Memo: Metrics for the Holton-Arms College Counseling Office To: Holton-Arms Leadership, namely - Susanna Jones (Head of School) Letitia Peterson (Director of College Counseling) Melissa Brown (Director of Diversity, Wellbeing and Global Education) Amanda Hewitt (Director of Alumnae) June Porco (Director of Human Resources) Ann Kangas (Director of Development) Leslie Nelson (Director of Admissions) From: Holton-Arms Alumnx and Former Students for Black Lives Date: August 18, 2020 Subject: Evaluating and Rectifying the College Counseling Office’s Impact on Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) Holton Students Table of Contents Click any heading below to go directly to that section. ● Introduction 1 ● Background and Context 2 ○ Key Terms 3 ● Recommendations for Metrics to Evaluate the College Counseling Office 4 ○ Diversify College Recruitment Practices 4 ■ Questions for Holton to Consider 4 ○ Contextualize and Expand Beyond Quantitative Data and Naviance 5 ■ Questions for Holton to Consider 6 ○ Create Successful Grievance Mechanisms 7 ■ Questions for Holton to Consider 7 ○ Ensure Financial Aid and Scholarship Literacy for Students and Families 9 ■ Questions for Holton to Consider 9 ● Conclusion 10 Introduction Ms. Letitia (Tish) Peterson began her position as the Director of College Counseling at the Holton-Arms School in July 2000. Over the past 20 years, thousands of Holton students have graduated and attended hundreds of different colleges and universities, assisted by the efforts of this office. However, students who are Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) have recounted repeated instances of racial bias and micro- and macro-aggressions occuring during the college counseling process. We are aware that Ms. Peterson has extensive experience serving on the admissions teams of the George Washington University, Georgetown University, and Boston University. However, her prior employment does not exempt her from accountability to all students. A disproportionate number of BIPOC alumnx were disrespected, unsupported, and marginalized by Ms. Peterson and, by extension, the Holton-Arms College Counseling Office. We surmise that Ms. Peterson’s performance as Director of College Counseling is measured primarily by Holton’s 100% college acceptance rate, and the prestige of schools accepting Holton graduates. In the competitive pool of independent schools in the DC area, Holton benefits from these important metrics in appealing to prospective families. We believe that including additional factors in evaluating the entire College Counseling Office, especially in addressing the experiences of BIPOC students, will create a more anti-racist department that is actively working to dismantle these systems that are a part of white supremacy. We understand that Ms. Peterson and the College Counseling Office may be evaluated by additional metrics. However, if these metrics factor in diversity considerations, they have not been reflected in the actions of the College Counseling Office. We are excited to learn that Zoë Mayfield has joined Holton’s College Counseling Office, bringing experience in the Higher Education program at the Harvard Graduate School of Education with her. Ms. Mayfield’s graduate work in “the transition of Black women and girls from K-12 to higher education, exploring how positive ethnic-racial identity development shapes outcomes in higher education, as well as ethnic-racial identity development of Black women in both minority-serving and predominantly white institutions”1 should be at the core of counseling students. However, we want to reiterate that it is not the sole responsibility of Ms. Mayfield to address the needs of all BIPOC students at Holton. In working to empower BIPOC students to achieve their post-secondary educational goals, all counselors need to be held to the same set of metrics and standards. Background and Context Many Holton-Arms alumnx have collaborated on this memo as part of the anti-racism movement catapulted in the wake of the murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and countless other Black people at the hands of police. This memo is another milestone in the line of communication between Holton administrators and the greater Holton community, along with the Class of 2006 letter sent to Susanna A. Jones on June 12; the official Holton-Arms Response Letter to the Class of 2006 publicized on June 23; an official statement on June 28 from Holton titled “We Are Listening and Holding Ourselves Accountable”; the first Listening Session with the Holton Administration for Black alumnae, hosted on July 2; the Holton-Arms Alumnx for BLM Letter sent on July 14; the July 26 email update from Susanna A. Jones to the Class of 2006; and the upcoming discussion on the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion roadmap that Holton is establishing to become an anti-racist institution. In our July 14 letter, we as alumnx committed to “[putting] together a committee of women who are knowledgeable about the college counseling process and will follow up with targeted questions and demands in a separate letter.” We also committed to including “a more diverse set of key performance indicators to evaluate all college counselors. These [indicators] will focus on supporting Holton students more towards holistic college applications as opposed to quantitative measures and establishing a clear grievance mechanism for students towards better accountability.” To follow through on our pledge, we have compiled these metrics starting with testimonials published on the Black at Holton Instagram account. In addition, we have solicited members of the Holton community from a variety of classes to 1 “Steering Committee.” HGSE Alumni Of Color Conference. Published Feb. 2020, https://alumniofcolorconference2020.org/steeringcommittee?fbclid=IwAR3ifgASYb3g95Wc2QgRnzKI5-qwWjaAC0a8kVV5sf QhwEodFkXvZRLRJrY. share their personal experiences, and interviewed alumnx who have experience in education program evaluation, serving as educators in the classroom, and assessing college applications at universities. Key Terms Accountability2 ○ The ways in which Holton-Arms administrators, staff, and faculty hold themselves to their goals and actions; acknowledges the values and groups to which they are responsible; requires a transparent agenda and process Grievance mechanism ○ A formal complaint process, either legal or non-legal, that can be used to support students, staff, teachers, faculty, parents, and alumnx negatively affected by the activities and operations of the Holton-Arms College Counseling Office Holistic review3 ○ An application process that values and accounts for a student’s unique experiences, personal characteristics, and interests outside of and beyond quantitative factors Micro-aggressions4 ○ The everyday, subtle interactions or behaviors that communicate some sort of bias toward historically marginalized groups; includes intentional and unintentional actions, regardless of the original perpetrator’s understanding of the potential harm caused5 Racism6 ○ A system of advantage, oppression, and prejudice based on race that allows the benefiting group to carry out historically-learned beliefs that pepetutate discrimination across generations ○ The outcome of colonialism whereby the benefitting groups systematically prevent marginalized groups’ access to resources, power, and opportunity; “distinguished from the bigotry or racial bias of individuals by the existence of systematic policies and practices within institutions that effectually disadvantage certain racial or ethnic groups.”7 White privilege 8 ○ The unquestioned and unearned set of advantages, entitlements, benefits, and choices bestowed on people solely because they are white or white-passing; encompasses policies, practices and behaviors of institutions that have the effect of maintaining or increasing accumulated advantages for those groups currently defined as white, and maintaining or increasing disadvantages for those racial or ethnic groups not defined as white; describes the ability of systems to survive and thrive 2 Berman Cushing, Bonnie. Accountability and White Anti-Racist Organizing : Stories from Our Work. Roselle, N.J., Crandall, Dostie & Douglass Books, 2010. 3 “Holistic Review.” Association of American Medical Colleges, 2020. https://www.aamc.org/services/member-capacity-building/holistic-review#:~:text=Holistic%20Review%20refers%20to%20missi on,academic%20metrics%E2%80%94when%20reviewing%20applications.&text=Holistic 4 Limbong, Andrew. “Microaggressions Are A Big Deal: How To Talk Them Out And When To Walk Away : Life Kit.” NPR, www.npr.org/2020/06/08/872371063/microaggressions-are-a-big-deal-how-to-talk-them-out-and-when-to-walk-away. 5 Adapted from Sue, Derald Wing, Microaggressions in Everyday Life: Race, Gender and Sexual Orientation, Wiley & Sons, 2010. https://academicaffairs.ucsc.edu/events/documents/Microaggressions_Examples_Arial_2014_11_12.pdf 6 “Racism Defined.” Dismantling Racism Works (dRworks). Updated Jun. 2020, www.dismantlingracism.org/racism-defined.html 7 Solid Ground. “Definition & Analysis of Institutional Racism.” Racial Equity Tools, July 25, 2013. https://www.racialequitytools.org/resourcefiles/institutionalracism.pdf 8 Mcintosh, Peggy. White Privilege and Male Privilege : A Personal Account of Coming to See Correspondences through Work in Women’s Studies. Wellesley, Ma, Wellesley College, Center For Research On Women, 1988. https://www.racialequitytools.org/resourcefiles/mcintosh.pdf. even when their policies, practices and behaviors maintain, expand or fail to redress accumulated disadvantages and/or inequitable outcomes for BIPOC Recommendations for Metrics to Evaluate the College Counseling Office Diversify College Recruitment Practices We understand that college officers and representatives routinely visit high schools in their assigned regions. High schools are selected for visits based on a variety of factors, including, but not limited to, historical high school applicant data and institutional priorities. We also know that during the 2019-2020 school year, Holton used RepVisits, an online system that coordinates appointments and college fairs between high schools and colleges.9 To understand the disparity of college enrollment of Holton students, Holton sent five students to five different Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) between 2016 and 2019, according to the 2019-2020 Holton School Profile listed on their website.10 For reference, during that same time period, Holton sent 38 total students to the eight Ivy League schools.11 We are looking to understand where this disparity roots itself within the Holton College Counseling Office and overall college counseling strategy. We have constructed the following recommendations to offer a basic guide to work within the parameters of what systems both colleges and Holton use. Questions for Holton to Consider 1) In the last ten years, which HBCUs have recruited at Holton, through high school visits or programming? a) Specifically, which schools came in which years? b) If HBCUs have not shown consistent recruitment at Holton, can Holton college counselors demonstrate annually inviting these institutions to visit or participate in programming? Has this outreach been consistent over the past 10 years? c) How does the counseling office determine which schools to reach out to? 2) If and when HBCUs visit Holton, are they being advertised and given the same airtime as other colleges? a) How can Holton ensure the same access to information about all available college programs without pressure to exclusively apply to or attend elite institutions? 3) How does Holton’s College Counseling team gauge the schools that students are interested in hearing from or learning about? a) What data does the Holton College Counseling Office use to gauge student interest in schools? b) To what extent is Holton’s outreach to prospective schools based on historical interest and enrollment? 4) How does Holton track the applicant and admit data for each student? 9 “RepVisits – Taking the Pain Out of Visit Scheduling.” Hobsons, 17 May 2020, www.hobsons.com/resources/repvisits-taking-the-pain-out-of-visit-scheduling/ 10 Peterson, Letitia W., and Kaitlyn A. McEnroe. 2019-2020 School Profile. Holton-Arms School, 2019, https://resources.finalsite.net/images/v1569006036/holtonarms/bumqx1hjla6bqiblscz8/HoltonSchoolProfileSY2019.pdf. 11 Ibid. a) Where is this information stored and how is it reviewed? b) What is that information reviewed for? 5) In light of virtual high school visits due to the COVID-19 pandemic, how can Holton more broadly expand the schools that visit to include more HBCUs this year? 6) How does the College Counseling Office complete professional development? a) What are the requirements for each counselor to meet on an annual basis? b) What professional development events and programs do counselors attend, if any? c) Is there a system for identifying which counselors attend what professional development opportunities? If so, does this system include a quota for each counselor? d) How will Holton include professional development opportunities in the areas of counseling BIPOC, Low-Income, Immigrant, and First Generation college students and families? e) If HBCUs are offering professional development support for college counselors, is Holton’s College Counseling Office participating? Contextualize and Expand Beyond Quantitative Data and Naviance Nationwide systemic issues, such as incredible selectivity into elite and top colleges and universities, imbalanced weight of standardized test scores in applications, and expensive tuition, can inhibit many BIPOC students from reaching their post-high school goals. We fully recognize that the College Counseling Office must work within this flawed system. However, we also recognize that there are measures that Holton college counselors can specifically take to support BIPOC students while they’re still at Holton. Holton’s academically competitive environment extends to systems such as Naviance12, enabling students to compare key college application metrics (GPA and test scores) against their predecessors. The “scattergrams,” showing admission history of previous Holton applicants located on each college’s dashboard, are notorious among current Holton students. These charts cause worry among the students, as they compare themselves against other students’ metrics. We ask that the College Counseling Office actively improve the experience of Naviance usage for Holton students, specifically revolving around the conversation about the scattergrams, and moreover, address the inequalities that BIPOC students face in particular.13 Questions for Holton to Consider 1) To what extent does the education of the college application process encourage students to value their qualifications beyond GPA and test scores? a) How have the college counselors facilitated this education themselves? How have they pushed back against the common misconceptions about the college application review, beyond the numbers? 12 Naviance is a web-based tool that many college counseling offices across the country use to track student academic progress to prepare them for college. 13 For more information on the influence of Naviance: Tate, Emily. “Naviance Wields Much ‘Power and Influence’ in College Admissions, Harvard Researcher Finds.” EdSurge, Apr 18, 2019, https://www.edsurge.com/news/2019-04-18-naviance-wields-much-power-and-influence-in-college-admissions-harvard-research er-finds?fbclid=IwAR3Fp58ecyKtpcLRuHtg62rYUaAMlMSDImSXcqKuEJMqpIK7rabs6QIHSD8. 2) How do counselors advise Holton students when they take their first standardized test, in the context of preparing for the college application process? a) These may include, but are not limited to, the PSAT or students taking AP exams without taking an AP class. 3) How are Holton students onboarded to and educated about Naviance? What approach does the College Counseling Office take for introducing students to the tool? a) How are students encouraged to use Naviance? How are the numbers that Naviance displays (GPA and test scores) put in context of the rest of a college application? b) How does the College Counseling Office determine which colleges to recommend to students? What are the critical factors that counselors identify as determining a recommendation? c) How do counselors use Naviance to make recommendations for students’ target, reach, and safety schools? How do counselors share insights from Naviance with students and families? d) How do counselors weigh Naviance’s data against more qualitative measurements? 4) How are Holton families educated about all aforementioned metrics? a) Is this information shared in a way that takes into consideration low income families as well as families of first generation immigrant and first generation college students? 5) How do counselors explain the process of application review and specifically holistic review? 6) As many schools make standardized test scores optional due to COVID-19 challenges, will the College Counseling Office reflect that change in the Naviance scattergrams? 7) Some colleges will recalculate GPAs to equalize that metric across the entire applicant pool. Does Holton reflect this nuance in Naviance? What are the Naviance GPAs representing? 8) How are students with disabilities given consideration? a) How are recommendations for students applying to colleges affected (either negatively or positively) by a student’s disability? 9) How many BIPOC students got accepted to schools that Naviance or otherwise Holton’s College Counseling Office did not anticipate that they would get into? a) How is this updated data reflected in Naviance? Create Successful Grievance Mechanisms BIPOC Holton alumnx have consistently described uniquely negative experiences about their college counseling process. These experiences have stood out in their minds, even when they graduated over a decade ago. It is starkly clear that either no grievance mechanism is in place, or if it exists, it is failing. We define a successful grievance mechanism as legitimate, accessible, predictable, equitable, transparent, flexible to updates as needed, and based on engagement and dialogue.14 The metrics below are written with the intention of either forming or rebuilding a grievance mechanism that meets those criteria. We have divided our recommended metrics between current and recently graduated students to get a more holistic evaluation of the college application process. 14 Based off of the United Nations Guiding Principles that outline the expectations for multinational corporations’ grievance mechanisms: https://www.ohchr.org/documents/publications/guidingprinciplesbusinesshr_en.pdf Questions for Holton to Consider 1) Current Students a) How do students provide feedback (positive, negative, and neutral) on their college counseling experience? i) If students are directly solicited for feedback, at which point in the school year does this happen? How do those timelines align with performance reviews of college counselors? ii) Who is responsible for administering, analyzing and recording evaluations in the College Counseling Office? iii) What is considered to be the threshold for a successful evaluation process, such as in terms of the percentage of students participating? b) How are complaints handled? i) Who in the Holton-Arms Administration is responsible for handling student complaints? c) What are the clear set of standards to follow-up on a complaint? i) How is a complaint considered “serious” enough to investigate, or “not serious” enough to warrant a response? ii) How are the distinctions between “serious” and “not serious” complaints communicated to the student? To their families? d) What is the typical timeline of investigating a complaint? i) How is progress being communicated to students? To their families? e) How are both serious and non-serious complaints being tracked in a student’s file? In all counselors’ files? i) If students and families request information on previous complaints against a counselor, how is the office planning to manage that request? f) Once formalized, how are Holton students informed about the complaint process? i) How does the College Counseling Office, or other office that facilitates complaints, address the fear of retribution? 2) Recently Graduated Students (defined as students who graduated within the last 4 years) a) As with current students, how do recent graduates/recent alumnx provide feedback on their college counseling experience? i) Who is responsible for administering, analyzing and recording evaluations in the College Counseling Office? ii) What is considered to be the threshold for a successful evaluation process, such as in terms of the percentage of students participating? b) If former students are directly solicited for feedback, how does that feedback align with performance reviews of college counselors? c) How would Holton graduates have access to the grievance mechanism to file a complaint? d) How would post-graduate surveys be factored into the recommendations that counselors give to current students? How is the feedback being factored into Naviance, within the limitations of the system? Ensure Financial Aid and Scholarship Literacy for Students and Families Regardless of socio-economic status, all Holton families should be aware of the financial aid and scholarship opportunities available to them when going to college. In addition, all families should understand the key terms and basic education-based savings plans they should invest in to build a financial secure future. We do not expect or want Holton college counselors to become investment strategists, or to make financial planning recommendations outside of their purview. We expect counselors to share complete information with all families in order for these families to make wise college-investment decisions. White privilege allows white families to access financial resources and information that those without privilege will never see.15 Holton can push back against this systemic issue by educating families on preparation for the financial demands of college, including financial aid, college tuition, fees associated with college applications, and living costs. We recognize that Holton will determine what qualifies as basic financial aid and scholarship literacy. We have outlined the following metrics to offer a baseline for consideration. Questions for Holton to Consider 1) Although there are many paths to saving for college a family can take, we encourage the Holton College Counseling Office to share information about families opening a 529 College Savings Plan for their child or children. a) A 529 “is a tax-advantaged savings plan designed to encourage saving for future education costs. 529 plans, legally known as ‘qualified tuition plans,’ are sponsored by states, state agencies, or educational institutions and are authorized by Section 529 of the Internal Revenue Code.”16 b) A 529 plan can “pay for qualified higher education expenses such as tuition, fees, room and board, books, course-specific fees or supplies.”17 In most states, families can deduct their 529 plan contributions on their state income tax return, up to their state’s limit.18 In addition, earnings in a 529 plan grow tax-free, and will also not be taxed when the money is taken out to pay for college.19 c) We recommend informing families about this plan because it : i) Has a low barrier to entry ii) Does not require a financial advisor or broker to invest on behalf of the investor iii) There are no income minimums or maximums to participate 15 Carnevale, Anthony P., and Jeff Strohl. SEPARATE AND UNEQUAL: How Higher Education Reinforces the Intergenerational Reproduction of White Racial Privilege. Georgetown University, July 2013, https://1gyhoq479ufd3yna29x7ubjn-wpengine.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/SeparateUnequal.FR_.pdf. 16 “SEC.Gov | An Introduction to 529 Plans.” U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, Office of Investor Education and Advocacy, www.sec.gov/reportspubs/investor-publications/investorpubsintro529htm.html. 17 “FAQs: The Basics of 529 College Savings Plans.” College Savings Plans of Maryland | The Maryland Prepaid College Trust and The Maryland College Investment Plan, https://maryland529.com/FAQs/Basics. 18 “529 state tax deduction calculator.” Vanguard Marketing Corporation, https://vanguard.wealthmsi.com/stdc.php. 19 “Tax Advantages & Benefits of 529 Plans.” College Savings Plans of Maryland | The Maryland Prepaid College Trust and The Maryland College Investment Plan, https://maryland529.com/basics-of-529-college-savings-plans/tax-advantages-of-529-plans. iv) Beneficiaries or students are still eligible for financial aid20 v) The savings can be used at nearly any college in the US or abroad, as long as it is accredited with a Federal School Code21,22 d) If Holton is open to this consideration, what partnerships or initiatives can the College Counseling Office develop with parents or guardians in Lower School to start saving for college as early as possible? 2) How does Holton provide students information about college scholarships and higher education access programs? a) How are BIPOC students presented with the options of scholarship information for college? How are white students presented with scholarship information for college? b) How does Holton share information about QuestBridge and Posse for interested and eligible students? c) What search functions or programs allow students to more easily identify scholarships that fit their interests, qualifications, and capacity? d) What support do all students receive in identifying scholarships that they meet criteria for, if any? 3) Are families educated on financially preparing for colleges? If so, how? a) Does that education include, at the minimum, applying to FAFSA, including Federal Pell Grants? b) Does that education include understanding the difference between grants, loans, and scholarships? c) Does that education include work-study programs, and what commitments those opportunities may require? Conclusion Our approach has always been created by the Holton alumnx community in support of the current student body. We expect Holton to complete an audit informed by these questions that addresses the gaps in the office’s practices. Furthermore, we expect the audit to remedy the grievances recounted in past student experiences. We anticipate that the outcome of this audit will lead to the construction of a more anti-racist and equitable College Counseling Office. We will continue to move forward in collaboration with Holton, and plan to include the College Counseling Office as a key priority in our conversations. 20 If the student is a dependent and the 529 account is owned by either the parent or the student, the account is considered the parent’s asset. As a result, up to 5.64% of its value will be added to the student’s expected family contribution (EFC), which is a key factor in a school’s financial aid assessment. 21 “FAQs: The Basics of 529 College Savings Plans.” College Savings Plans of Maryland | The Maryland Prepaid College Trust and The Maryland College Investment Plan, https://maryland529.com/FAQs/Basics. 22 “Federal Student Aid - IFAP: Federal School Code List.” iLibrary - Federal School Code List, https://ifap.ed.gov/ilibrary/document-types/federal-school-code-list.