Mission Skills Assessment

Teamwork, creativity, ethics, resilience, curiosity and time management. These 21st century skills are critical to your child's success — in school and in life.

21st Century Skills

Almaden Country Day School has been selected to be part of a prestigious international study group of 100 elite schools participating in the Mission Skills Assessment. MSA schools are helping to develop the assessment, which will improve the ability to deliver these critical skills to more than 35,000 students worldwide.

What is it?

The Mission Skills Assessment is a tool developed by Educational Testing Services (ETS) to measure six skills essential to student success in today’s world. These include: teamwork, creativity, ethics, resilience, curiosity and time management.

Why are they called Mission Skills?

The MSA skills are commonly found in independent school mission statements; schools promise to cultivate these attributes in children, but historically have never attempted to scientifically measure whether their students actually develop the skills during their time in our schools. The MSA schools are committed to objectively evaluating — and improving — their effectiveness in delivering these six skills.

The assessment is for 6th, 7th and 8th grade students and consists of two 30-minute sessions as well as a teacher assessment of each student.

Why are we participating?

The MSA is an important and innovative project. Over time, it will provide Almaden Country Day School with objective, scientific data informing how well our instructional programs develop these six essential skills in our students. Studies conducted by ETS and other researchers demonstrate that these skills predict college readiness as well as the SAT; perhaps more importantly, they are integral to success in the 21st century workplace and have been shown to correlate with measures of happiness and fulfillment in adult life. This is why we believe that the MSA can help us provide Almaden Country Day School students with a powerful head start toward living a meaningful, fulfilling, successful life.

We are proud to be the first and only South Bay independent school, and one of just 10 schools in California, participating in the MSA. Our aim is to collaborate with the other schools worldwide on this important research project, and optimize our ability to deliver most important lessons of our students' lives across the preschool, elementary, and middle school years — their most crucial window for transformation and growth.

For more information, please see the FAQs below; you may also contact either Head of School Dr. Jorgenson or Head of Middle School Mr. Adams.

Mission Skills Assessment FAQs

Q: How do you define each skill or attribute measured in this study?

Teamwork is cooperative and effective work completed by a group of people. This umbrella term, “teamwork” includes skills such as communication and leadership, as well as one’s ability to work efficiently with others, including the ability to compromise and resolve conflict effectively.

Creativity is the tendency to generate new ideas and to recognize when alternate solutions may be needed. It is the ability to see things from a new, different, and unique perspective.

Ethics refers to a person's rules of conduct and general moral principles. In the MSA, ethics are assessed through a series of self-report questions focused on each student's concern for others as well as his or her feelings about honesty and equality.

Resiliency refers to a person's ability to rebound from adversity and withstand pressure and stressful situations. It describes how an individual reacts emotionally to situations, as well as how the individual experiences various emotions such as stress, anger, worry, and sadness. Thus, resilient individuals tend to be persistent and remain calm even in the most intense situations.

Curiosity is characterized by inquisitiveness a desire to discover or uncover, and a level of intrinsic interest in learning.

Time Management refers to a range of skills and techniques a person uses to accomplish a particular task or meet a specific deadline. Time Management skills include: planning, keeping deadlines, being punctual, setting and meeting goals, as well as organizational habits. Time management correlates with academic performance.

Q: How were the test items generated?

A: ETS generated the test items using a large body of existing research and data samples. The test items have undergone extensive factor analysis to ensure that each instrument and subsequent sub-scales are both reliable and valid. Further, all MSA test items have been through an extensive fairness and sensitivity review to ensure they are ethical and developmentally appropriate for middle school students.

Q: How will the tests be scored?

A: The MSA does not generate scores for individual students. Rather, the results come back as group scores, only divided according to grade level and gender. The purpose of the MSA is not to inform the status of individual children, but to evaluate the aggregate scores of groups and subgroups, examining their changes from year to year, for use in curriculum and program involvement.

Q: Who developed the assessment and who will do the scoring?

A: Educational Testing Services (ETS) developed the MSA and does the scoring each year.

Q: What's the experience like for students taking the test?

A: Generally, our students find taking the MSA fun and interesting. There are no right or wrong answers; the test questions involve social and ethical issues they can relate to, and the test only takes two 30-minute periods to complete. We remind students that their answers are anonymous. The MSA experience for students is not at all like taking a stressful standardized achievement test.

Q: What grades will take the test?

A: The test is administered to all 6th, 7th, and 8th graders.

Q: What does ACDS do with the results?

A: We look for trends in the data that inform program improvement. For example, if "Time Management" scores are low across the grade levels, we would devote attention to delivering time management skills more effectively.