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  • Statement of Excellence

 

Excellence at Nashoba Brooks School

Aiming for Personal Excellence instead of "the Prize"

Defining Excellence

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 one’s 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.

Measuring Excellence

In measuring students’ personal excellence, teachers, parents, and trustees mentioned the importance of teacher/parent observations. By observing a student’s 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 student’s 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.

Communicating Excellence

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 school’s 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, and sportsmanship

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 child’s 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 America’s Schools. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 1998.