When we speak of assessment in modern schools, there are a host of ideas and practices that are taken for granted, which are actually the cause of much of the failure of modern education. It’s important to understand that we eliminate these problems in the Classical Liberal Arts Academy. We’re not interested in being another K-12 program because we don’t believe that arrangement serves the ends of classical Catholic education.
No Grade Levels
The K-12 school model was created by and for public schools in the late 1800s, where all of the local childen in an area would be gathered, sorted and molded into a “thrifty working class” by age 18. It was designed by men in the midst of the industrial revolution, where “efficiency” was the rule. Henry Ford invented the assembly line to make cars, and the government adopted the same models and principles for their schools.
In the Classical Liberal Arts Academy, we teach a real curriculum and there are no “grade levels”. Every student begins at step one and works his way through the curriculum by mastering each lesson. Talented and motivated students progress more quickly than others, but all enjoy the same quality of education at their own pace. We don’t sort students into “tracks” and dumb down the curriculum for the kids who aren’t gifted academically. Everyone gets the same education, at his own pace.
No Academic Calendar
Wise men don’t seek wisdom on school days, and then take the rest of the year off. Wisdom is a constant pursuit that a student must seek with all his time, energy and resources. The Classical Liberal Arts Academy is open year-round for non-stop studies. Our courses are all self-paced, meaning that the only thing necessary for a student to advance to the highest reaches of our curriculum is his own will.
In modern schools, students speak of artificial grades and scores that have no meaning–as if they did. The obsession with statistics and data in modern society leads to education systems that exist for the sake of generating numbers rather than actually leading students to wisdom. I graduated from college with a 3.8 GPA and it’s irrelevant because no one has any idea what I studied or how I was graded.
Teaching to the Test
In modern schools, many complain that teachers “teach to the test”, but that is not the problem. The problem is that the modern K-12 curriculum is not sufficient for development of the intellect, and the tests don’t assess mastery of necessary lessons, but mere trivia or artificial school tasks that have no use in real life. In that context, “teaching to the test” is bad, but only because the whole curriculum is bad.
In the Classical Liberal Arts Academy, we teach a real curriculum that leads to real intellectual growth. Our tests assess student mastery of the real content of real courses that lead students to wisdom. We “teach to the test” because our tests assess real learning! Every course we offer is a part of a real curriculum and every lesson is a part of every course. On every exam we demand mastery, meaning 100% is the only grade accepted in the CLAA A student either earns a 100% on an exam, or he continues studying until he does. Exams are very difficult, but they can be repeated as many times as is needed before a perfect score is reached. By the time a student masters one of our exams–he really has it mastered.
Below is a link to one of our exams. Feel free to take and submit the exam so that you can see how thoroughly our exams assess student learning:
Progress is Everything
What matters in the Classical Liberal Arts Aacademy is not what number a student scores on a test, or what his average is over several courses–all of which is meaningless outside of the artificial “school” bubble. What matters is how far a student has progressed in the classical Catholic curriculum–and that is all we track. A student who earns 95% on his exams, but hasn’t even started Classical Reasoning yet is not a well-educated student, no matter what his numbers are.
The goal in the Classical Liberal Arts Academy is to lead students to become wise and good men, and that requires mastery of the classical liberal arts curriculum–not artificial statistics.
If you have any questions about assessment in the Classical Liberal Arts Academy, please contact me.
William C. Michael, Headmaster
Classical Liberal Arts Academy