“There’s nothing wrong with asking people to live up to their potential.” ~Crystal Punch
Assessments must include the children in goal setting, an understanding of process to achieve excellent work, and a curriculum that is presented with models of accomplished and exceptional work for a clear vision of yearly expectations. To understand project-based learning click here. Read below to understand specifically how our assessment process works.
Intrinsic Motivation and Ownership of Work:
Children learn to take ownership of their portfolios and public presentations - so they work for excellence because that is what they want to present. Starting in 3rd grade we begin the year by looking at their portfolios from the previous year and reflecting back with a set of questions they answer in a recorded interview with their teacher. Each child then sets goals for the year. They then receive new portfolios with a list of all the work in each subject area they will need to complete in order to pass into the next grade. We are creating a library of benchmark work for every subject for all the grades so kids know what developing, accomplished and exemplary work looks like. We have found that when they have a model, and they know what the expectations are, they can set goals for themselves that are concrete in terms of how they focus and work to reach those expectations.
Three times a year children put work into their portfolios, the goal being accomplished work in all subject areas. Three times a year in parent conferences they present their portfolios (which includes rough drafts and the process of achieving accomplished work), along with their goals and how they are working on them - and then upgrade their goals each semester.
Children prepare public presentations 1-2 times a year to "authentic" audiences - meaning not just the school or parents. These presentations are usually integrated with the arts as well as multi-subject areas and showcase both skill development and deeper understanding of the subject matter.
This dynamic process of assessment allows students to be fully involved in the evaluation of their work. This is critical for self-motivation and growth that develops from a love of learning, rather than for an external reward (or punishment) that can tend to disconnect students from full engagement and taking responsibility for their work. There is almost no greater satisfaction than the pride and confidence that comes from pushing oneself to do high-quality work.
“FROM DEEP CONTENTMENT COMES THE COURAGE TO ACHIEVE.” ~ALFIE KOHN
We understand that parents want and need to know where their children stand in relation to students in public schools who go through standardized testing, as well as in relation to the Common Core Standards. For this reason, we have put into place the following assessment program:
Each academic area has goals based primarily on Common Core Standards. Click here for K-5. Click here for middle school. Assessments are made in each subject according to the program being used. For example, in math there is a pre-assessment for each unit to make sure a student is placed in the appropriate level. There is also a post-assessment after each unit. Science and Theme use both written and project- based assessments. Language Arts conducts reading assessments twice a year and focuses on quality of work and rubrics starting in 2nd grade. All these assessments are given to parents at conferences three times a year and put into portfolios. They are kept digitally to be passed on to future schools.
There are no grades at Running River. Conferences are scheduled three times a year, and can also be arranged whenever a parent or a teacher feels there is a need. In the spring teachers write reports on all academic areas as well as the Arts, P.E. and the Emotional/Social arena.
In addition to conferences, there is a parent night each semester. Each class chooses work to present the entire school, so that parents experience Running River's rich community of learners.
Children learn and develop at their own pace. The myth that each child can be taught in the same rote fashion leaves many children confused, resulting in academic gaps which must be filled in as adults, or are never filled in at all. There is no longer any question that there are many ways to learn (also called multiple intelligences). Each child has a way of learning that works best for him or her. Running River teachers engage those different learning styles.
Teachers spend one-on-one time with each child, and pay close attention to their learning styles and progress in all academic areas. Teachers at Running River work to understand the needs and development of each learner through observation, verbal interaction/conversations, working with parents and specialists when necessary, math and reading assessments, and by looking closely at every child’s work.
There are children who require outside support from specialists. Teachers will recommend outside testing to assess learning challenges when necessary. Running River works regularly with several specialists who meet with the staff throughout the year. Crystal Punch is an adjunct staff member who trains all staff on visual spatial learning and dyslexia and works once a month in the classroom. In addition the staff does training and workshops in all academic areas.