The ideal for a Montessori teacher is that she could disappear, and the children would go on with their work. Sometimes, I feel this is what an administrative team does: quietly works on things in the background so that the important work of the classroom can be done, undisturbed. In reality, the admin team and the Board of Trustees have been very actively working in the background this past year, and much of that work will become evident in the coming school year. There are some highlights of their work that you should be aware of.
Over the past two years, the Buildings and Grounds Committee has been working with the Finance Committee to identify capital improvements to the School's campus and grounds. In addition to our internal "wish list," we also undertook a facilities condition assessment. Between those two sources, there is much work to be done over the next five years, and I am happy to announce that the Board of Trustees has approved the use of $1.2M toward capital projects on that plan. For year one, by the time you return to school in the fall, we will have a new playground, parking lot, and phone system. Year two will see all-new windows, a new HVAC system, and an overhaul of our elevator.
On the programming side, there are several things to look forward to next year in addition to the outstanding Montessori experience to which you have become accustomed. In terms of personnel, we are keeping our Primary assistants in the classroom for the full day rather than having them work in ASP in the afternoon. This meets several of our goals, and I am sure you can imagine what they are: consistency for the Full Day Primary children, support for the lead teachers, optimization of the prepared environment, and more. We are also implementing "Spanish Exposure" in our Toddler Program. This involves having the third assistant in both Toddler classrooms speak only Spanish when they interact with the children. We are not ready to call this immersion, but it is a step in the right direction in terms of maximizing children's language learning potential.
To date, we have been using two assessments at the Elementary level, GMADE and GRADE, for standardized testing of math and reading, respectively. We are transitioning to Scantron testing for several reasons. The biggest differentiator for Scantron is that it is a "user-adapted" test. This means that when a student gets a question wrong, the next question is easier, and vice-versa. What this does is provide information about those students who would either not register on testing at all as a result of getting too many answers wrong and students who would ordinarily get so much of the testing correct that the test leaves us no information about what they still have to learn. Also, because Scantron is computer-based, it gives our students preparation for taking computer-based tests. It's also a more flexible and less time-consuming test.
We will be partnering with an organization called The Social Institute next year. This organization works with students, parents, and teachers to help navigate the online world. While many families and schools have taken an approach to social media that might best be described as "abstinence," the Social Institute takes a very positive approach to enabling young people to use social media to reflect their best selves and make decisions that are in their best interests. In addition, the Social Institute provides an app for parents to quickly learn about online games, trends, and apps that Upper Elementary students are using – to inform and teach parents about what is age appropriate and how to manage the privacy settings to protect our children.
During the 2017-2018 school year, our Elementary classrooms piloted a student tracking software that is designed for Montessori record keeping, called Transparent Classroom. In the 2018-2019 school year, we will actively use Transparent Classroom for tracking of student learning and to produce new progress reports for our Elementary students. Also in 2018-19, we will pilot Transparent Classroom in our Toddler and Primary classrooms to assess its viability for implementation in 2019-2020 for those levels.
Aidan's future holds much more than the above. For example, we will be ramping up our strategic planning process. Our JEDI Committee and the whole school will be working on justice, equity, diversity, and inclusivity. And – details to be announced in the near future – we will be condensing down our morning drop off schedule (and maximizing children's time in class).
Aidan's best days are ahead, and these are just some of the experiences we will have together in the coming year.
I wish you all a summer of relaxation, revival, family, fun, and joy.