One of the biggest challenges I faced during my 30-year career as an independent school leader was the meaningful incorporation of diversity, equity and inclusion measures into the life of the school.
While DEI issues have always been a focus for most independent school communities, meaningful change has been slow to come. However, events of the past few years—including the COVID-19 pandemic and the Black Lives Matter protests of 2020—have brought a new energy to this work. This focus is evident in the independent school admission process, which has been transformed by a clear desire among admission professionals to purposefully approach their work with a DEI lens to better meet the challenges of enrolling and retaining a diverse group of students. This focused effort in admission can inform a school culture that is centered on inclusion and where DEI initiatives can flourish.
The State of Independent School Admission Testing
The events of the past few years have caused a seismic shift in many schools’ use of admission testing. For some schools, the limited access to admission testing during the pandemic led to test-blind or test-optional policies. For others, the concerns raised about fairness and equity in admission testing (informed by trends in higher education) led to the elimination of the use of admission testing in their process. Now that we are on the other side of the pandemic, schools are re-evaluating and making decisions about the best path forward.
My own experience as an admission professional informed my belief that the role of admission assessment is critical in the independent school admission process. However, the assessment must be used carefully, thoughtfully, and within a comprehensive process that includes both objective and subjective measures.
Admission assessment is the one objective measure in an inherently subjective process that is difficult, if not impossible, to replace. If we employ a “gateway” philosophy (i.e., look for reasons to admit a student) as opposed to a “gatekeeper” philosophy (i.e., look for reasons to deny admission to a student), admission assessment is a critical tool that enables us to enroll a diverse group of mission-appropriate students who will succeed in our school.
“[Admission testing] has to be used carefully, thoughtfully, and within a comprehensive process that includes both objective and subjective measures.”
— Molly Moore Green, Senior Director, Admission Programs at ERB
At ERB, the pandemic was a time of accelerated change. Access concerns led to the creation of the At-Home ISEE, which has been a welcome addition to the way families and schools can choose for a student to take the test. (For the 2023-24 school year, there are more than 150 test dates available for the At-Home ISEE in three U.S. time zones.) These At-Home ISEE dates are, of course, in addition to the hundreds of test dates available at ERB member schools, testing offices, and Prometric testing centers.
The pandemic also brought forth a renewed commitment to DEI considerations as an integral component of admission testing.
Introducing NextGen Admission
ERB has been working to understand how we can best partner with our schools to meaningfully incorporate DEI into their admission practices. That work culminated in the creation of NextGen Admission, an equity-driven initiative providing measures, data insights, and resources for admission professionals and administrators. NextGen informs mission-aligned enrollment and retention decisions amid a changing admission landscape.
NextGen Admission is an ongoing, comprehensive look at all aspects of the current ISEE program as well as the introduction of enhancements, new tools, and resources that will help bring an equity focus to admission work in our member schools.
ERB is embracing the future of admission assessment as part of an overall admission process focused on equity for all. We recognize that meaningful change is overdue—and that it’s time to be more transparent about our commitment.
Our schools are transformative for students and families. ERB is proud to stand in partnership with our admission colleagues to create these diverse, thriving, and powerful communities that transform the lives of students and families.
Learn more about the Independent School Entrance Exam (ISEE), or request more information about ERB’s NextGen Admission initiative.
About the Author
Molly Moore Green is the Senior Director, Admission Programs for ERB. Previously, she worked for 32 years at Severn School in Maryland with responsibilities in all aspects of independent school management. Her roles at the school included Director of Alumni/Annual Giving, middle school English teacher, Director of Admissions/Financial Aid, Director of Summer Programs, Director of External Relations, Director of Advancement, and Director of Enrollment and Outreach, with many years of overall responsibility for the public relations, communication, admission/enrollment, and other revenue generating departments of the school. She believes in the power of data to help schools make better decisions on behalf of students.