At Green Hedges, we are now in the midst of a little more than a week of test mornings for our students in Grades 2-7. In this testing period, those students will complete one subject-area test each morning using their iPads. No more broken pencil leads or less than completely-filled bubbles! The student reads the question (or listens to it, in the case of our younger students), and indicates their chosen answer using the touch screen. If needed, scratch paper can be used to make calculations or note key terms in a reading passage before a final answer is indicated, but only answers entered on the iPad are considered.
Green Hedges utilizes tests created by the Educational Research Bureau (ERB). The ERB tests are a highly-acclaimed achievement test which compiles and reports the data back to participants. The student scores are presented as compared to three large sets of students of the same age group: students nationally (the largest comparative group), students in suburban public schools, and students in independent schools (the smallest comparative group). The ERB test is one of only two offering comparisons on the independent student norms, and thus are a more accurate measure of the abilities of our very capable group of learners.
Green Hedges employs standardized achievement tests for two basic reasons:
First, it allows us to gain information to serve a child better. Public schools view standardized SOL testing as the final measure of student success each year. However, at GHS, these tests although important, are only one of several pieces of information about each student used to help teachers enhance the learning experience. “The tests focus on language-related tasks and mathematical abilities and skills. …This information provides teachers a better understanding of the learning profiles of our individual students,” says Assistant Head of School Deb Haag. Taking the tests mid-year allows teachers and parents to engage on areas of strength as well as those where more support is needed in the current school year.
The second purpose of the testing is to provide insight into how well our curriculum is being absorbed by our students. Following the test, Mrs. Haag and others spend many hours carefully analyzing the results of that year’s testing by class, by curriculum area, and also as compared against results from previous years. These results are reviewed with department heads and faculty members, with adjustments made as necessary to ensure our program is both comprehensive and rigorous in its delivery.
Although we do not “teach to the test”, we recognize that standardized testing will be encountered by our students regularly throughout the academic years, and therefore we do focus on teaching test-taking strategies and skills. Some homework questions are written to emulate standardized test formats to increase familiarity and grow confidence. Strategies are offered which range from reminding our younger students to be sure to read the question carefully to more complex strategies for older students on how to eliminate obviously false answers first so they are choosing between fewer possible responses. These and more are part of our holistic approach intended to carry them forward beyond the ERB testing period and into the SSAT, ACT, and SAT environments.
Most parents employ some preparation and tactics in late August to get their children rested and ready for back to school. The same mindset may be helpful after two weeks of winter break fun (and something to keep in mind when returning from spring break in March). Here are some tips for you as you get your youngsters ready to go “back to school” whatever the time of year.
Expect that your child may be a bit over-tired from resuming the school schedule and following classroom procedures. Just as occurs in September, being asked to concentrate and focus for an entire school day is a very big change from self-directed activities, and can really sap energy those first few days back. To help offset that lethargy, the sooner you can re-establish after-school routines, the better. A small snack before tackling homework may be especially important in these first few days to provide your child with a boost of energy before tackling homework.
Similarly, while normal bedtimes may have flexed a bit over the holidays to allow for special time with friends and relatives, a return to the normal nighttime routine will help your child be ready for learning every morning.
Reclaim the homework space your child uses in your house. Tidy up and remove any clutter that may have accumulated, and make sure all the normal “tools” are at their disposal to cut down on delays once they begin: extra sheets of paper, several pencils, a sharpener, erasers, etc. Don’t forget to also remove any possible distractions like new toys or the last holiday decorations in that area.
It may take several days for everyone to get back to their normal school routines, but these hints should help you provide the support your child needs to get back in the groove without delay.
One of the first things we teach our children is to say “thank you” when given something. But how do you teach them to be grateful for all the advantages that they have? This requires an awareness of their blessings and the fact that others in our community and our world are not always as fortunate. Through our social outreach activities, students learn they can put their gratitude into action whatever their age. This part of our curriculum is planned and organized through our Community Service Committee of faculty and staff. The goal is for each grade to participate in at least one service learning opportunity within their school year.
Social outreach comes in many different ways here at Green Hedges. Our youngest students in Montessori participate in Pennies for Peace with the proceeds used to purchase pencils in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Tajikistan. Grade 2 organizes a Thanksgiving food drive, collecting food items for two weeks which are delivered right before Thanksgiving to Food for Others, a local charity. Grade 3 takes the lead in the School’s recycling program, with students collecting recycling bins from all the classrooms every week. This year-long responsibility shows them the importance of protecting the environment and how all of us can contribute in our own way to a greener planet.
The bikes, toys, puzzles, books and games were overflowing near our main entrance last week. The Giving Tree is organized by Grade 5 each year to purchase holiday gifts for children whose parents are in need of assistance through the local organization, Committee for Helping Others. The overwhelming response to this year’s Giving Tree provided our children with a concrete way to help another child like themselves have a gift at the holiday and speaks to the value of social outreach that the Green Hedges community has put into practice from the school’s early days.
“Looking outside of our own community is important, and you don’t have to look far to find someone in need. The Giving Tree is particularly great for our fifth graders because they are at a point in their lives to start thinking about things besides themselves,” says Grade 5 teacher Stacey Vagoun.
All the way through Middle School, when our students participate in several volunteer activities throughout the year, the purpose of giving back is to instill in our students one of our core values: Commit to Character. We believe that strong moral conduct is fundamental to our community and building self-awareness at an early age about what you have and how you may be able to help others is so vital to being a global citizen in today’s world.
Volunteering doesn’t just have to be done through your school, though. This holiday season, or really anytime during the year, you can commit a little bit of your family’s time to giving back. KidFriendly DC has a great list of organizations where kids can volunteer alongside adults. And remember, even if you are not able to volunteer, doing an activity with your child like sorting through clothes or toys that they no longer use and giving them to charity can show your child how others who are less fortunate may benefit from a good deed.
Do you ever wonder why Green Hedges stops at Grade 8? Why not just add another building and stretch out to high school? There are good reasons to have middle schoolers at the top of our student pyramid.
Middle schoolers experience rapid growth and development in mind and body. For sure, they can be moody, sensitive and overly concerned with their appearance. They also, simultaneously, seek approval from adults yet push them away in order to mature. Twelve-, thirteen-, and fourteen-year-olds seek increasing levels of input and affirmation from their peers – sorry, Mom and Dad, your influence is not totally gone, but it is waning. During this time of rapid change, most middle schoolers are not yet secure enough in their self-image to mix appropriately with older teenagers socially, nor are those older children truly their peers. At Green Hedges, middle school students navigate the occasional awkward moments with less anxiety and at their own pace.
Furthermore, positive leadership is intentionally fostered among GHS middle schoolers, instilling a sense of empathy and responsibility at this formative age. This is why our older students are responsible for assisting younger students into school each morning, lead our Openings and Closings, and work together on community service projects that benefit others.
For parents and students, the middle school years can be daunting, but being in the right place can cut down on many worries. Green Hedges, with its decades of experience in this age group and what we believe to be the right model, helps make it a smooth transition for both parent and child.
“It is part of our philosophy to recognize different nationalities and races. We have always focused on providing quality education for a culturally diverse group of students.” Co-founder of Green Hedges, Frances Kilmer expressed this sentiment in 1971 as Green Hedges School(GHS) celebrated its first International Day. This week, 45 years later, as we celebrate International Week here at the School, we reflect on Mrs. Kilmer’s words and continue to hold them true for our current generation of students.
International Week celebrates our ethnic and cultural diversity, and as you saw at the Parade of Nations on Monday, students proudly represented a myriad of countries. Whether this was a country that their parents or grandparents immigrated from or simply a country they’ve only seen on a map, the Parade of Nations instills in our students the value of inclusion and being part of a larger global community.
It is not just International Week that celebrates our student body’s diversity. Students learn about holidays like Yom Kippur and Diwali during Openings and Closings and with faculty like Mrs. Chenulu, who visits our youngest students to read them a story about Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights. She also incorporates diversity into her teaching. “In the math classroom, we use examples, data, and information from various cultures – Western and non-Western – to illustrate key mathematical concepts and enrich the students’ knowledge base. Such a multicultural approach encourages students from all communities to make connections to their own lives,” she says.
With schools being more diverse than they’ve ever been, it is essential that we raise global citizens who learn at a young age to value the diversity around them. Diversity brings richness to our communities—in the classroom, in the community and in the world — and fosters mutual respect, knowledge and awareness. At GHS, this is part of our DNA, part of the reason we were founded, and all students are taught from the beginning “the intrinsic worth of each individual and the value of the varied cultural heritages that make up America.”(Frances Kilmer)
Election Day is finally here. However, it goes without saying that the language, posture, tone and interactions of this year’s presidential candidates contradict how we teach, or for that matter, even allow students to interact at Green Hedges School.
Ordinarily, election years give schools the opportunities to teach students about the democratic process and to apply election issues and critical thinking and dialog to our curriculum on this topic. Despite the negativity associated with this year’s presidential candidates, and through the course of this year’s election, the GHS faculty have again embraced opportunities (in age appropriate ways) to reinforce what we seek in our students: to be kind, to listen well, to respect the diversity of opinion, to check facts, to test assumptions, to be creative problem solvers and to participate – – as they did today in Green Hedges’ mock election. In short, we fall back on Green Hedges’ core values as well as our country’s democratic process and balance of power among multiple parties, states and branches of the federal government.
Conversations about this election, be they at home or at school, may be difficult to navigate. To that end, we have assembled the resources noted below that may be useful as you help your child make sense of the election. We join you in partnership to support the respectful behavior that is synonymous with members of the GHS Community.