On the surface, it’s obvious that learning at Virginia Chance School is fun and engaging. But look more closely and you’ll see purposeful work in classrooms with a structure that assures students are accountable. Blended with open-ended, creative outlets, there are many checks and balances in place. The school’s Program Guide is a curricular framework that integrates developmental milestones, guidelines by the school’s accrediting agency and early childhood experts, Common Core Standards (elementary), best practices and the school’s philosophy. With the Program Guide as the foundation, the Chance curriculum blends the freedom to achieve with the responsibility to meet or exceed age appropriate measurements as it supports and challenges young minds.
In each classroom at Chance, children learn in a continuum; they move from easier to more difficult material and from simple to more complex strategies at their own pace, making continuous progress. The curriculum is adjusted to correspond with individual needs, interests and abilities. Continuous progress is success-oriented and promotes social, emotional, moral, physical and cognitive development – the hallmark of a Chance education.
The Teacher’s Role
The classroom teacher is an observer, role model, guide and facilitator who establishes a productive learning environment. The teacher’ role and responsibility is to foster a community of learners by creating a non-threatening educational environment, developing a respectful ownership of one’s learning space and materials, practicing appropriate methodology that includes formal and informal assessments, and creating a partnership between home and school.
The school’s Program Guide Introduction highlights the curricular framework that integrates developmental milestones, guidelines ‘from its accrediting agency and early childhood experts, Common Core Standards (elementary), best practices and the school’s philosophy. This Program Guide is a foundation with no arbitrary grade-level limits. The Chance curriculum is structured to achieve or exceed age-appropriate measurements as it supports and challenges young minds.
Setting Learning Goals
In a traditional setting, school days are scripted far in advance with little room for a student to take ownership or teachers to take opportunities to meet individual needs. At Chance, the curricular foundation is also structured to achieve standard educational measurements, but our method is different. The traditional ceiling to achievement is removed, which allows for all the possibilities children bring to a classroom. Instead of age or grade determining the parameters of lessons, it is the individual potential and motivation from within coupled with learning opportunities that set the stage for success.
In addition to whole-group and small-group lessons, individualized instruction and practice are part of each program component. Teachers guide students in setting their individual learning goals. Through self-evaluation, peer input and teacher feedback, students embrace new challenges and build on their successes.
Chance teachers don’t rely on tests alone to assess how students are progressing. Formal and informal inventories document growth and development on an ongoing basis. With two teachers for every class, we can assess a student’s individual progress daily. Results are looped into the spiral curriculum, and instruction is then tailored to enhance learning accordingly.
If a child is working above milestones, he or she is provided more challenging, meaningful work while staying with peers. If a child is struggling to meet milestones, the teacher and Program Coordinator assess the student’s needs and provide additional support. Depending on the need, parents may be required to seek the expertise of a specialist in the field of concern. Plans are modified to address the needs of the student, with the involvement of parents. Ongoing assessment documents continuous progress and influences learning goals.
Authentic evaluations are clearer and far more accurate than traditional grading to keep close track of how well students are progressing. Authentic assessment considers the child as a whole (academically, socially, emotionally, morally and physically) and encompasses a wide range of methods, such as documented observations, portfolios of children’s work, exhibits, demonstrations, presentations, performances, inventories and checklists. Informal assessments can capture how a child expresses himself or herself, contributes to learning, uses materials, navigates the day or applies the day’s lessons.
Traditional testing is a standard way of measuring the retention of information according to age or grade expectations. In elementary grades, assessments are given at the end of units as well as at mid-year and end of year. Documentation of such assessments includes learning logs, rubrics and screenings in reading, writing and math. Standardized testing is given to Chance’s third, fourth and fifth graders with the results compared with national norms.
Each year, the Stanford Achievement Test is given to fifth graders at Chance and fifth graders around the nation. Chance students consistently earn high marks. On a regular basis, more than 70 percent of Chance fifth-graders score in the top third compared with the norm of 23 percent nationally, as shown on the school’s Tracking Report – Chance Students & Graduates. With scores in the 95th percentile, more than 50 percent of Chance students are identified as academically gifted and qualified for Duke University’s Talent Identification Program.
Reporting consists of regular individualized school-to-home communication describing how and what the child is learning, individual accomplishments, interests, abilities and attitudes. Progress Reports are distributed three times per year and include measures based on how well children meet developmental and educational standards. Progress is related in terms of the continuous growth and development of the whole child, reflecting the school’s philosophy. Teachers communicate student assessments to parents during scheduled conferences and on an as-needed basis.
We believe that the road to thoughtful learning is a scaffolding process built through supportive and involved adults (both teachers and parents), who look for meaning in a child’s actions and responses to his/her environment and to cultivate experiences that encourages each student to work toward his or her potential.