The Measure of Our Success

Taylor Stockdale
This spring a series of ranking lists for U.S. high schools once again set the news media abuzz. The three most prominent rankings released were compiled by U.S. News & World Report, Newsweek/The Daily Beast and The Washington Post.

Among these three news outlets, only The Washington Post attempted to rank private schools in addition to public schools. The Post’s list placed Webb in the top 10 private schools in the nation. Webb was the top boarding school to appear on their list. Of course, we at Webb took great pride in this national notoriety, but we also realized that the ranking criteria used was (as are all of them) remarkably reductive and simplistic.

One only need look at the U.S. News and World Report phenomenon at the college level to see how unintended consequences of such rankings can lead to distraction and flawed goal-setting in higher education. What started out as a project to objectively rank colleges and universities according to like-criteria including incoming SAT scores, admission selectivity, endowment levels etc., has now morphed into a national obsession. College and universities, rather than focusing their resources and efforts on deepening their individual distinctive qualities as learning institutions, are now consumed by keeping or improving their “ranking.” These unintended consequences could hardly have been foreseen years ago when U.S. News launched this initial effort.

Similarly, the federal mandate No Child Left Behind had unintended negative results as well. While not a ranking per se, NCLB attempted to quantify school success largely through national test scores. Few could have seen that this would lead to the stripping away if arts and co-curricular classes and even a rash of state-wide cheating scandals still being investigated today.

While many have asked me about this The Washington Post article and how we might “use it” to promote Webb, I have been extremely cautious about doing so. To me, the true measure of our success is so much more than a ranking of this type. Just as in U.S. News and NCLB, my fear is that, by subscribing to this game we will begin to chase the wrong goals. Rather than focusing on our mission of graduating honorable leaders who will go on to lead lives of service and true meaning, we will chase our tails by encouraging more and more students to take courses that are most easily comparable to a national norm. Furthermore, while we take great pride in and continue to build a robust academic program, it is my belief that the entire Webb Experience, from classes to Peccary trips, athletics to the arts, chapels to leading in the dorms, is what we need to foster and strengthen over time.

To me, the ultimate measure of our success rests with our alumni. As a 90 year-old institution, we now have a firm track record of Webb and Vivian Webb alumni who are living out the educational qualities we seek to instill.

In this spirit, I hope you will enjoy this edition of WEBB, which does a fine job of illustrating the breadth of our curriculum and the care in which we take to ensure each student finds her or his voice as they strive to lead a life of purpose. In particular, I hope you will take good notice of our article “Innovators, Disruptors and Entrepreneurs.” This article does an excellent job of highlighting one key measurement of the Webb Experience, that of graduating innovators – people who are capable of thinking creatively, collaborating effectively, communicating meaningfully, and solving problems. To me these are far more relevant skills than AP scores and SAT averages and the like.

When reviewing Webb’s history and its curriculum, it becomes clear that we are a school community built to produce innovators. Almost a century ago, Thompson Webb visualized a world class boarding school in the middle of nowhere, and based on that vision, bought an abandoned, dilapidated campus sight unseen with no money down. What better example of an innovator than he? And today, as I interact with our students and our alumni around the nation and world, I see innovators all around me. They are 14. They are 91. They are in all walks of life: medicine, business, film, education. And they all enjoy a spirit of learning that comes from a place that looks way beyond the test scores to measure its success.

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Alumni News

List of 4 news stories.

  • L to R: Rachael Schiffris ’11, Katherine Kilmer ’10, Ed Ratinoff ’83, Sarah Sun ’10, Ariel Fan ’10

    Networking Essentials with Webb Alumni

    Michael Simonelli
    On January 12, 2019 five accomplished alumni returned to campus for our first ever Networking Essentials with Webb Alumni session. The panel of speakers represented several industries including law, real estate, green energy and marketing. Eager students spent their Saturday afternoon with our incredible alumni learning about the vital skills needed to effectively network and succeed in the increasingly complex job market. Each panelist spoke about a different aspect of networking and gave a brief background of their journey after Webb.
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  • Young alumni panel at the Affiliates meeting

    Young Alumni Return to Webb

    During the first week back from winter break, students and parents had a chance to hear from young alumni about their experiences at college including managing academics and being away from home, maintaining a healthy mind and body, as well as a panel on college athletics.
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  • Marcelo Leonardi '94 Receives Distinguished Coaching Award

    USA Water Polo has announced Marcelo Leonardi '94 as the Midwest Zone recipient of the Sandy Nitta Distinguished Coaching Award. Leonardi is the Head Coach of the women's water polo team at the University of Michigan.
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  • Holiday Events in Los Angeles & San Francisco

    We enjoyed seeing alumni, parents and friends at the holiday events in Los Angeles and San Francisco.
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Webb News

List of 4 news stories.

  • Fall/Winter 2019

    “The process of finding the right college is more often than not riddled with anxiety for both students and their families. It is paradoxically both increasingly complex and more streamlined than ever. Technology allows students to simply add multiple colleges to the Common Application with a few clicks. And yet the convenience doesn’t reflect the intricate web of criteria that factor into applying to one college over another.”
    So opens the feature to our recent issue of WEBB Magazine. Reported and written by Christopher Michno, the piece delves into the myths and truths intertwined in the college admission process. He also offers up a series of personal success stories from recent Webb alumni now thriving at Stanford, Columbia, UC Berkeley and beyond. Part two follows young alumni who chose colleges related to their avocations—like art, business, engineering and others. The feature photography is done by Elisa Ferrari and focuses on the beautiful and varied architecture of the Claremont Colleges.
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  • Winter Dance Performance

    The Winter Dance Show 2019 UN / covered - is an exploration in what it means to cover and uncover - in music, dance, costuming, and text. Featuring choreography by dance coach and Webb faculty member Michael Szanyi and senior dance students, the show highlights self-expression through movement. How do we make something known? How do we bring that to light? By uncovering dance, the show asks audience members to explore how the study of movement informs their human experience.
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  • The Art & Science of Decision Making

    It is no accident, I believe, that at this very moment there is a riveting tale in The New Yorker  about the art and science of decision making. Or, at least, not an accident that I found it and read it. Here at Webb, at this time of year, there is no shortage of students and families making some of the most important decisions (they believe) of their lives--from admission to and enrollment at Webb, to college admission for our seniors. Joshua Rothman rights beautifully about it here, bringing in examples from Darwin, Tolstoy, the modern parent and more. Read it in The New Yorker.
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  • Dr. Farke & Alf Museum in The Washington Post

    Augustyn Family Curator and Director of Research & Collections Andrew Farke is quoted today in The Washington Post on the impact of the federal government shutdown on fieldwork planning for paleontologists. Beyond the impact on visitor centers at such places as Dinosaur National Monument and the Petrified Forest National Park, research and fieldwork on federal lands has been dramatically affected, too. Read more in The Washington Post.
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Sports Blog

List of 4 news stories.

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