in the longitudinal results as we continue to give the test, and, as with the CTP4, consider results from year to year in light of adjustments we make to our program and teaching.
Burke's mission is to educate, encourage and empower girls. Our school combines academic excellence with an appreciation for childhood so that students thrive as learners, develop a strong sense of self, contribute to community, and fulfill their potential, now and throughout life.


An independent K–8 school for girls
7070 California Street, San Francisco, CA 94121
Phone: 415.751.0177 Fax: 415.666.0535
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