Great Expectations in the Core Subjects
We are committed to student success in the core subjects that define the knowledge every student should gain in their school years. We promote Great Expectations in our Community of Learners, encouraging every student to strive to better themselves academically.
We use a system of standards-based grading so that students can see each skill they need gain on the way to mastering a subject. Once a student has shown mastery on a subject, we ask them to exceed that standard, because we have Great Expectations for each and every student at TLC!
We follow the North Carolina Standard Course of Study in K-8 for all subject areas. The College and Career Ready standards are designed to prepare students to succeed in today’s global society and have increased emphasis on critical thinking and 21st Century Skills. The Learning Center! has an E-STEAM (Entrepreneurship, Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts & Agriculture, Math) focus. Students in elementary and middle school will frequently participate in a problem/project-based, cross-curricular approach to learning.
How We Teach Each Core Subject
English Language Arts is taught using the Four Blocks Literacy Model. This incorporates Building Blocks (K), Four Blocks (1-3), and Big Blocks (4-8) , frequently pulling in subjects from Science and Social Studies as reading and writing topics. In addition, the ELA Middle School uses a hands-on, PBL, cross-curricular approach to Literacy. It ties into subject matter being taught in all other courses.
Math instruction in the K-5 program is a Guided Math approach that allows students to experience math in a variety of ways daily. Middle school math follows a balanced, explorative, hands-on approach to teaching math, often incorporating problem/project-based learning that ties math to the everyday world. In middle school, advanced students have the chance to be a part of Compacted Math, which allows them to move more quickly through the standards, eventually fulfilling 9th Grade math standards by the end of their 8th Grade year.
Science instruction in elementary is an investigative, hands-on, interdisciplinary program in which students "learn by doing." Fieldwork, outdoor learning, and gardening and agriculture are frequently used to implement science lessons. Science instruction in the middle grades incorporates the use of problem based learning (PBL) in daily class. This allows students to become deeply engaged in solving real world problems. Students create solutions and present their work using multiple 21st Century Skills.
Social Studies uses a multi-method approach to learning involving our students in the local community and beyond. Eighth grade students study North Carolina Geography and History through our Venture Out program. Students frequently connect historical context to current events, understanding how continuity and change shape our society.
How We Grade
We assess students using a Standards Based Grading system in which students receive a score for each standard, not an overall subject score. Students will receive a numeric score indicating their level of mastery on individualized standards as follows.
4: Exceeds Mastery - Student demonstrates solid command of content and consistently takes thinking to a deeper level beyond completion of assignments, often exceeding grade level expectations.
3: Mastery - student consistently demonstrates basic command of grade level content.
2: Near Mastery - student demonstrates limited or inconsistent command of grade level content.
1: Remediation - student demonstrates almost no command of grade level content.
We believe that this type of assessment allows us a far more nuanced look into a student's understanding of the subject matter, and allows us to figure out exactly what we need to do move them towards mastery.
This article makes a great case for Standards Based Grading. The author uses this chart to explain the difference between traditional grading to standards based:
We would use the numbers listed above (4-1) to describe the level of proficiency we assess a student to have in each standard. It's easy to see how standards based gives instructors a far better picture of student mastery!
How We Assess Student Understanding
Project Based Learning
Project Based Learning (or PBL) allows instructors so many avenues for assessment, which is one the many reasons we love it! Through a project, a student is able to show his or her understanding in a variety of ways.
During the project's conception, we can see a student formulating meaningful questions, and tackling research towards getting the answers. During the making phase, we can see how the student is using the tools at hand to create a piece that displays their understanding. We often see that understanding sharpen and become more nuanced during this phase. Once the project is complete, we have a range of factors to use to see how much the student gets the standard we're working toward.
This method also is crucial in allowing us to reach all different types of learners. Students who might not be as adept at showing what they know through writing can shine through visual or engineering projects.
The incredible technological age we live in provides us with thousands of digital tools to asses student understanding. Through online portals, students can engage in activities that are fun and enriching for them, while providing teachers with important data points for assessment.
For example Backchannel Chat is a teacher moderated discussion tool that functions like twitter but is totally private to just those in the teacher's group. While the lesson is going on, the teacher can pose a question and give students time to respond via Backchannel. A few minutes later, she has a real time formative assessment from every student in the room and can check learning and participation while the lesson is still in progress! We know our kids are adept in these tools anyway - lets use them to learn better!
See more ways we incorporate tools like this on the Digital Learning page of the website.
Traditional Assignments & Tests
Teaching and learning in the 21st Century means adopting a balanced approach. While we know we need to prepare students for the tech-driven world they live in, we also need to reinforce skills that are timeless - reading, writing, 'rithmetic, and just plain old making sure your homework is turned in on time!
While we may use digital assessments or engage students by letting them creating a music video to show their knowledge of a subject, sometimes nothing beats an old-fashioned pop quiz. Since we are using this as part of a multitude of assessments, and using Standards Based Grading, we don't have to bother with figuring out what percentage of your grade quizes count vs tests, or worry about one bad test bringing down your "average".
A written assessment, just like a digital or a project-based one, is a snapshot of where the student is at towards mastering the standard at that moment, and lets us see how we can help them towards mastery.
MAP® Growth™ measures what students know and informs what they’re ready to learn next. By dynamically adjusting to each student’s responses, MAP Growth creates a personalized assessment experience that accurately measures performance. Timely, easy-to-use reports help teachers teach, students learn, and administrators lead.
At The Learning Center, we utilize MAP testing with every student, three times per year, to get an in depth look at their progress. As the students grow throughout their time at The Learning Center, we can track their progress over time and create meaningful growth and instruction through the years.
This video gives a great overview of the idea behind MAP and how it can be used to engage students as individuals.
This video gives a great overview of the Student Profile Report and how teachers and students can use it to reach their goals.