Our Mission & Philosophy
Holland Hall provides a challenging, comprehensive educational experience grounded in a rigorous liberal arts, college preparatory curriculum that promotes critical thinking and life-long learning. A PreK-12 Episcopal school, we seek to foster in each student a strong moral foundation and a deep sense of social responsibility.
As we rapidly move into what Thomas Friedman has labeled a “flat” new world order, it is important to address our institutional mission and its relevance to life in the 21st century. Friedman, and other journalists, academics and economists agree that the right education plays a vital role in the increasing connectedness and globalization of the world. Individuals, they argue, who are adaptable, flexible, motivated and who can easily work across cultural boundaries will emerge as the new generation of influentials and leaders. Responding to the inevitability of how increasing global competition will require a unique set of skills to be successful, David Kearns, former CEO of Xerox Corporation recently acknowledged, The only education that prepares us for change is a liberal education. In periods of change, narrow specialization condemns us to inflexibility precisely what we do not need. We need flexible intellectual tools to be problem solvers, to be able to continue learning over time.
With the advent of economic, global and cultural change, one has to ask, in what ways are we at Holland Hall positioning ourselves to insure that our curriculum and programs will help students build the right foundation for success in both college and in the work place? In other words, what is the “essential value” of a Holland Hall education; and is it indeed worth the financial investment? In answering these questions, it is important to formulate an analysis based upon both quantitative and qualitative data. We must remain committed to providing our current parents with high-quality information that can help validate that they have made the right decision to enroll their children. This benchmarking is essential if we are truly serious about creating an institutional culture of accountability and continuous improvement.
Measures of Success
One of our primary goals is to prepare students for a successful transition into a competitive college or university environment. We are proud that typically 100 percent of our graduating seniors matriculate at four-year colleges and universities. The latest research suggests that the single best predictor of college success is the “academic intensity” of a student’s high school course work. This finding is not surprising since challenging classes demand both high order thinking skills and the ability to manage time effectively. In turn, mastering this combination of skills fosters a sense of mental and self-discipline that is strongly correlated to high academic and work-related achievement. Addressing the question of what distinguishes top students from others, researchers at the University of Pennsylvania concluded, “self-discipline has a bigger effect on academic performance than does intellectual talent.” At Holland Hall this translates into our informal motto: we are looking more for “I will than IQ.”
It is critical to validate and demonstrate that Holland Hall students perform well in college. The information contained within this benchmarking provides important feedback to our faculty, parents and administration and adds an important dimension to our “value-added” proposition. One important component regarding value added relates to how Holland Hall students perform during their first year at college. Examining end of the year freshman GPAs of Holland Hall graduates between 2000 and 2004 reveals that our students continue to excel in college. In fact, there is little difference between the Holland Hall average cumulative GPA of 3.0 for the senior class and end of the year freshman college GPA average of 3.05. When examining how our students do at the nation’s most selective colleges (institutions that admit less than 25 percent of all applicants) their collective Holland Hall GPA was 3.5 while their average GPA in college was 3.3. Considering that higher education authorities agree that the freshman year is most challenging in terms of both academic and social adjustment, it is reassuring to know that Holland Hall students continue to perform well as they transition into college.
To gain further insight into why our graduates experience strong levels of success in college, we recently surveyed our alumni about how they felt Holland Hall prepared them to meet the unique challenges within the realm of higher education. We solicited 800 alumni and received more than 300 responses, 75 percent of which were graduates within the last 15 years. Such a vigorous response provides a confidence indicator of plus or minus five percent. Collectively, their responses portray a most favorable view of the degree to which they believe Holland Hall prepared them for college. A few highlights include:
- 89% affirmed that they were better prepared for college in comparison to other freshmen
- 95% expressed that Holland Hall enabled them to handle the academic workload in college
- 95% indicated that Holland Hall had done an excellent job teaching them how to take essay tests
- 94% gave Holland Hall high marks in teaching critical thinking skills
- 94% felt very well prepared to handle college writing assignments
- 91% indicated that Holland Hall had taught them excellent time-management skills
Given these strong numbers, it is not surprising that 98 percent of the alumni expressed high levels of satisfaction with the total quality of their Holland Hall educational experience. It is also interesting to note that in the most recent National Survey of Student Engagement (2005), college freshmen identified lack of time-management skills as one of their top two concerns, following only how to pay for college. Time management concerns also surfaced in a recent survey of college professors, instructors and chairpersons as 86 percent confirmed, developing time management skills was the most difficult transitional change for [freshmen]. Thus, when addressing the “value-added” proposition at Holland Hall, we feel confident that our Upper School’s unique modular schedule absolutely helps prepare students to utilize their time more effectively in college and is perhaps one of the most distinctive components of a student’s educational experience here.