Here’s a general primer on 5 aspects of progressive schools that differentiate them from traditional schools. Of course, many progressive schools create their own educational curriculum which differs slightly from these 5 points, but this list can be helpful to understand what progressive schools are all about. It also discusses the history of progressive schools.
“1. Most progressive schools don’t issue report cards.
Professor John Dewey disliked the notion of children sitting in rigid rows listening to a teacher, memorizing facts and regurgitating those facts on command. Dr. Dewey felt that students needed to learn by doing. Implicit in this philosophy of education is an aversion to testing and report cards. You will monitor your child’s progress in other ways. Instead of receiving a document with traditional grades such as A’s and B’s you will receive a reporting detailing your child’s achievments in a variety of areas which the school feels are important.” –PrivateSchoolReview.com
“Sequoyah School is an independent, K-8 day school located in Pasadena, California. Sequoyah is now expanding its program to high school starting with enrollment of 9th and 10th grade in the fall of 2016. Founded in 1958, the school is committed to an education that “challenges the mind, nurtures the heart, and celebrates human dignity”. Through Sequoyah’s project-based curriculum, language arts, mathematics, social studies, Spanish, science, the visual and performing arts are all taught as related subjects in the elementary and junior high program. Teachers guide students to be able to work independently and collaboratively, and to make inspired connections between one discipline and another. Sequoyah’s high school students will be further challenged to apply their knowledge and skills in advanced college preparatory coursework and interdisciplinary field studies emphasizing global perspectives and cultural competency.
The school is named after the Cherokee leader and silversmith who invented an alphabet for his native language. The Sequoyah community honors and reflects the ethnic, cultural and economic diversity of Southern California. Sequoyah is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges and is a member of the National Association of Independent Schools.”–Sequoyah School
Heather Morrison Poland is a mom at Branches Atelier Preschool in Culver City. I met Heather when I spoke at Branches in 2013. So, I was excited when she told me she and a group of parents/educators are opening a new Reggio-inspired private elementary school on the Westside of L.A (location TBD).
Progressive School L.A. is accepting applications for kindergarten for 2015/2016.
For more information, visit, www.progressiveschoolla.org (see the video of Heather and the founding parents and educators on the homepage)
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This post is an excerpt from my remarks at a recent preschool speaking event. One of the first –and most important–things to do is figure out the type of school that’s right for your child. Sometimes a school is a mix of several philosophies (you’ll see a few schools listed in several categories below) or it’s not clear to you what type of school it is from a website or a tour. Most L.A. private elementary schools are a hybrid/mix of educational philosophies. This is not an exact science, but more about the way each school adheres to a particular philosophy or combines several philosophies. For example, you might see a progressive school with a developmental approach to teaching. Or, you may see a traditional school that incorporates a developmental approach in the classroom. But, if a school doesn’t seem to have a clear philosophy that can be understood and explained, ask questions! And, there are clues you can look for to help figure out what kind of school it is. Your goal should be for your child to attend a school that offers a learning environment where he/she can thrive and one that you truly believe in. — Christina
While every school is different, here are some of the characteristics that can help you identify the type of school:
Rejection of memorizing big amounts of information
A whole child approach-social, emotional and academic have equal importance
Lots of group projects, discussion and debate
Kids work at tables grouped for 4 or 6 kids
Very little homework, few worksheets (if any)
No grades until MS or even HS (or not)
Lots of expository writing
Play-based in preschool and kindergarten
An emphasis on field trips for real-world learning
A focus on the arts
A de-emphasis on standardized testing
Kids working on creative projects with their hands using wood, paper, found objects
If there are uniforms, they might be a t-shirt
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There is a common narrative that says moving from a progressive to a traditional school could mean your kid might be unprepared or even fall behind. I’ve never believed that sentiment, mainly because successful students come from all kinds of schools. I hope my kids’ experience helps further dispel that notion. Not surprisingly, some parents wonder (and often worry) about what the transition from a developmental/progressive to a traditional school will be like for their kid. I’ll admit, I was concerned too, but I tend to worry about everything, so this isn’t anything new. Will this change be smooth, with few adjustments needed to deal with different educational philosophies? Or, will the transition between different types of schools require tutoring, lots of hours studying and stress for their kid? Will programs align or will there be a big gap between the schools?
Coming from a progressive/developmental elementary school, my kids entered their new traditional school with valuable skills and strengths. The approach to learning acquired during their early education is intrinsically part of who they are. Yet, crossing over to a new type of school meant they had to quickly learn new skills in areas that were unfamiliar to them.
After seven years at The Willows, we realized it was time for our kids to make a change. By nature they are structured, competitive and self-motivated. This signaled to us that it was time to look at traditional schools.
Below, I’ve listed some of the most/least challenging aspects of the progressive-to-traditional school transition for my kids.
Here’s what has been the MOST challenging for my kids:
1.Standardized tests. Generally speaking, progressive schools place less emphasis on the value of standardized tests than their traditional counterparts. Therefore, very little time is spent preparing kids for these tests. In progressive schools, classroom work isn’t geared to generating high standardized test scores and the way material is taught differs from the way it appears on standardized tests. During the 4th grade ERBs (mandated for all Independent Schools) at Willows, my daughter got strep throat and missed 4 out of the 5 test days. We asked for a make-up test date and were told there wasn’t going to be an opportunity to make up the test. Let’s just say that response didn’t go over well with my husband who pushed for a make-up test, which was administered for my daughter (it was optional for other kids). The concept, Teach To The Test isn’t found in progressive schools, while there are some traditional L.A. private elementary schools that spend substantial time getting kids ready for standardized tests. Test-preparation was money well spent to prepare my daughter for the ISEE (middle school entrance exam).
2. Learning how to take a traditional test. Traditional schools give tests using multiple- choice questions. Sometimes, there are essay and multiple choice portions, but rarely are there tests that only have an essay question. The way progressive and traditional schools test similar material (a book, for example) will be very different. For my kids, this required learning a new study skill. Multiple choice tests with answer choices that are very similar are common at traditional schools. This requires reading and studying with a focus on small details of a story, a poem or a chapter. Scantron tests were also new to my kids.
3.An increase in the amount of homework, tests and quizzes. At a developmental/progressive school, students are given more project-oriented work that requires research, collaboration, planning and writing. In a traditional school, especially in middle school, there is homework in every class and several tests and/or quizzes each week. Tests and quizzes were less frequent at our developmental/progressive school and the homework was much lighter. The first time my son heard the term “pop test” was this year. My daughter had to adjust to a heavy volume of tests and homework, a big jump from the previous year.
Here’s what has been the LEAST challenging for my kids:
1.Organizational skills. My kids benefitted tremendously from their developmental/progressive school’s big, bold projects, which required extensive planning, organization and attention to a timeline/schedule. Staying organized, knowing what comes next and turning in assignments on time has been seamless for both my kids.
2.Working in groups. At the core of a developmental/progressive school is the belief that the sharing of ideas and working with each other is essential to learning. Collaborating with other kids, sharing and expressing thoughts, listening to others’ opinions respectfully are concepts my kids understand. There is a lot less group work at a traditional school, but my kids have leadership skills that have been recognized—and called upon—by their peers.
3.Critical thinking. My kids both developed excellent critical thinking skills at their former school. The ability to ask thoughtful questions both in class–and after class– is also something they learned because it was encouraged. Asking questions and questioning the teacher (appropriately…think debate style) are essential skills progressive schools can teach kids.
Ultimately, your kid’s personality and other factors, along with your own preferences, will help determine the type of school that’s right for him/her. For my kids, a progressive elementary school worked well, but as the kids got older we knew we wanted a more traditional secondary school, one that aligned more closely with their interests and goals. I’m grateful my kids will have the benefit of both progressive and traditional private schools.
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