The Sycamore School takes a different approach to student assessment. We do not give grades for student progress, nor do we administer tests or assign daily homework. Tests and grades have a negative impact on creativity and deeper learning. Both create a high risk environment where students are afraid to think outside the box. Grades divide students into low and high achievers and sends bad messages to both. We believe all children deserve to be challenged appropriately.
We recognize that learning is personal and idiosyncratic. We value students as individuals and recognize that each person learns different skills at different times and different rates. Our goal is that every student learns and grows and is not limited by what they haven’t learned. We want to create opportunities for kids to develop mastery and achieve at the highest levels.
How do we evaluate and report
on student progress?
We provide both formal and informal assessment and feedback to students in a number of ways. First, we provide written narratives three times per year. Narratives are written by educators to provide feedback on student successes, challenges, and student growth. We also conduct parent conferences twice per year.
Equally important, three times a year, we have our formal Learning Exhibitions where students present projects. These exhibitions offer opportunities for students to demonstrate their learning and growth, develop presentation and communication skills, and embrace feedback and reflection in front of authentic audiences.
Check out the Kindergarten exhibition videos above. Our youngest students have explored a variety of topics from ocean adaptations in different levels of the sea to simple machines and cause and effect relationships. This led to the creation of a grand-scale, group Rube Goldberg machine that would deliver ice cream and cookies to the students. It led to the design of an apparatus that would allow people to explore the ocean depths without getting wet. These videos were accompanied by books written collaboratively by the students, reflections that highlight student process, and a variety of other smaller scale projects and explorations.
we created interactive ecosystem games for community participation in order to showcase deep learning
at the national MineFaire convention in DTLA, our students presented and taught others how to play the games they created in MineCraft
creating engaging and informative audience experiences, students answered the question, "How does motion affect our daily lives?"
we taught locals about seeds and got excited about gardening at the Santa Monica Farmer's Market
this annual event at Sycamore highlights student creativity, design thinking, and audience engagement