October 2016


Senior Class 2017
Thomas MacLaren School Class of 2017
Josh felt bad, and even food didn’t help.

Ms. Grieshaber had prepared her traditional breakfast for MacLaren’s juniors on ACT day, and it was, as always, a lavish affair: cinnamon rolls clotted with orange-infused frosting, warm crepes drizzled with cherry sauce, breakfast burritos stuffed with sausage and onions and peppers. Nevertheless, this junior still felt a kind of doomy anticipation for the day of testing ahead.

“I was terrified,” Josh, now a senior, recalled cheerfully.

Josh and his classmates had come to school on a chilly April morning to take the ACT exam. Like the SAT, the ACT is a standardized test taken by high school juniors nationwide that weighs heavily in a student’s college application. Such high stakes meant that Josh was not alone in feeling anxious. His colleague Niko concurred: “Because colleges look at it, the ACT felt important and big.”

These young men need not have worried.

Thomas MacLaren School’s Class of 2017 set a new record for the state of Colorado, achieving a composite ACT score of 29.8—more than a point higher than the previous statewide record, and almost nine points higher than the national average of 21.0.

As one parent noted, these students’ performance was akin to Katy Ledecky’s achievement at the 2016 Olympics—not simply beating a record, but shattering it.

It’s the sort of number that admissions officers at highly-selective colleges like to see, and remarkably enough, it wasn’t one individual’s score, but the median score of an entire class. 

All the more remarkable is the fact that at MacLaren, we don’t teach to the test—we teach.

Again and again, these now-seniors cite their MacLaren education as the source of their collective excellence, not because it made them efficient workers who can calculate quickly, but because it asked something more of them: MacLaren asked them to become lifelong learners and the agents of their own education. It seems that giving students a rich and meaningful education, steeped in wonder and inquiry, makes for pretty good test-takers, as well.

Anna put it this way: “The reason we did so well is [that] we don’t care about grades. We have a standard of excellence, which is learning. By focusing on learning, we know way more than we need to just for a test.”

Ms. Grieshaber’s cinnamon rolls didn’t hurt, either.

(Just before we published this edition of MacLaren Life, we were notified of further high achievement by members of this senior class: Lily Oram and Claire Rochford were named National Merit Semifinalists, and Caleb Gardner and Hunter Treschl were named National Merit Commended Scholars. Congratulations to these students on their hard work!)

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