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How Our Classrooms Measure (and Maximize) Students’ Success

Learning is a complex process involving cognitive, physical, and emotional development. How do NMS teachers measure students’ progress and achievement, taking all of this into account?

Observation and detailed record keeping are two crucial starting points. As teachers follow each child’s interests and needs in the classroom, they keep track of developmental norms and learning expectations. These notes and data enable teachers to guide children to appropriate works in the classroom, and to compile progress reports twice a year. The progress reports evaluate criteria in categories such as work habits, social and emotional skills, and each major area of academic curriculum. Evaluations are marked according to the following legend:

NS – Needs Support: Student needs additional/continued supports to acquire this age-appropriate skill.

EM – Emerging: Student has been recently introduced and is currently practicing this skill/concept with teacher guidance.

DV – Developing: Student continues to practice this skill/concept and is developing age-appropriately.

PR – Proficient: Student demonstrates independence on a daily basis and has a thorough understanding of this skill/concept.

NA – Not Applicable: Student has not been introduced to this concept yet.

PC – Presented in Previous Cycle: Student explored this concept in previous years of the three-year cycle.

These evaluations are followed by a detailed and individualized comment about the student’s progress, behavior, and areas of focus that semester. The progress report is one tool to measure and record growth, and we strive to make them as thorough and helpful as possible. We hope that you find them informative and helpful in preparing for the Parent-Teacher conferences in February.

As students move through the Elementary grades, teachers use additional assessments to measure growth in foundation skills such as math facts, spelling, and reading. Along with the weekly one-on-one conferences and review of work plans, teachers gather the information needed to guide each student to new skills and higher expectations. Each May, the Upper Elementary students also take the ‘ERBs’ (Educational Records Bureau tests) for two reasons: to gain experience with standardized testing and to measure progress in reading, math and written expression skills.

But progress is not just about improving one’s skills in isolation. The skills need to be applied to new learning situations and they need to be shared with others. Along with solid academic skills, we consider the “4 Cs” (critical thinking, collaboration, communication and creativity) just as essential.

What are some factors that maximize students’ success?

Learning often means taking risks and stepping into unknown territory, and certainly, there are times of frustration and even failure. Learning how to face challenges and overcome obstacles are some of the most important lessons a child can master. Coping skills and the ability to be resilient are essential to success, and we encourage children to build these skills by persevering and trying new approaches when they face a challenge.

With individual attention and observation over the course of a three-year cycle, teachers know which challenges are appropriate for a given child to take on, or if other lessons must be presented first. The three-year cycle provides time for the student-teacher relationship to build and trust to grow. Having a guide who knows each student well and who prepares the pathways to new skills and information minimizes the chance for failure and maximizes opportunities for success.

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