Ask An Academy Expert: Ed Ellison, Pt. 2

Shedding light on the value added by an independent school experience, Cape Fear Academy’s Head of School Ed Ellison offers these thoughts in the first of a series of blogs presented by the school and authored by several experts in their respective fields.

Value Added: Why Parents Choose Independent Schools, part 2

In part 1 of this blog, I wrote about the various benefits of the experience of attending an independent school like CFA that justify the investment. But that’s only half of the story. In part 2, I’d like to share some of the many tangible benefits — or outcomes — that emphasize the value of our programs.

Everything we do at CFA emanates from our mission of “discovering and developing individual potential, preparing students for college and for life.” We start with the end in mind, or the portrait of a graduate, which describes the skills and qualities common to all CFA graduates. From the portrait of a graduate we work backward, ensuring that our pre-K through 12th grade program has seamless curricular alignment. At every level along the way, our students provide demonstrable evidence of their achievements. Beginning with reading scores in Lower School and continuing with the ERB up through Middle School, CFA students routinely score in the 86% percentile nationally.

In Upper School these strong foundations and a rigorous curriculum showcase our students’ strong critical thinking skills, and demonstrate their college readiness as they think, re-think, plan, collaborate, theorize, analyze, debate, and create new knowledge. Here, too, their scores on standardized tests, while not an end in themselves, are clearly exceptional. Over the past three years, CFA students achieved mean SAT scores of 1264 compared to 1096 in North Carolina. On AP Exams, 92% of our students earn a passing score (compared to 60% globally), giving them a chance to earn college credit before graduating high school. Colleges and universities acknowledge this excellence by offering admission to our graduating seniors, with 100% of the Class of 2021 going on to college and 18 graduates heading to top 30 institutions, including a 60% acceptance rate at UNC-Chapel Hill, as well as one National Merit Scholar, and one Morehead-Cain Scholar in their ranks. 

But we’re not just preparing our students for college; we’re preparing them to be successful in life as well. When our alumni arrive on college campuses they find they are ready to thrive. One alumna who returned recently to campus to visit with her former teachers told me, “College is great. I am in the right place and I am totally comfortable with the intensity and the pace of the work. CFA prepared me really well. My college friends ask me for help with papers and other things I learned at CFA.”

Since our founding over 50 years ago, 87% of our alumni have graduated from college in four years or less, while the current national average is only 62% of students graduating in six years or less.

After college, our alumni go on to have productive, successful careers in the field of their interest. An alumnus who also recently visited campus served in the military after college and is now the CEO of a rapidly growing company with 100 employees. He told our senior class that the lessons he learned at CFA propelled his career. I often hear these stories from alumni, many of whom are now parents of current CFA students — this year we have 74 students whose parents attended CFA. 

Of the many tangible outcomes of our school’s benefits, perhaps our proudest validation is parents entrusting us to ensure that subsequent generations of students will Go Further because of CFA.