Preston Kendall’s October President’s Pen

Nov 1, 2022 | President’s Pen

Email is both the bane and the salve of my existence as president of CRSM.  I was travelling last week and, despite using most free moments to weed through the growing list, there are still, at this moment, 313 unread messages in my Inbox.  Granted, most are frivolous ads from sites from which I have yet to unsubscribe, or they are blasts from good organizations I intentionally subscribe to like The Chronicle of Higher Ed, The Chronicle of Philanthropy, Crain’s Chicago Business, or Independent School Management.  There are also regular school-wide emails to faculty and staff about the day-to-day running of the school, such as the revised schedule for November 3 when we will celebrate the feast of St. Martin de Porres with mass at 8:00am.

As much as I want to take a broad-brush approach and delete away anything not individually addressed to me, I find that some general emails can, on occasion, offer important and celebratory news.  This morning included one such example.  Our Dean of Students sent out the most recent ineligibility list comprised of all students currently earning less than a 2.0 grade point average.  If you are under a. 2.0, we withhold your ability to participate in extracurricular activities until you correct the situation.  This allows students to prioritize… put “first things first” because your grades really do matter.

A cumulative CRSM grade point average (GPA) is the most accurate indicator of how our students will perform in college.  The correlation between GPA and college completion is significantly higher than the correlation between standardized test scores like the SAT or ACT and college completion.  At CRSM, the correlation coefficient for GPA to college completion was 0.68 compared to the correlation coefficient for ACT to college completion of 0.3.  The higher the coefficient, the stronger the relationship.  So, your CRSM GPA is more than twice as accurate a predictor of college completion than your ACT score.  Of all CRSM alumni, 82% of students with a GPA greater than 2.95 earned their bachelor’s degree.  For students with less than a 2.95 GPA, only 23% get their diploma.

Back to the email.  I opened the ineligibility list and there on the spreadsheet for 10/31/2022 were five names… FIVE!  That’s only five out of 403 students!  The numbers are all the more remarkable when you consider that CRSM does not filter its admissions requirements for academic performance.  We do not administer an admissions exam.  We do not have a junior high GPA minimum.  And we do not have a standardized test score cut-off.  Our first filter for admission is family income.  The average CRSM family’s household income for this school year is $37,051 and the average family size is 4.7 individuals. Our second filter is to favor students who are the first generation in their family to attend college.

Only five ineligible students out of the entire student body are better than our best pre-pandemic numbers.  What’s up with that?

The list’s shortness is testament to the collaborative efforts of three groups within CRSM: our faculty, the Student Support Team, and the Academic Assistance Team.  It is a deliberate and intentional response to assist and promote student success. First, our faculty are incredibly professional and mission-driven experts in their craft.  They work at CRSM because they love what they do and love who they do it with – their colleagues and students – and they are dedicated to continuous improvement.

Second, our Student Support Team consists of representatives from all aspects of student life at CRSM: counselors, the nurse, our Dean of Students, work-study representatives, teachers, and our assistant principal.  They meet weekly to address individual students’ situations and develop customized scaffolding plans, taking into consideration the whole student or what the Jesuits coined as “cura personalis.”

Lastly, our Academic Assistance Team provides the academic encouragement and framework for students to develop lasting study skills that will serve them in high school and beyond.  Students come to the AAP during their study hall period and after school to receive individual and small group support.  Additionally, AAP teachers will attend class with students to accompany them in-the-moment and help then with notetaking and strengthen information processing.

At the end of the day, CRSM has 1.24% of students currently below a 2.0 GPA.  That’s 98.76% ABOVE a 2.0!  It is no accident, and it involves the concerted efforts of many different adults encouraging students to be their best, regardless of the challenges they face… or, more accurately, acknowledging those challenges and leveraging the students’ own proven resiliency to find success in school.

Miracles come in many forms, but you cannot discount the daily miracles resulting from a shared mission, hard work, and care for each individual student.  Now, if only there were a miracle to get rid of too many emails!