At LEAP* Night (shown in video), TNS’s version of final exams at the end of each semester, students exhibit, reflect on and perform work from their classes. Feedback Teams consisting of adult volunteers spend an hour with each student reviewing their work and discussing their academic strengths and challenges. Then student performances (readings, videos, skits, science experiments, etc.) are held on stage in the Discovery Room. LEAP Nights are one of the ways in which TNS students demonstrate knowledge, acquire public presentation skills and gain self-awareness as learners.
The New School uses the State of Maine Learning Results to set learning goals or standards for each course. In order to receive credit for a course (and, ultimately, to graduate) our students must demonstrate that they have met or exceeded at least eighty percent of the standards. This is a more rigorous requirement than that used by most Maine schools — it is the equivalent of earning an A or B in every course.
The methods used by TNS to assess students’ progress towards learning goals are flexible and take a variety of forms. We do not use standardized tests or assign grades as we believe there are more authentic and affirming ways to evaluate student progress and skills. Teacher observation in the classroom, the quality of students’ work, presentations (see video above) and performances, Gateways, and 200 hour Senior Projects are some of the ways in which student comprehension and mastery are evaluated. Students often work with their teachers to determine the best methods of demonstrating proficiency for a particular area of study.
Transcripts documenting coursework and credits earned, and narratives by teachers describing students progress are sent home twice a year. Parent-teacher conferences take place at the time of mid-semester progress reports or any time that parents, students or teachers see a need for consultation to give students support.
Our alumni’s consistent success with being admitted to their top choice of college exposes the myth that testing and grades are essential for entry to a top tier college. Graduates of TNS have a demonstrated maturity and self-awareness as learners, and a breadth of real world experience, that sets them apart from many other college applicants. More than fifty colleges and universities have admitted our graduates.
*LEAP is an acronym for Learning, Experience and Performance