Educational Standards

Common Core Curriculum Standards

The Willow School has adopted the Common Core Curriculum Standards as a template for the skills and content our students need to know at each grade level. These are incorporated into the school curriculum and assessments each child receives twice annually. These standards have been adopted by 45 states. When Willow students leave us, they will be prepared for and in alignment with other schools around the nation.

What are The Common Core State Standards?

The Common Core Standards offer a framework- a set of skills- designed to prepare children for college and the workplace. These are based on and incorporate the highest, most effective models from the United States and other countries. The Standards provide teachers and parents with guidelines of what students are expected to learn and are consistent across the country.

The Common Core State Standards allow for uniformity by creating a document of skills and expectations for K-12 education across the United States. The Standards were designed to ensure American children are receiving the best, most effective teaching and learning possible.

How was it started?

The Common Core Standards began as an initiative on the state level and was then coordinated by the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices (NGA Center) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO). The standards were subsequently developed with input from educational professionals including: teachers, school administrators, post secondary educators, civil rights groups and disability advocates along with input from the public.

Standards:

  • Are aligned with college and work expectations
  • Are clear, understandable and consistent
  • Include rigorous content and application of knowledge through high-order skills;
  • Build upon strengths and lessons of current state standards;
  • Are informed by other top performing countries, so that all students are prepared to succeed in our global economy and society; and
  • are evidence-based

Learn more about the Common Core Standards: Core Standards Website

Standardized Testing at Willow

Each spring, The Willow School administers the Iowa Test of Basic Skills to all of our students in grades K-8.

The primary reasons for administering the IOWA Test of Basic Skills are:

  1. To create a baseline from which to measure future student performance
  2. To allow students the opportunity to hone their test taking skills on these type of exams
  3. To provide a measurement with which to compare The Willow School curriculum

We do not gear our curriculum or set goals for a particular student according to what is measured by standardized tests, nor do we teach “to the test.”

Such tests are a helpful tool in the evaluation of teachers, curriculum and students. At The Willow School the Iowa Test is not a “high stakes exam.” It provides annual practice for our students and enables them to become accustomed to standardized testing without any of the pressure or anxiety typically associated with these forms of tests.

No decisions are made about a student’s progress based solely on these test results.

Because of our rigorous academic program and the support of our families, Willow students generally do very well on these standardized tests.

21st Century Skills

What they are and why we teach them

There is a growing recognition that in order to educate children for an unknown future in the 21st century, we cannot simply dictate curriculum and “content” such as what math, language, and science skills children need to know or memorize.

We must address and teach children other kinds of skills: thinking, analyzing and communication.

People work in jobs today that simply did not exist five years ago. In order to prepare our students to meet these future demands and needs, it is imperative that they learn how to live and adapt in a global workplace.

One of the driving forces behind adding the 21st century skills to todays’ education are colleges and universities who find that incoming students are not able to communicate articulately, analyze and synthesize data and information. Part of this can be attributed to the emphasis on high stakes testing which rewards rote learning and memorization instead of encouraging creativity, collaboration and critical thinking. Colleges often have to provide remedial courses for students in order to help them learn these skills.

Willow decided our students needed these skills incorporated into the curriculum. As a result, our graduates excel in high school and the competitive colleges in which they have been admitted.

Willow incorporates the list below into the school’s curriculum. It comes from the Partnership for 21st Century Skills, a non-profit organization advocating for the integration of these skills in education.

These skills include:

  • Civic, Health & Environmental Literacy
  • Creativity
  • Critical Thinking
  • Collaboration
  • Communication
  • Global Awareness
  • Information, Media and Technology Skills
  • Initiative & Self Direction
  • Leadership & Responsibility
  • Problem Solving

Learn more at p21.org