Assessment is an essential component of Princeton Charter School's educational plan. Assessment confirms student progress, identifies areas of low and high achievement, and improves the accountability of the school. It begins with the teacher's evaluation of student progress based on written class work, oral contributions, and homework. Such evaluations are important, but may be insufficient to assess long-term subject mastery. Formal assessments, integrated with the curriculum, will indicate overall achievement levels. Assessment results allow teachers to determine which students would benefit from additional help or additional challenge.
The teaching staff establishes a sequence of tests and portfolio assessments designed to measure explicit content and skill requirements for each grade level. Test types include a range of instruments including multiple choice tests, whole sentence answers, problem solutions, and essays that encourage constructive or discursive thinking. In higher grades, final exam questions from previous years are published, so that the students may understand the degree of mastery expected of them. It is PCS policy that teachers give constructive feedback for improvement and return student tests and work.
Where appropriate, portfolio assessment is used: expressive and analytical writing, artwork, performances, science projects, and other student work demonstrate student progress. To facilitate consistent portfolio evaluation, a set of uniform general analysis criteria are used, specialized for each grade. These include logical reasoning, grammar, proficiency in art techniques, problem solving skills, quantitative reasoning, computational skills, and so on. The criteria are made public so that students and parents know what is expected.
Princeton Charter School students will meet the same testing and academic performance standards as established by law and regulation for public school students in New Jersey. This includes demonstrating sufficient proficiency on the statewide assessments given to students in grades four and eight. The school will also choose a set of nationally-normed tests for use in the other grades to allow local, state, and national comparison. Princeton Charter School expects high achievement as assessed through these instruments because its standards are high and its program supports student achievement.
When assessment results indicate a need for remediation, the standard method will be to diagnose the knowledge and skills that each child lacks according to the detailed grade-by-grade standards adopted by the School. Teachers then use appropriate instruction strategies, as discussed in the previous section. By detecting and addressing learning difficulties immediately, the PCS hopes to enable virtually every child to learn at grade level. (Note, there may be children with individual educational plans that require a modified definition of grade-level outcomes.) Sufficient communication and record-keeping provide continuity from year to year.
The needs of students who do not perform at acceptable levels on the statewide proficiency tests, despite the ongoing remediation available in the school, will be addressed in a uniform manner: 1) determine whether the student is doing his/her job in terms of attendance, attention in the classroom, and completion of class work and homework; 2) determine whether the teacher doing his/her job of teaching and consistently requiring a given level of student performance. If the required work is not being done by one or both parties, then appropriate steps are taken to ensure that the work is done. If these steps do not solve the problem, or if the required work is being performed by both parties then an effort is made to 3) identify the factors hindering the student from meeting the necessary proficiency level; 4) isolate those factors which may be ameliorated in the school environment from those which may not; 5) develop, in concert with the teacher and parents, an individual plan to address factors which the school may ameliorate. Problems external to or beyond the control of the school will be discussed with the parents, and documented. The school encourages the supportive efforts of parents and works with them to identify options outside the school that might benefit their child.
Assessments constitute the basis for regular and frequent communication with parents. Teachers provide written report cards at regularly scheduled intervals. Parent conferences may be supplemented by informal parent-teacher meetings.
Student assessments in the aggregate will serve as an indicator of the overall quality of the Princeton Charter School academic program.