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    The Character Skills Assessment (CSA)

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    2015-2016 - CSA Pilot Program: Measuring What Matters in ​Admission

    Traits like teamwork, empathy, and integrity are a sign of values and character in action and part of what independent schools are looking for in your child. These are traits that you hope will be taken into account during the admission process...but what if you could ensure that they would?  

    SSATB’s groundbreaking Character Skills Assessment (CSA) is an innovative tool meant to complement the SSAT by examining character traits your child demonstrates every day in school and in the community, and we are thrilled to be able to offer you the ability to participate in the ground level beta testing research being conducted this year. ​This assessment is intended to do nothing less than revolutionize the way both families and schools approach admission.  

    If you've ever wondered whether your student's full potential is being measured by admission testing, or wished you could provide schools with a way to see those things that make your child special but aren't measured by grades or test scores, this is the research that will get us there.  

    Built by admission test experts at SSATB and Educational Testing Service (ETS), in conjunction with independent schools, the CSA will help independent school admission teams understand the unique qualities children will contribute to each school’s individual community.

    FAQ CSA SSATPartner Schools CSA

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    Dear Parent,

    When my daughter was applying to independent schools just a few years ago, I was keenly aware that there was more to my daughter than her academic record. Would a file, for example, share the story of her deep empathy for others? As the Executive Director of SSATB, a non-profit membership organization for independent schools and the governing body for the SSAT, an admission test required by independent schools, this personal experience was impactful.  For me, as both a parent and a professional, it brought to light the need to help admission professionals go beyond the transcript, teacher recommendations, and cognitive test score.

    As a result, SSATB commissioned a group of leading admission and independent school practitioners for a Think Tank on the Future of Assessment. Four members of the Think Tank worked with me to consider how assessment is changing for the future, and what that might mean for assessments that are used to select students for independent schools.

    Led by Ray Diffley, Director of Admission at Choate Rosemary Hall (CT)), and together with Nancy Hayes, Director of Enrollment Management at New Canaan Country School (CT); Jonathan Martin, Principal of Jonathan E. Martin Educational Services (AZ); and Marjorie Mitchell, Director of Admission and Financial Aid at The Westminster Schools (GA), this Think Tank interviewed and assessed leading research from many experts, including Angela Duckworth, University of Pennsylvania’s guru of grit; Robert Sternberg, prolific author on the topic of assessment known for his triarchic theory of intelligence; and William Sedlaceck, an outspoken advocate for incorporating noncognitive assessment in standardized testing, particularly to provide access for underserved populations. We also met with higher education admission directors like Harvard’s Bill Fitzsimmons to better understand how colleges are changing the way they assess students.

    After each round of conversation and research review, the Think Tank became more convinced that it was time for independent schools to "measure what matters." We theorized that traits such as openness to learning, curiosity, critical thinking, and moral judgment, if measured during our admission process, might increase the predictive power of student success in our schools.

    There is no doubt that the continued measurement of cognitive skills for academic preparedness will remain part of a student’s application to independent schools, yet SSATB’s trustees agree with the Think Tank’s thesis and have funded a pilot project to develop a tool for character assessment, The Character Skills Assessment (CSA). We expect our research will demonstrate that each student’s social/emotional qualities and habits of mind will add predictive power in selecting students who will succeed in independent schools.

    In 2014, SSATB launched the research and development plan for the new CSA. Currently in development—in conjunction with the Educational Testing Service (ETS) and a volunteer group of 32 independent schools—the CSA will aim to measure non-cognitive attributes in applicants to SSATB member schools.

    We are excited about the future possibilities inherent in pairing the SSAT with a suite of character assessment tools that can provide schools with a more comprehensive student profile and get to the heart of who your child is as a student and as a citizen. The next two years are sure to bring some exciting developments as our research helps refine and launch this first-of-its-kind assessment.

    We appreciate your willingness to participate in this exciting pilot of the CSA. You and your child are now part of a transformational assessment that will help us get to know your child like you know your child.

    Heather Hoerle Signature

    Heather Hoerle
    Executive Director, SSATB