Chancellor Stephen Spahn via SchooLinks: What Does It Take to Prepare Students to Succeed in College and the Global Marketplace?

Answering this question is Dwight Chancellor Stephen Spahn, the longest-serving head of an independent school in the United States.

Answering this question is Dwight Chancellor Stephen Spahn, the longest-serving head of an independent school in the United States. He has seen numerous changes in the educational landscape over the last 50 years; perhaps none so dramatic as what's happening today. What forces are at play — and how is Dwight leading the way in readying graduates for the exciting world that awaits them?

Today's high school graduates face some of the most exciting challenges and opportunities seen during my 50 years in education due to 3 primary forces:

  • the globalization of our world
  • the speed of technological change
  • the creation of new jobs ⎯ some yet to be envisioned

These forces have created a 21st-century global marketplace, which is increasingly calling for flexible, culturally agile, and multi-lingual employees, who are critical thinkers and collaborative, creative problem-solvers. The International Baccalaureate curriculum provides the ideal academic framework for shaping this multi-talented, open-minded learner, who is respectful of differing perspectives and prepared to succeed in the global arena. Developed in 1968 as a universal curriculum to go beyond national boundaries, the IB is taught in more than 4,000 schools around the world today, with the fastest growth seen in the U.S.

The IB curriculum, from preschool-grade 12, is academically vigorous and emphasizes students' personal development. It is designed to educate young people to be active inquirers, empowering them to delve deeply into ideas and areas that interest them, and fosters learning within a global context. Its combined academic rigor and emphasis on personal development encourages students to collaborate to solve global challenges and care for our shared world and planet.

Recognized worldwide as the "gold standard" in pre-university preparation, the IB provides students with an advantage in the college application process. According to the IB, U.S. IB diploma graduates are 21% more likely to be admitted into ten of the country's most prestigious universities, including Harvard, Princeton, Yale, and Stanford. Additionally, they often receive college credits or advance placement and perform better in post-secondary education than their peers.

Many of the same skills that the IB emphasizes — critical thinking, creativity, collaboration, design thinking, and problem-solving — are the very same that today's graduates need to navigate a world in flux due to the rapid change of technology, the rise of Artificial Intelligence, and the disrupted job market. These skills, along with learning how to adapt to change, how to manage and lead others, how to ask the right questions and evaluate information, will enable graduates to face and solve whatever challenges arise.

At Dwight, we teach these skills in the classroom through the IB, as well as through Spark Tank, an incubator designed to foster innovation, entrepreneurial, and leadership skills. Our mission is to nurture the unique talents and passions, or sparks of genius, in all our students.

In Spark Tank, students pursue their own passions while learning about the product or business development process — from the germ of an idea to acceleration, and from prototyping to market launch. They present their ideas to a committee of industry experts in our community, who provide feedback, mentorships, and guidance to help them progress. With support from The Dwight Foundation, students can receive innovation grants to help bring their novel ideas for new products, businesses, and non-profits to fruition. Along the way, they learn practical and business-related skills: budgeting, manufacturing, distribution, pitching, and marketing, providing them with invaluable experience and preparation for the working world. These kinds of opportunities are not available at other schools and normally come later during college or beyond.

According to a Millennial Branding study, 72% of high school students seek to start their own business and to be their own boss. Dwight students are already starting their own businesses through Spark Tank. Others are also on their career paths of choice while enrolled in Dwight Global Online School. Our campus in the cloud, Dwight Global offers students in grades 7-12 the unique elements of a personalized Dwight education combined with the latest technologies and schedule flexibility required to be a working Hollywood or Broadway actor, train to be a professional ballet dancer, or compete as a ranked athlete at the highest levels.

The possibilities for today's students and graduates to pursue their dreams are endless. I am confident that the preparation available to them through inspired curricula like the IB and real-world experiential learning opportunities beyond the classroom will light the way to their success in college and in life.

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