At Princeton Friends School, we believe learning is a nonlinear, cyclical process. As students progress through the grades in the various disciplines, they encounter similar concepts, content, and skills at ever-increasing levels of sophistication and depth. It is our aim to meet students from “where they are” in a given discipline. Then, through classroom instruction, open-ended assignments, and individual coaching, we carry every one of them as far forward as possible in the acquisition of appropriate subject area concepts, content, and skills.
Similarly, we think assessment of learning is best achieved through close observation and deep knowledge of students by their teachers. Rather than basing assessment solely on tests, we evaluate student progress as part of everyday instruction, varying with teachers’ understanding of individual students’ particular needs and providing opportunities for observation in the moment and over the long term. The quantitative feedback that PFS students receive does come at times come in the form of raw test scores; for example, “7 out of 12” on a quiz, perhaps. More often, however, teachers supply narrative feedback on specific aspects of a student’s work to communicate areas of accomplishment and suggestions for further attention.
We choose this method for assessment because grades assigned to student work or performance are in our experience often not adequate - or at best only one-dimensional - indicators of competency and progress. Children learn and grow in ways that can outpace the metrics designed to track them. At Princeton Friends School, we aim to give every student – and parent – feedback that is accurate, perceptive, and able to reflect the unique character and growth of the child. We also intend our assessments to be not the final say, but the beginning of a conversation.
Twice a year, parents receive in-depth, narrative reports on their child’s progress, including academic highlights and test scores, assessments of a child’s learning style and needs, and recommendations for further study and challenge. Parent teacher conferences are also held two times a year, or when requested by a teacher or parent.