One of the most important components of the Mizzentop Day School Mission Statement is the goal to instill “a love of life-long learning in each student.” The overriding purpose of homework in appropriate grades at our school supports this by emphasizing that the act of learning is one that takes place outside of the classroom as well as inside it. Although this is interpreted differently at different grade levels, the main purpose is consistent throughout the school. We also feel it is important that students balance their time between school work and family time, along with time for possibly non-school activities as well. To this end, though, fostering the love of learning is most effective when what is learned during non-school time is part of the student’s positive experience.
Work done at home in the lower school can take on many forms, varying greatly depending on grade level. This could be as simple as students sharing with parents what was learned in class each day so that parents can joyfully reinforce what was learned. It could come in the form of family activities that support class activities that parents are aware of through teacher websites. These and other parent-initiated activities can help build within the child the connection between what is learned at school and what is learned outside of school.
As that pattern is established, teacher-initiated homework can then strengthen that tie in a more directed way. Student work that reinforces concepts learned at school, or that provides practice to improve reading or writing skills, or that supports math skills that are being taught all can help better assure the most productive following day in the classroom. At this point parent oversight, involvement and encouragement of the learning process at home can clearly help foster the child’s love for learning.
In the middle school years, as students transition into more independent learners, the extension of school work to the home environment is increasingly important. For one, it provides opportunities to again reinforce what was learned at school. Beyond that, though, it provides students the opportunity to beginning the important process of planning for the future through long-range assignments, develop higher-level thinking skills in a distraction-free environment, and contemplate how various subjects integrate – learning levels that might be difficult to effectively accomplish during the tightly-scheduled school day.
Quizzes and tests are administered throughout the year in all core subjects and some special areas. Final exams are given to children in Grades 5-8. Students in Grade 5 take three final exams (English, foreign language and mathematics). All other middle school students will take up to five final exams at the end of the academic year.
Mizzentop Day School recognizes that some form of standardized testing is common in many schools, public and private. MDS believes that there are many varying reasons that schools administer standardized tests. It is our school’s firm belief that any form of standardized testing must be done in a manner that is consistent with the mission and philosophy of our school.
With individualized instruction as one of our basic tenets, it is our position that the true value of standardized testing is its ability to assist teachers in directing specific instruction to areas of need for both individual students and for entire classes. To this end, the tests that are administered must be those that can provide specific, detailed information to teachers regarding the progress of each student, as well as how their students compare in specific areas to others of similar grades and in similar educational settings.
Because the founding philosophy of Mizzentop Day School diminishes any form of academic competition among students, it is our position that standardized test results should not be used in a competitive manner – students compared to other students; classes compared to other classes; schools compared to other schools; or teachers compared to other teachers.
With this in mind, Mizzentop Day School has chosen to discontinue the use of the CTP 4 test because its test results do not provide teachers or parents with a satisfactory amount of detailed data that is useful to enhance classroom instruction. MDS will replace it with the TerraNova testing program for use in Grades 3, 4, 5 and 6. Based on the committee members’ prior experience and/or research into standardized testing programs, this program offers teachers detailed feedback on specific skills and will allow faculty to adjust instruction as needed. We will not test in the areas of science and social studies, only in reading, language and math. We believe that the feedback our teachers seek is optimum during these four academic years and from the specific report we have selected.
MDS will continue to use SSAT testing for students in Grades 7 and 8 (funded by individual families). The SSAT is not - and should not be used as – an aptitude test. It is important, however, for our students to have practice with this test. The administration of the SSAT continues to be an important step in the process for our students to gain admission into some independent secondary schools, which is consistent with part of MDS’s 2015 Vision Statement which states that we will “provide a program that will assure its students graduate prepared to be successful at an appropriate independent secondary school.”