We know students develop at different rates and learn best when they are working in the "sweet spot" where they are stretched to learn and master a new skill or concept, yet not overly taxed. Learning at their own optimal level. To plan and monitor differentiated learning for each child, our teachers use developmentally appropriate, authentic assessment at each level.
Authentic assessment is the best method of achieving our goal of cultivating confident, independent and passionate learners who engage in purposeful work. At the youngest ages, teachers take notes on each child's daily progress, observing levels of mastery, practice and challenge. As students move into Elementary and Middle School, there is the expectation of mastery of academic subjects. Teachers track meaningful application of essential knowledge and skills through a combination of observation, student portfolios, assignment rubrics, work samples, and verbal responses/presentations. This careful monitoring of the child's ability to progress through the curriculum is augmented with limited formal testing.
Chiaravalle is thoughtful about implementing testing purposefully and in accordance with the Montessori philosophy and current best practices in cognitive science and education. Research-based assessment tools, such as the Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills [DIBELS], are used to screen for reading progress in Kindergarten and Elementary students (2-3 times per year). AIMSWEB measures help to monitor development of abstract math and writing skills (2-3 times per year in Elementary and Middle School). The standardized Iowa Test of Basic Skills [ITBS] is given yearly in Upper Elementary and Middle School. These tests are also utilized as one source of information that can inform program evaluation, instructional planning, and intervention considerations. Students learn test taking skills such as how to navigate the test format, how to analyze multiple answer options and how to stay calm during a test. Students in Middle School prepare for high school expectations by taking some chapter tests in core subjects, aiming for mastery at an appropriate level for individual students. Students are encouraged to view lower performance as an opportunity for learning the concepts they did not understand. Intellectual risk taking, deep learning and resilience are encouraged over competition or narrowly defined ideas of success.
Chiaravalle acknowledges that we live in a culture of standardized testing and grades. Currently, the political climate of education in the United States is driven by scores despite ample research indicating that testing provides a limited, often inaccurate view of student ability. In many cases, testing causes anxiety, narrows curriculum opportunities, and substitutes test preparation with deeper authentic learning. At Chiaravalle, test scores are viewed as one data point to be considered in the holistic authentic assessment model and test taking as a practical life opportunity for students to learn.
Parents, students and teachers are partners in education and communicate regularly about student progress. Students receive daily feedback on their performance through a variety of self-checking materials, teacher and peer feedback, student-teacher conferences, self reflection goal setting. Each year parents enjoy detailed narrative progress reports — twice each year. To best depict the development of the whole child, these reports evaluate the areas of social/emotional, academic and work habit progress. Parent/Teacher conferences are an opportunity to discuss narrative reports. These occur in late fall and early spring. One of the culminating experiences of a Chiaravalle education is when Middle School students lead their own Student/Parent/Teacher conference and portfolio presentation. Through practice of systematic, authentic assessment, the Chiaravalle graduate demonstrates their understanding of themselves as an engaged, independent learner prepared to take on the next challenge- high school