For a parent, a single mark on a line in a report card seldom really reports much at all. It doesn't provide a comprehensive look at a child's development or reveal their unique strengths, interests and abilities. At Summers-Knoll, we believe that assessment is far too critical to the learning process to be reduced to a single mark. We believe parents want, and children deserve, something better than an arbitrary, comparative grading system of success or failure.
Our small class sizes allow teachers to remain in close contact with a child's progress and base evaluations on demonstrated competencies rather than grades. We use a portfolio-based model which places assessment within the context of the entire educational experience. The portfolio becomes the signature piece for parents and children as it represents work the student feels is a solid portrayal of his or her performance. Based on the Work Sampling System, students' progress is demonstrated in the portfolio with samples of work from across the curriculum. Portfolios are compiled throughout the year and presented to parents at parent-teacher conferences in fall and spring, and in winter and summer are sent home with detailed, written, narrative assessments. In addition to the formal assessments, parents are engaged informally on a regular basis through conversations and e-mail with their child’s teacher. Teachers also respond to parent requests for additional meetings, as desired. This personalized and process-based assessment allows the accomplishments and learning styles of each student to be recognized and nurtured. And it gives parents a comprehensive look at their child's progress — emotional, physical and academic.
How does it work?
Imagine a scenario where a 4th grader has completed an experiment that brings the scientific method to life. She's done the research, developed her own hypothesis, created a mouse maze, partnered with a fellow student to run the experiment, synthesized the data and written a report summarizing her findings. When her paper is returned, she meets with her teacher and together they reflect not only on her writing and analysis, but also on her overall experience with the experiment. Feedback focuses on skill-development and next steps. Her work goes into her portfolio as an example of her best work during the year and her teacher uses it, in a meeting with parents, to demonstrate how the student's writing, math skills, critical thinking processes, scientific reasoning, teamwork and time management skills have progressed over the course of the semester.
Beginning in the fourth grade, students take a national assessment developed specifically for independent schools. This instrument not only provides teachers and parents information about a child’s learning and skill areas, but also provides information to the school regarding potential areas of curriculum improvement. Taking part in this more formal assessment also provides the student valuable practice and skills in taking standardized tests.