Mathematics at our school is taught by giving students opportunities to solve engaging problems and by building on the natural ways children make sense of numbers. Rather than primarily giving students worksheets of problems and prescribing formulas to find answers, teachers convey the fundamental concepts that allow students not only to make calculations and memorize math facts, but also to solve problems that are meaningful to them.
By explaining how they solve problems, children learn that math is a process of thinking and a tool to use in life. Students’ thinking moves developmentally from the concrete to the abstract. In this way, students become adept at higher levels of critical thinking, such as synthesizing, analyzing, and applying.
Research has shown that when children construct new ways of thinking about problems, understanding is deeper and can be applied to new situations. While all students at Evergreen learn to use math for problem solving and abstract thinking, we also work to differentiate our math curriculum for students of different abilities and learning styles. For this reason, students sometimes work in flexible ability groups for math instruction.
Specific components of mathematics include:
Commitment of math facts to memory, so that recall of addition, subtraction, and multiplication becomes “automatic”
Measurement, time, money, and other areas of “practical” math
Calculations, geometry, and algebra
Word problems and hands-on problem solving with manipulatives or real-world situations
Differentiated assignments, homework, and/or instruction
Heterogeneous grouping or ability grouping, as appropriate
Social Studies is explored through interdisciplinary units in which our students gain a better understanding of the diverse world. Students develop the awareness that they are a small, but important, part of a broader civilization and culture. Students gain an enriched knowledge about the world through reading, film, and direct experiences such as:
Creation of communities, cities, or villages within the classroom
Exploration of the broader community, especially Asheville and the French Broad River region
Internships, shadowing community leaders, or mentoring
Individual and cooperative research projects
Community and international service projects
Our Language Arts curriculum makes literacy relevant to children’s lives. By fostering a love of reading and communicating, we extend the child’s natural inclination to communicate ideas, fantasies, emotions, thoughts, questions, and experiences with others. Our curriculum is based upon the premise that communication involves complex processes and skills, all of them basic not only to communication but to living as a fully-functioning, creative human being. It is rooted in the language-experience approach and Piaget’s assertion that a child’s interests and experiences are used as a springboard into further investigation via reading and writing.
Specific components of our curriculum include:
Reading for fluency
Vocabulary development and word exploration
Reading comprehension strategies
Individual reading conferences
Small group guided reading
Homework reading nightly
Writing: journal writing, report writing, dictation, writing as a process which involves brainstorming, outlining, creating rough drafts, critiquing, revising, creating a final draft and publishing
Writing with a focus on the six traits: ideas, organization, word choice, voice, sentence fluency, and conventions
Read aloud daily where developmentally appropriate
Silent, sustained reading
Shared reading and drama
Speaking and viewing experiences: class meetings, project presentations, storytelling
Science is the process of discovering and understanding the physical world and its dynamics. We provide opportunities for students to explore and experiment actively, and to supplement hands-on activities with projects involving research. Teachers guide students in scientific inquiry and in constructing logical conclusions. The primary grades emphasize the wonder of the world around us. In the upper elementary grades, students learn the formal scientific method and a format for performing and writing scientific experiments. In middle school, students use formal scientific inquiry regularly and determine findings through research.
Scientific inquiry includes:
Observing, classifying, questioning
Predicting and forming hypotheses
Experimenting, identifying, and controlling variables
Gathering information from many sources, including the internet, books, magazines, encyclopedias, film, field trips, and guest speakers
Collecting and analyzing data
Drawing conclusions and communicating them effectively
Learning from “mistakes” and revising experiments or conclusions
ASSESSMENT AND TESTING
Assessment at our school is a tool for growth. We begin by assessing what the child can do, observing how the child learns, and gathering information about learning obstacles the child might encounter. We then differentiate lessons accordingly. Throughout the school year, teachers assess students’ skills and knowledge regularly, provide written feedback to students and parents, and provide instruction that enables the student to build on strengths and address weaknesses.
Evergreen has a balanced system of assessment consisting of three components: performance-based assessments reflecting all disciplines; portfolios; and standardized state tests in communication and mathematics for grades three through eight, for writing in grades four and seven, for science in grades five and eight, and for computer skills and algebra in grade eight. This system generates needed diagnostic and achievement information for the individual student and for our school.
Performance-based assessments are defined as rubrics that indicate the level of performance on assigned tasks and on-going teacher observation/evaluation of skills needed for the student’s particular grade level. We do not issue traditional grades; instead, teachers provide ongoing dialogue and written feedback about students’ work, as well as narrative and rubric reports each trimester that detail students’ progress and abilities in all subject areas.
Teachers and parents also confer on student progress twice per year, once in the fall and once in the spring. Student-led conferences allow students to report on their progress to parents.
Portfolios are defined as writing, math, social studies, and science samples from each of the three assessment periods that provide evidence of academic growth, as well as the student’s strengths and weaknesses. The portfolios are used to support student placement decisions, identify areas needing further study, and provide parents with a resume of student performance. The school does not rely on "one-shot-tests” and seat time to determine student progress. Instead, students demonstrate their proficiencies in a variety of ways.
Standardized state tests include all required North Carolina state tests for third to fifth graders. Students in grade 3, 5, and 8 demonstrate proficiency by having test scores at Level III or above on end-of-grade tests in both reading and mathematics. We are required as part of our charter with the State of North Carolina to administer all state-mandated tests. These tests are part of our balanced assessment. The End-of-Grade/End-of-Course tests are always administered during the last three weeks of school.