A Straight A Student: Achievement

Emerald Connection, January 9, 2023

Happy New Year and welcome back to school!  It feels really good to have all the students, families, and faculty around again.

Last week marked the beginning of our second semester.  This means that we have completed our first grading period and that report cards are coming this week.  With that in mind, I’d like to share a model with you called “The Straight A Student.”  In this model, straight A’s do not mean earning an A in every class; we don’t even give letter grades in the lower school.  Rather, straight A students are students that are most likely to succeed because they have found four key connections at school, all of which start with A: achievement, altruism, attachment, and autonomy.  Over the next few weeks, I’ll touch on each of these in turn, starting with achievement.

For students to be successful in school, they need to both experience and feel successes.  They need to achieve higher levels of learning than they had attained before and they need to realize it.  Report cards are one part of how this is communicated.  Semester one report cards contain three indicators of achievement.  First, students and families will learn how students are doing relative to our common academic targets in each disciplinary area.  These targets largely come from curricular experts in the disciplinary areas and are carried through from year to year.  Second, students will receive feedback on their approach to learning in each class.  They will get feedback on behaviors that contribute to their own academic success and the success of their peers.  And third, every teacher will write brief comments about their students’ learning.  These narratives are a chance for you to gain insights into aspects of your children that stand out to their teachers.  In middle school, teachers will additionally assign a letter grade that captures their overall academic performance.

We will be administering MAPS tests again in reading and math later this month.  These are not direct assessments of our classroom practices or your children’s learning, but rather, indicate whether our practices transfer to a reliable and valid measure of reading and math achievement.  In addition to being an external check, the MAPS tests allow for longitudinal consideration of growth and growth rates so that we are tracking not only how students are doing, but how they are continuing to grow.

I encourage you to look over our school mission and core principles.  In consideration of achievement, two phrases stand out to me.  First, we expect that, as a result of our shared efforts, our students are “vigorous in learning.”  We expect them to bring energy into their own learning journey and we will help them to achieve this.  Similarly, we believe in “providing our students with challenge and offering them support.”  Straight A students don’t need to earn straight A grades.  They need to grow, be challenged, be supported, and be aware of their own learning and how to continue it.  This is what we hope to achieve with your children.

Take care of yourself and others,

Greg Friedman
K-8 Director