(by Head of School, Wendy Calise)

Last week on Thursday and Friday, 12 of our CDS faculty and staff attended the National Association of Independent Schools’ Annual Conference. As is always the case, it was a star-studded cast, and I could go on for pages about all that we learned.

But instead, I want to focus on one particular presentation that made a strong impression on me: Panel of the Future of Education. The panelists were the Chancellor of the University of Denver; the President of York College of Pennsylvania; a political philosopher who was formerly the President of both Wellesley and Duke; and the President of Southern New Hampshire University (the largest provider of online higher education in New England). It was a powerhouse of knowledge, and they shared with us their predictions for the future of the university experience, and the current challenges they face.


Here are some takeaways:

  • Higher Education is experiencing a classic industry disruption that so many other industries have experienced.
  • The Internet has “democratized” access to knowledge.
  • College as we know it now – a four-year boarding experience with live classes focused on the acquisition of academic content – will not look the same in ten years.
  • Options that make a college degree more accessible and more affordable for many more people are already in the works.
  • Colleges are moving away from ACT and SAT scores as a place to start determining who they should consider accepting. The tests are not yielding the kind of students colleges want.
  • College admission officers are less impressed with extra-curriculars than they are with students who have steadily held a job.


This all seems like pretty good news. No one is predicting that the four-year on-campus experience will disappear completely, but rather there will be vast options of on campus, online, and a blend of both available.


But some news was not so good. Residential colleges are greatly challenged with the current students they are seeing.

  • They do not prioritize their time
  • They don’t understand how to live in community
  • They do not persevere when things get tough
  • They lack a general life maturity
  • They are unprepared for independence
  • They do not know how to write
  • They don’t ask questions to help themselves
  • They are unprepared to make choices
  • They are less able to figure things out
  • They don’t seem to know themselves
  • And finally, they do not seem to understand that they have an individual, personal responsibility to build their college educational experience.


These four panelists indicated that they are less concerned about a student’s ability to qualify for college acceptance and far more concerned with a student’s ability to graduate.


Although it was discouraging to hear this consensus from these college leaders, it was deeply affirming to know that Countryside is on the right track, as a community of educators, students and parents who share a common vision and commitment to the development of strong character.

CDS Philosophy

This is what we’ve been saying all along. Hence, some website excerpts:


  • At CDS the Middle School students’ strong need to understand the adult world is addressed. Through managing micro-businesses as well as taking advantage of learning opportunities in the wider community, CDS students will come to understand the basic foundation of how an economy functions, how to manage money, how to direct others and take direction, how to take initiative, collaborate and persevere, and how to get a job done.


  • Lessons in the Elementary classes are always given in small groups giving each student ample opportunity to express interests, ask questions, and make meaningful contributions, thus developing a sense of educational responsibility. Children in these classes play a part in what they learn which leads to much greater engagement in school and academics.


  • Mixed age  PreK/K classes create an ideal environment for children to engage in academic pursuits as well as learn the critical skills of collaboration, problem solving, and creative thinking. Because they are encouraged to work independently, they build a strong sense of themselves and their enormous capabilities.


  • Toddlers become responsible by participating in tasks that make a real contribution to the class community, including baking a fresh snack each day to share with friends. They become resourceful by learning how to play together, how to gather in a group, how to get a turn, how to give a turn. Teachers carefully balance modeling and offering help with allowing toddlers to make their own choices and experience the results.

Children who are given the opportunity to work hard, to accomplish big things, and contribute to their community are better prepared to navigate the joys and challenges of adult life. More on Countryside’s Philosophy.