Assessments & Communications
We know that students focus much more on the process of learning when they are not consumed by letter grades or rankings that inevitably compare students to each other. Research shows that grades diminish interest in the learning, decrease the quality of students’ thinking, and create a penchant for the easiest possible undertaking.
We assess students holistically without the use of letter grades. Formative assessments are incorporated into classroom practice – during a project or lesson - to give teachers a clear sense of how a student is learning (and how the teaching should be adjusted to enhance that learning). Three times yearly, teachers write narrative assessments of the child’s growth in all subjects as part of the ongoing communication process. Formal parent-student-teacher conferences are conducted throughout the year to form, follow, and assess student goals, progress, and achievement.
Teachers also communicate through biweekly letters containing news of their classroom studies. The PS1 portal is updated weekly with photos, calendars, videos, and information about what’s happening on campus. Teachers always welcome communication from the families via email or telephone.
PS1 believes that homework should be meaningful and developmentally appropriate. Teachers at all grade levels assign homework. In Youngers, it may involve reading as well as an activity that connects home and school. About 20 minutes per night is appropriate at this level. Students in Olders typically have an hour of homework each night, involving activities to reinforce learning from the school day as well as ongoing projects that help students learn time management.
Homework should be a positive learning experience, furthering the link between school and home. Serving several purposes, it fosters the development of independent study habits, allows for practice of class work, provides opportunities to work on projects requiring further research or investigation at home, and builds regular reading habits. As homework helps teach organization, responsibility, time management and accountability, it is very important that students establish a homework routine. An opportunity to reflect on the day’s learning, homework can also be a time for parents to observe what the child can do independently, excepting, of course, instances specifically requiring parent participation. It is more important for teachers to know what the student can do on her own than to have parents and students turn in a highly collaborative product.