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Director's Dispatch: Excellence at ISD

In sharing the story of ISD with prospective families and teachers, I explain that the ISD community believes in excellence in all areas - academics, arts, sports, service, and social-emotional well-being of our students. This belief originates from the school’s guiding statements, mission, vision, and core values. Excellence is one of our four core values. The first line of the school’s mission is students should be well-rounded in all aspects of education: academic, artistic, sports, and service. Our first strategic goal is that students fully develop and utilize social and emotional skills. But what does excellence in all areas really mean?

Academic excellence goes beyond getting good grades. It is the degree to which the school prepares its students to be successful in their future endeavors. The transition to the International Baccalaureate Program Primary Years (PYP) and Middle Years Program (MYP) is designed to give our students the ability to think critically, challenge assumptions, and develop research skills - key skills our students will need in a rapidly changing world. Academic excellence is also defined individually. For some students, academic excellence means excelling well above your peers, for others, it may mean overcoming learning disabilities to meet grade-level expectations. Outside measures, such as the International Baccalaureate Exams most of our students take in Grade 12, can provide data to assess the school’s level of academic excellence. The IB Diploma Exams are very rigorous with only 79% of the students participating in the program earning the diploma. Over the past two years, between 84% and 92% of the ISD students who participate in the program earn the diploma with an average exam score well above the world-wide standard.

Excellence in the arts is measured by the number of students who participate in one of the many art programs offered at ISD, their growth as an artist, and the overall quality of the products and performances. At ISD, students can participate in visual arts, band, theater, dance, film, and choir through formal classes or as after-school activities. The vast majority of middle and high school students participate in one or more of these programs. The talent of our students is on clear display at each concert and production.

Winning the game or the tournament is part of the excellence we strive for in sports, but it is more than just having a higher score. We measure excellence by how many of our students participate in a sport, how well the student develops, and, yes, how well our teams do in the tournaments. Last year, 70% of the middle school students and 80% of our high school students participated in at least one school sport which is an excellent participation rate. The coaches report significant improvement in the skills of the students. At the end of each season, our middle school and high school teams participate in a tournament against other international schools in West Africa. Our goal is to play in the championship game which happens for a number of our teams each year. At the tournaments, a trophy is also awarded to the team that displays the best sportsmanship in terms of respect to other competitors, fair play, and overall positive attitude. Twice this year we have had teams win the sportsmanship trophy.

Excellence in service ultimately means making a difference in the life of someone else. The first step in this is making meaningful connections on a peer-to-peer level with people outside of our community. We have made significant progress in this area but it

remains an area of growth. Our students make good connections with students from Senegalese schools during their Week without Walls trips. The PYP and MYP will embed service into classroom units of inquiry. The combined elementary-middle school play with the students from Village des Enfants last year was an excellent example of the opportunities we aspire to offer all students.

A school’s primary responsibility is the safety of the students and developing students’ social-emotional skills and supporting their mental health needs is an essential part of this. Excellence in this area may be hard to quantify. For ISD, we measure it in the number of counselors we have for the number of students. We have a better counselor to student ratio than most international schools. Our performance in this area is also measured by the degree to which our social-emotional programs are integrated into the curriculum, advisory and guidance lessons, and the number of parent education sessions offered by the counselors and administration.

At ISD, we strive for excellence in academics, arts, sports, service, and social-emotional well being. Our goal is to produce global citizens who can be successful in life and make a positive difference. In order to do this, we want to have outstanding programs that serve the whole child and not just focus solely on academic


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