(Continued from Part 1)
The Children’s Community School (CCS) in Van Nuys is a progressive school that has no grades, no tests, and no textbooks. Why:
- No tests? In traditional schools, testing is a way of life, and manifests itself in many ways, as admission tests, subject tests, and standardized tests. And, tests are inaccurate. At CCS, there is no admission test, interview, or playdate. The school staff prefers to visit a prospective student at their current school. CCS also does not require students to take standardized tests. Aside from the tests being an inaccurate measure of what a child knows, test taking is a skill that a child is either good at or not. It is a skill like any other, such as shooting baskets. If a child chooses to become better at taking tests, and places effort into acquiring the skill, then he/she will become better at taking tests, just like one would become better at shooting baskets after placing similar effort into the task. CCS does expose the 6thgraders to ERB testing for the experience, however, scores are only shared with students and used to further the curriculum in the classroom with student input. Also, CCS has noticed that 6thgraders who prepare for the private school ISEE admissions exam, easily pick up “test taking skills” in a three week program. CCS students have gone on to various private and public schools and been academically and socially successful, showing that yearly standardized testing is not necessary to succeed in later academic pursuits.
- No grades? Traditional grades are an inaccurate measure and incomplete method to assess a student’s abilities and potential. CCS emphasizes looking at a child from many perspectives, and thus uses narratives to examine how students are performing. Children are assessed individually throughout the year; And teachers write lengthy narratives twice a year, called Learning Records. Within these Learning Records teachers describe the curriculum and the interaction that a child has with the given curriculum. The Learning Records are in-depth, rich with information, and meaningful in assessing the strengths and weaknesses of a student. These reports are also valid assessments and accepted by middle schools to where CSS graduates move on.
- No textbooks? Following a textbook does not allow curriculum ownership by the students and does not allow for interdisciplinary study of a topic. At CCS, in order to honor self-guided inquiry by children, much discussion and problem solving is encouraged in class, and children are granted choice time. Children are encouraged to use primary sources, to build fact-finding skills, and develop writing and research skills. CCS curriculum uses an integrated studies approach where a class of students would be studying several subjects within an overall theme, such as ancient history. Examples of activities from this integrated study include: learning math through cooking; science through astronomy, social studies through Greek mythology, and art through block prints of constellations.
For more information, visit the school’s website, call 818-780-6226 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
For a conversation with the director of Children’s Community School on progressive education and testing, see Part 3.