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Where’s the Progress Report?

How parents can measure learning at Acton Academy

· Assessment,Progress

We trust that parents are completely qualified to assess their children’s intellectual and moral growth. Teacher certifications and education degrees are not necessary for this work. All of our parents are intelligent, experienced, resourceful and know their children better than anyone in the world.

At Acton, we facilitate the assessment process by offering questions, frameworks and data – in clear English (and sometimes Spanish) – and the parents can discern their children’s achievement without the anxiety and distraction of arbitrary letter grades, low-value state-mandated tests and confusing academic jargon.

Seven Acton resources that provide hard evidence of transformative growth:

  • Student Portfolios – review them in depth; ask questions; praise effort; and encourage more effort and focus.
  • Learning Exhibitions – see your Eagle’s hard work displayed to the outside world.
  • Peer Review – ask to see 360 Feedback and Quest Feedback sheets.
  • S.M.A.R.T. goal tracking sheets – track your Eagle’s goals day by day and week by week; learn where encouragement and tough questions can help.
  • Online dashboards – analyze hard data in incredible detail, available to see 24/7/365 as often as you wish.
  • Learning Badges – dig deeply into evidence of the development of real world skills.
  • Standardized tests – we will be launching these in March, and using them 2-3 times a year.

Here are some tips to help in your assessment:

Math: The online dashboards of our game-based adaptive programs are rich with analytic data that ensure your Eagle will master math processes. Be sure to ask your own tough math questions in real life and you’ll soon discover our Eagles know how to “do math” in the real world through our projects and quests.

Reading:  Ask your Eagle about the books he or she is reading. Read aloud in the evenings; listen to your child read; ask probing questions about the story and characters. Help your child to choose books that are not too easy and not too challenging. Plus, you always are welcome to come serve as a Reading Buddy with young Eagles, just ask!

Writing: Acton Eagles write every day. First they learn to capture profound thoughts on paper; editing, revision and grammar soon follow. (For me as a parent, this is the area where I must be the most patient with poor handwriting and grammatical mistakes. I must remind myself that diligent practice and a love of writing will fix these problems in time.)  If you’d like samples of writing at different grade levels, simply Google the question and you’ll find plenty.

Science, Civilization and other Areas:  Listen to your Eagle’s interactions with adults and pay close attention to the questions he or she asks.  Look for “lessons learned” from the portfolios or the skills displayed at exhibitions.

In the end…

We honor your anxiety and fears – it is not easy to be on a Hero’s Journey. It is hard to let go of the one page report card that gives number and/or letter grades so that you can compare what your student is doing to an arbitrary model. For one, it makes your job as a parent harder. Second, it is different than what “everyone else has always done.”  You’ve probably worried what they are missing by going to a school that does not have grades, grade levels and a standardized approach to learning.

As a mom of two children at Acton, I have to remind myself that learning is hard and messy and happens at different paces within the same age range.  There are plateaus – even pauses – in learning rather than steady progressions, and these times are difficult.  So is resisting the temptation to compare them to other children, to control them, to project my own fears onto their carefree, natural selves.

There are times I feel frustrated that my own son is not progressing in a certain area, or seems to be hyper-focused on one thing. But as I trust the process, watch and observe, I see that he is choosing what to learn when he is most excited about learning it, and that this allows for a much deeper level of learning than 45-minutes-per-subject could ever allow, with its constant interruptions and insistence on uniformity.

Next time you worry like me, please take some time to talk to your child and observe. Dig into those seven resources of hard evidence of transformative learning, take a deep breath and trust your child.  As hard as it is to do so, it beats the certainty of empty letter grades, hours of meaningless homework and the forced regurgitation of facts that all too often are substituted for real intellectual and moral growth. Then you can relax and truly enjoy this amazing journey.

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