Ask Paige: Be SMART About Academic Excellence


Photo courtesy of Paige Kuhn

For the last couple of years, there has been a lot of talk about Academic Excellence at Kettle Moraine School for Arts and Performance (KM Perform). Academic Excellence is a 1-credit course encompassing a range of life skills that benefit students during high school and beyond. Students must demonstrate sufficient progress for at least one competency per year, with four pieces of evidence per competency (organization, quality, time management, persistence, curiosity, flexible thinking, and managing impulsivity). However, flexible thinking, managing impulsivity, and curiosity deal more with a person’s mindset/attitude than most of the other competencies, which can sometimes prove to be challenging.

Before submitting evidence for Academic Excellence, students must write a SMART goal. SMART is an acronym for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-bound. When writing a goal, include how that goal will meet those five standards. For more information, see this template here.

Flexible thinking prompts students to broaden their perspectives, see others’ points of view, and make compromises. Students working on this competency often challenge themselves by working in groups. To submit that for evidence, they should keep track of meetings/brainstorming sessions and write about how their group compromised and shared ideas. Rube Goldberg offers a great opportunity for Academic Excellence credit, so students could also write a reflection about how their Rube Goldberg team adapted to the ever-changing nature of the contest (new rooms every day, pop-up challenges, machine failures, etc.).

Managing impulsivity was a new competency added for the 2017-18 school year, and it challenges students to remain calm when under pressure, think before speaking/acting, and to be considerate of others. In order to document progress, students should keep a reflection log of what they normally would have done in a certain situation versus what they actually did. That comparison shows that students are actively trying to manage their impulsivity (also, list the steps taken toward getting those impulses under control). For example, if students have trouble staying off their phones (like most teenagers do), they can track how long they are on their phones when it is unnecessary (i.e. for social media, texting friends, playing games, etc.). They can then write out a goal outlining a plan to decrease the amount of phone time, and track its effectiveness by logging the time spent on the phone (once the goal is set). Lastly, they can reflect every week or so about whether or not their method is working, adapting it as needed.

Lastly, there is curiosity, which can be demonstrated through engagement in classroom conversations and projects. This competency is perfect to submit when there is a classroom or group discussion. If students are able to actively participate with group members, and ask thought-provoking questions (and document all of it), they can submit that as evidence. Yet each discussion varies, so be sure to check with the seminar/workshop teacher to verify that it is okay to submit that for the curiosity competency. Or, students could try new things more often, and document what was tried, why it was of interest, and how it went. For example, a student could try a new medium of art, try Aikido with Mr. Weber (highly recommended by me), or join a school sport/club.

If you’re ever confused about what to submit for an Academic Excellence competency, you can always ask your mentor. If you want to use one (or more) of the ideas in this article to submit as evidence, verify with your teacher that it’s a good fit, since every seminar has different expectations. But, don’t stress about Academic Excellence. You have all four years to finish it, and there are many resources around KM Perform that are designed to help you along the way.