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|TEACHING THE WAY STUDENTS LEARN|
At the heart of Ross School's educational philosophy is the firm belief that all students can become successful learners and that there are no predetermined limits to what students can accomplish at any age. Ross School teaching methods are informed by the “theory of multiple intelligences” developed by Howard Gardner. Students come to Ross School with varying intelligences, abilities, passions and skills. Curricular units are carefully designed to engage students with a variety of learning styles. A broad range of materials, activities, approaches, and interconnected learning opportunities encourages each student to discover and develop his or her own strengths. Students are also taught to recognize those areas where they may need to review in order to master required skills and content. Ross School constantly monitors, analyzes, and refines all aspects of teaching and learning. The result is a “living” curriculum that evolves to accommodate teaching methods and topics for all grades.
SPIRALING THE LEARNING ACROSS DISCIPLINES
Cultural history is at the core of the Ross School curriculum, interwoven with all the other disciplines—math, science, language arts, visual arts, performing arts, media studies, technology, and physical education/wellness—in a rich tapestry.
In kindergarten through second grade, Ross students explore the world around them as well as “prehistory,” investigating patterns, cycles and systems and discovering their place in the world while being introduced to the domain-specific skills that will aid their learning as they progress through the grades. In addition to daily instruction in balanced literacy and mathematics, students experience visual arts, music, science, technology, library, foreign language, and wellness classes.
From third grade through twelfth grade, Ross teaches cultural history chronologically and uses it as a lens through which to examine all other domains. The curriculum becomes an ascending spiral of historical events plotted chronologically, from prehistory to the future, with the student educationally situated in the center of this expanding form. Such a pivoting vantage point allows multiple simultaneous and comparative views of the past and present. It also encourages students to consider local and national events—both past and present—in the context of world history.
While each domain offers its own rigorous curriculum, integration with other domains, beginning in the Lower School, creates a dynamic choreography of learning. By experiencing, for example, the interrelationships among mathematics, art, and cultural history, students broaden their perspective and learn how to address situations using ideas from multiple disciplines. Students find the curriculum as a whole to be highly engaging and relevant as it provides them with the necessary knowledge and skills for the future.
CROSS CURRICULUM PROJECTS AND TEACHING
Much of the classwork at Ross involves projects designed to incorporate learning from multiple disciplines. Beginning in the youngest grades, students work both independently and in teams, present their findings to their peers, work with mentors, and share their work with partner schools online. Individual and group projects and hands-on learning immerse students in their studies. Teachers at Ross work on grade-level teams. They plan, teach, and assess student work together to foster the development and meaningful application of discipline-specific skills and to ensure that students meet or exceed national education standards.
Student assessment at Ross School allows teachers to monitor and report students’ acquisition of knowledge, their progress with discipline-specific skills and habits of mind, and their ability to apply their learning in a variety of situations. We focus on all aspects of student work—process, product, and performance. Students are not compared with one another or ranked. Instead, student work is assessed based on goals that reflect Ross curricular objectives and state and national standards. Goals are made explicit to students in all grades so that everyone understands what is expected and how work is assessed. Assessments are both formal and informal, and vary widely depending on students' age group. In all grades, assessment is frequent and formative, guiding teachers as they plan their instruction. Communication with students and parents is an essential component of the Ross assessment system. In addition to regular in-class conversations between teachers and students, progress reports and learning evaluations are mailed home each trimester, and parent-teacher conferences take place two or three times each year, depending on the grade level. Schoolwide, nationally normed standardized tests are administered every spring beginning in the third grade, and those results are also shared with families.