Excellence at Nashoba Brooks School
Aiming for Personal Excellence instead of "the
Through the fall and winter of 1999-2000, teachers, parents
and trustees met in various forums to discuss excellence and what it
means at Nashoba Brooks School. There is sufficient unanimity to say
that excellence is defined as the commitment to doing ones personal
best, while striving to go beyond it, achieving fuller mastery, and
making meaningful contributions to the community. Personal excellence,
defined in the philosophy statement of the school and as it was described
by many participants during the discussions, is not limited to academics,
athletics, and the arts. Personal excellence also relates to character,
citizenship, and integrity. For example, community service is one of
the ways we demonstrate excellence. Class initiatives, as well as small
group and individual student community initiatives, communicate the
important role character plays both within the school and in the wider
community we serve.
In measuring students personal excellence, teachers, parents,
and trustees mentioned the importance of teacher/parent observations.
By observing a students excitement about school and his or her
love of learning and self-motivation, excellence is assessed. Teachers
and parents can use a variety of tools and guides to know more about
a students personal excellence: teacher assessments (such as teacher-developed
tests, rubrics, and portfolios), standardized tests, students
self-evaluations, and national standards. Teachers assist students in
setting goals and offer positive reinforcement.
Ongoing assessment of the program and faculty is necessary to maintain
excellence. Again, this is measured by parent/teacher observations,
by the success of Nashoba Brooks School graduates at their next schools,
and by conversation and reputation outside the school community.
Nashoba Brooks School must communicate excellence both within our school
community and throughout the greater community. Conferences, reports,
Friday letters, displays of student work, performances, portfolios,
and student publications are ways the school communicates students
excellence. Teachers best communicate to students about excellence often,
directly, on the spot. Teachers also provide students and parents
with rubrics, assessment models, curriculum guides, test scores, and
comprehensive trimester progress reports.
Competition, Cooperation, and Individual Recognition
In light of the discussions on personal excellence, the schools
policies about competition, cooperation, and individual recognition
become clearer. In the classroom, as well as on the athletic field,
Nashoba Brooks students learn to compete and to collaborate. Current
research indicates that Cooperative learning activities tap the
social power of learning better than competitive and individualistic
approaches. . . . Collaborative small-group activity has been shown
to be an especially effective mode for school learning and solid achievement.
(Zelman, 1998)* Teachers work with the power of collaborative learning
while using competitive strategies that are age-appropriate and educationally
sound. In order to maximize the benefits that come from collaborative
and competitive activities, teachers must coach their students. They
provide meaningful, stimulating activities for them to practice these
valuable life skills, and these experiences support Nashoba Brooks
commitment to integrity, respect, caring, sharing, responsibility, fairness,
Individual recognition occurs naturally, informally, and in context.
Children are given frequent opportunities to perform, demonstrate mastery,
and share successes in many public performances in class and before
the entire student body. Many of these performances are open to the
whole community. In recognizing individual performance, the school promotes
its stated mission to nurture the talents and character of each child;
to foster each childs personal excellence in academics, athletics,
and the arts. At Nashoba Brooks, personal excellence, not the prize,
is the ultimate goal.
*Zelman, Steven, et. al. Best Practice: New Standards for Teaching
and Learning in Americas Schools. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 1998.