End of the Year Milestones at MPA

Heads Messagefrom Dr. Bill Hudson, head of school

You may have heard that I turned 60 last Friday. To my surprise, I was serenaded by the fourth grade in the morning and again in the afternoon by all those gathered for the Senior Awards Ceremony. It was a memorable day, to be sure. I am still coming to terms with turning 60, mostly because I think of myself in my late 40s. As a milestone, however, it reminds me to approach this phase of my life in gratitude for a life well lived and for the many more opportunities ahead of me.

In Roman times, every mile was marked by a stone along roadways with a number that signified the number of miles coming or going from Rome. Today, a milestone signifies a momentous life event or accomplishment, such as a birthday, marriage, graduation, or retirement. Like the days of old, these events mark our journey through life and are a way to measure growth, literally or figuratively. Milestones serve as reminders to pause and reflect and celebrate what matters most in our lives.

There are many milestones at MPA this time of year. In just over a week, we will celebrate the high school graduation of 61 remarkable young adults. We will hold a Moving Up Ceremony to mark the matriculation of the fourth grade to Middle School and the eighth grade to Upper School. Tonight, we will celebrate the careers of dedicated educators Scott Wilson and Kristy Petrich. Read More

All Students Benefit

Heads Messagefrom Dr. Bill Hudson, head of school

I recently went through some boxes in my mother’s house and came across a collection of my elementary school report cards. Year after year, very similar comments went something like this: “Bill would do much better if he learned to raise his hand and not blurt out answers during class discussions.” “Bill needs to be better about handing in his assignments.” “Bill scored highly on tests, but his lower grades reflect the absence of homework.” And “If Bill would only try harder, his grades would be higher.” I talked too much, didn’t raise my hand, and didn’t turn in my homework, but I scored very high on tests. Nonetheless, I felt like a failure, which only compounded the problem.

Many years later, I ran into my fifth-grade teacher, who was delighted to know I had earned a doctorate and was experiencing success in my career. “I always knew you’d do well. You had the highest IQ in the class.” I was stunned and wondered what my academic career would be like if we knew then what we know now about ADHD.

While ADHD affects how we learn, there is no correlation with intelligence. It is similar for learning differences such as dyslexia, dysgraphia, and dyscalculia. Neurodiversity is used more frequently to promote the idea that conditions like autism, ADHD, dyslexia, and other neurodevelopmental conditions are natural variations of the human brain rather than disorders to be cured. People with learning differences may have difficulty acquiring or demonstrating knowledge in traditional ways, but that doesn’t mean they cannot succeed in rigorous coursework or at schools like MPA.

The percentage of students with learning differences has consistently been on the rise in schools across the country. In a recent survey of independent heads of schools from across the United States, 85% said that supporting the learning needs of neurodiverse students is a priority for them. This reflects a 52% increase in just one year, from 2023 to 2024.

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Celebrating This Year’s Retirees

from Dr. Bill Hudson, head of school

In 2017, when Edutopia, a well-respected educational foundation, asked its readers to describe the traits of a life-changing teacher, very few of the responses were about test scores or academics. People overwhelmingly said that great teachers make their students feel safe and loved, believe in their students, model patience, and help their students reach their full potential—all qualities that remain largely unmeasured. I can’t think of a better way to describe the impact of fourth-grade teacher Scott Wilson and library assistant Kristy Petrich, who are retiring from MPA this year.

Many people will be surprised to learn that teaching is Scott’s second career. From 1987-1998, Scott owned and operated a successful restaurant in Winter Park, Colorado. He went back to school and earned a master’s degree in elementary education at the University of St. Thomas. Scott began substitute teaching at MPA in 1999 before becoming a permanent teacher in the 2000-01 school year. Since then, Scott has taught kindergarten, first, second, and fourth grades at MPA.

Colleagues and students describe Scott as kind, gentle, patient, and wise. Scott has always been flexible and supportive of his colleagues. “I once heard someone refer to him as the ‘Lower School Handyman’ because if there’s a flat tire, someone stuck in a ditch, or in need of a help hanging lights or fixing a faucet, he is there,” shared fellow fourth-grade teacher DeeDee Stacy.

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MPA’s Portrait Of A Graduate And Competency Framework

HeadsMessagefrom Dr. Bill Hudson, head of school

As the school year draws to a close, we begin to celebrate the progress and growth of students, including art shows, concerts, competitions, special events, and ceremonies. The pinnacle of our academic year is commencement on Saturday, June 8. This event is a significant milestone for our school and for the 61 members of the MPA Class of 2024 as we come together to celebrate their achievements and honor their journey.

Other accomplishments are also worth celebrating, such as our progress toward realizing our strategic plan. In particular, I want to call attention to the work of a committee comprised of faculty, staff, and administrators that has been working throughout the year to create a competency framework grounded in our mission and actualizing the MPA Portrait of a Graduate. I’ve written many times before about competency-based (or mastery-based) learning and developing our unique MPA competency framework (these articles date back to 2015, but see “A Roadmap for Continuous Improvement” and “2024ward: An Update” for the two most recent). Before I share the latest update, I’d like to provide some context.

The first priority of 2024ward challenges us to “Empower students to live, learn, and thrive in our increasingly complex and globalized society.” We do this by creating customized pathways of learning for students through curricular innovation and leveraging advances in educational technology. In addition to maximizing the use and integration of technology, MPA has been on a multi-year journey to continually enhance our school’s strengths in hands-on, experiential, project-based learning. Read More

There Is An Increasing Anxiety In U

Heads Messagefrom Dr. Bill Hudson, head of school

I’ve been an educator for over thirty years and have accompanied countless students and parents through the college search process. I’ve written numerous college recommendations. I’ve been the head of two college preparatory schools for 12 years. But when it matters most, accompanying my own daughter, I give myself a failing grade. Well, maybe a D. Yet my daughter succeeded largely because of her own initiative (for which I credit her middle school years at MPA). Many times throughout the last three years, I wished she could have benefitted from the outstanding college counseling program at MPA.

Yesterday, our PreK-12 school celebrated College Choice Day, and joined together to revel in the success of our seniors in gaining admission to their “right-fit” college or university. We purposely avoid celebrating the particular school they chose as much as we celebrate the culmination of a thoughtful process that resulted in a match of each individual student’s interests, abilities, and aspirations and provides opportunities for further growth and accomplishments. I am extremely proud of our seniors and their choices.

There seems to be an increasing anxiety in U.S. culture around the college search process, driven in part by an inflated importance of attending the “best” college instead of the “right-fit” college. The best fit for one student is not the right fit for the next, even among high-achieving, academically strong, and otherwise talented students. In his book, “Where You Go Is Not Who You’ll Be: An Antidote to the College Admissions Mania,” author and former New York Times columnist Frank Bruni attempts to refocus the college search process. Bruni hopes to “restore the excitement of going off to college, which should be a time for taking intellectual and social chances, for finding or confirming a passion, and for discovering yourself,” rather than getting caught up with getting into the colleges and universities perceived as elite.

The mission of the MPA College Counseling Office is to provide information, structure, and attention to each class as a whole, as well as to each student individually. We share a common goal—a college choice that fits each child well and provides opportunities for further growth and accomplishments. Our integrated and multi-faceted approach includes our seminar and advisory programs, individual student and family meetings, special speakers and events, test-prep resources, and practice test opportunities.

Like our approach to education, the college admissions selection process at MPA is grounded in the whole child. College selection is driven by a student’s unique set of interests, preferences, and aspirations. Students also explore their own learning styles, personality, and ideas about career possibilities. Just as MPA balances arts, academics, and athletics, we encourage our students to strive for academic excellence and become well-rounded individuals through artistic pursuits and extra-curricular involvement.

Carefully considering each student’s individual interests, priorities, and aspirations and balancing that with the current college admission landscape takes time and reflection. With this in mind, students are led through a personalized and thoughtfully designed curriculum that starts in ninth grade and continues through junior and senior years. In each grade, MPA integrates developmentally appropriate elements of career exploration and college counseling through our advisory program and seminar programs, mindful of where the students are on their educational journey.

I often wish that I had access to the college counseling available at MPA when I was in high school. It was clear that my parents expected me to go to college, but I lacked the support at home or at school to engage in the kind of search afforded to students at MPA. In retrospect, I enjoyed a solid undergraduate education complete with incredible opportunities to grow and discover who I am, my strengths, and my passions. I was fortunate. I “fell into” my college rather than embracing a choice after a thoughtful and deliberate process.

According to the American School Counselor Association, the national student-to-school counselor ratio in 2022-23 was 1:385. The National Association for College Admission Counseling reports that of the many responsibilities of high school counselors, post-secondary admission counseling accounts for only 22% of their time. At MPA, students benefit from two full-time college counselors whose sole responsibility is advising and guiding students through the college search, application, admission, and selection process.

I want to encourage you to shake off any anxiety you may have about college admissions: you’re already well positioned for the college search adventure by having your child attend MPA. With the wisdom, experience, and guidance of our faculty and our outstanding college counselors, the college search can indeed be an exciting opportunity to dream big and do right, to embrace their individual interests and talents, and to become the people they are meant to be.

To see photos from College Choice Day, click here.

Parent Engagement Strengthens Our School Community

from Dr. Bill Hudson, head of school

Spring is a season of renewal, a time when both nature and our school community come alive with energy and activity. At MPA, spring is particularly vibrant, filled with concerts, performances, games, meetings, celebrations, and cherished traditions like the Moving Up Ceremony, the Senior Walk, and the First Grade Poetry Picnic.

As we embark on this busy season, I want to ensure that all parents and guardians are fully informed and engaged. You can expect to receive invitations to a variety of special events and gatherings in the coming weeks. I encourage you to stay connected by regularly reading Panther Post and the division news linked from it and keeping an eye on your email for important updates and announcements. We are committed to communicating with you in a timely and effective manner and we hope that’s helpful—especially during seasons like this.

While I understand that everyone leads busy lives, we believe that parent engagement is vital to the success of our school community. Your participation in events and activities enriches the educational experience for your child and strengthens our overall community. I value your input and involvement and want to make it as easy as possible for you to participate in the ways that work best for you.

Here are a few upcoming events where I hope to see you …

Connect With MPA’s Incoming Middle School Director
I am excited to welcome Paul Errickson, our incoming Middle School director, to MPA May 2-3. Paul will be meeting with teachers, students, and administrators during his visit. Parents are invited to join Paul for coffee on Friday, May 3 at 8:15 AM in the Library. He will also be in attendance at the transition meetings, dinner, and concert the evening of May 2.  Read More

Global Responsibility: A Pathway to a Connected Future

Heads Message from Dr. Bill Hudson, head of school

Over spring break, I traveled to South Korea and China to meet with parents, students, teachers, and educators in both countries. The trip’s purpose was to further enhance our school’s commitment to global responsibility and awareness. I first traveled to South Korea with Cory Becker-Kim, MPA’s international student program coordinator, to establish a stronger presence in the Korean educational marketplace and introduce MPA to interested students and parents. Our goal there was to showcase the unique approach to education that defines MPA: a holistic, experiential, liberal arts education that nurtures the whole child.

In China, I had the privilege of visiting eight schools and one university and met with a number of school leaders and educational officials. Throughout my visit, I enjoyed engaging in profound discussions about the future of education and the importance of global citizenship. I was struck by the genuine interest in our educational approach, particularly our focus on fostering global responsibility and citizenship.

Global responsibility is a key anchor of our school’s mission statement. It is also part of the first priority of 2024ward, our strategic plan: “Empowering students to live, learn, and thrive in today’s complex, global society.” This commitment is rooted in our belief that we must prepare our students for the world that awaits them—a world that demands global thinking, effective communication, and responsible contributions.

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Introducing The Center for Inclusive Teaching & Learning

Heads message from Jennifer Rogers-Petitt, director of development and community engagement

Editor’s Note: Periodically, you will find a guest Head’s Message here from members of the administrative team. We hope you will enjoy reading their thoughts and reflections about life at MPA.

From an early age, I loved stories. I would make them up for myself at playtime. When I began to devour them in books, I couldn’t put them down, and when I started to write down the fantastical comings and goings of my active mind, I never wanted to stop. As I’ve gotten older, had children, and experienced the highs and lows that life offers, I’ve continued to go back to the stories that have opened my eyes, inspired my heart, and made me think. As a fundraiser, I witness the power of our personal and collective stories every day when:

  • I hear from an alum that their appreciation for MPA grows the more they experience in life;
  • I hear from parents about their journey to MPA and their hopes and dreams for what it can offer their children; and
  • I hear the joys and wishes of our faculty and staff as we dream about continuing to do right by our mission and the children in our care.

When I first came to MPA, my own story unfolded: someone not from Minnesota who had never experienced the independent school world and a fundraiser who had always wanted to be thoughtful about how I approached my work. Throughout my career, I have witnessed that if we dream big, tell stories, and stay true to our mission, we will once again spark the beautiful generosity of our community. I’ve now had six years of seeing that generosity come to life at MPA in so many ways: our incredible Family Commons and Martin Lenz Harrison Library, new tools and technology for students, a renovated outdoor track, new scholarship opportunities, COVID crisis funding, underwriting our diversity equity and inclusion initiatives, an innovation fund for teachers, and now, the Center for Inclusive Teaching & Learning. Throughout it all, I have talked with hundreds of community supporters and heard and shared stories of our collective impact through these funds.

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The Why Behind End-Of-Term Exams

Mark Segalfrom Mark Segal, Upper School director

Editor’s Note: Periodically, you will find a guest Head’s Message here from members of the administrative team. We hope you will enjoy reading their thoughts and reflections about life at MPA.

The pressure to end the quarter on the “right note” is frequently a focus for students and their families this time of year. Next week in the Upper School, most third-quarter English, math, science, social studies, and world language classes will be offering final exams to students in grades 9-11 (seniors do not take final exams.) End-of-term final assessments serve as a crucial tool to assess students in educational systems worldwide. They play a pivotal role in evaluating students’ comprehension, retention, and application of rigorous course material.

Research underscores their significance in measuring learning outcomes and guiding instructional strategies. According to a study published in the Journal of Educational Psychology, “Final exams contribute substantially to students’ overall academic performance, with performance on these assessments strongly correlating with their final grades.” End-of-term exams also highlight areas of strength and vulnerability, informing students and their teachers of areas of focus and adjustment.

MPA faculty do a wonderful job of asking students essential questions based upon the material taught and discussions had throughout the quarter. According to the Institute of Education Sciences, “Cumulative and larger end-of-term exams have been proven to improve long-term knowledge retention, cementing the very reason we go to school in the first place.”

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Classes Canceled March 25

Good morning, MPA Families –

Members of the administrative team and I have been closely monitoring the weather and road conditions since Sunday morning. Unfortunately, due to the storm, we have decided to cancel all classes, activities, and events for Monday, March 25.

We do not take this decision lightly as we balance the safety of our students, families, and employees with our commitment to having students at school. Safety, however, is always our highest priority.

We look forward to seeing you on Tuesday after what I hope was a wonderful spring break. Enjoy the snow day!

Dr. Bill Hudson
Head of School