Standard 1.5. Students demonstrate their learning through performance-based assessments and express their conclusions through elaborated explanations of their thinking.

At FSAPS, our main approach to teaching is through project/problem-based learning. Teachers provide not only a variety of instructional strategies within the classroom, but students are able to demonstrate their understanding of content in a several ways, too.

As part of our comprehensive assessment policy, students demonstrate their understanding of content in a variety of targeted learning areas throughout the school year. These areas include conceptual understanding, application of knowledge, process skills, and responsible for own learning assignments. Our teachers assess our students at least one time under each targeted learning area every four and a half weeks to ensure that we have accurate and fair data on their performance. Performance-based learning is assessed under the application of knowledge and process skills targeted learning areas through short and long term projects and hands-on activities. Application of Knowledge is weighted at 20% and Process Skills is weighted at 20%, as well. Our administration and faculty intentionally designed a grading policy that incorporates the assessment of the students’ ability to use acquired theoretical and foundational knowledge in a meaningful manner. Rubrics are developed for all FSAPS assigned projects and designed for students to clearly understand project expectations and how they will be graded, as well as to promote grading consistency. To facilitate more performance based activities and assessments FSAPS teachers compile, share, collaborate, and inspire each other on performance-based assessments through the SLACK performance assessment channel.

In addition, multiple STEAM Units are also taught each semester. STEAM Units are cross curricula units developed by FSAPS teachers and usually include a hands-on activity and/or project. These STEAM Units may be developed and taught by a single teacher within one classroom incorporating several different subject skills or they may be developed and taught collaboratively by several different subject teachers. Our teachers develop and collaborate on STEAM Units in Atlas Rubicon and share ideas through SLACK on the STEAM channel. Grades for activities in STEAM units may be documented under either application of knowledge or process skills sections of the grade book.

To illustrate how widely performance assessments are used, the following are a sample of those used only in the 4th grade: 

Science Space Rovers: Students did a science unit on space and the solar system. During the unit, they learned about how and why we study space, and what scientists do to learn about it. As an assessment, students built space rovers. They built the rovers using all edible products, and the rovers were able to roll and move independently. 
Social Studies Covered Wagons: In social studies, we learned about westward expansion and how the United States grew from the Atlantic Ocean and territory was claimed all the way to the Pacific Ocean. The travel at this time happened in covered wagons, referred to as prairie schooners. The fourth graders went on a field trip, where they got to view a preserved wagon in a museum and learn about how they were built. Finally, the students constructed their own wagons from classroom materials. After construction, the students tested their wagons for durability and strength, and then they raced them in teams.
Science Carnival Rides: Fourth grade did a science unit on force and motion, as well as a unit on simple machines. At the end of the unit, as an assessment, students built carnival rides from classroom materials. Their rides were required to have working, moving parts, and to integrate simple machines (wheel and axle, incline plane, etc) that allowed them to work. Students then did presentations with their groups, and they had to explain how and where they had used simple machines to construct their projects, as well as how their projects functioned through force and motion.
Math Castles:  In math, students studied area/perimeter and other types of measurement. After the unit, students used their measuring and engineering skills to build castles and abbeys. Their constructions were modeled after an abbey we read about during one of our reading units. Students wrote paragraphs and did presentations explaining how they had employed math and measurement to build their castles.
Social Studies Constitutions: Students learned how to US Constitution was drafted and how it required several drafts to be finalized, because it could only be written in ink on parchment. At the end of the unit about the Constitution, students used the principles they learned to draft their own versions. They used black tea and pulped paper to make aged parchment, and then they scripted their own documents in ink. 
Reading Dodecahedrons: For one of their reading projects, the fourth graders constructed dodecahedrons. They read a book, then filled out several pentagons with information about the book (summary, plot, author information, setting, etc.) and then built the panels into dodecahedrons, which coincided with their math unit in geometry. At the end of the project, students presented the information about their books and how they dissected it into sections of the dodecahedron. 
Reading Costumes: For another reading project, students read a book and then designed costumes resembling the main characters. They wore their costumes to school and presented them, explaining how they had designed the costumes and how they reflected information they had learned about the character from the book. 
Math Mosaics: In math, students learned how fractions represent parts of a whole. At the end of their unit on fractions, the students designed mosaics using small tiles. They made images with the mosaics, and then calculated what fraction of the whole picture they had used for each color. Students then explained their reasoning and math to the class with oral presentations. 

We also utilize subject specific projects that have a competitive component to allow for not only performance-based assessment, but student recognition outside the school, as well. One notable school-wide competitive project is the Science Fair project. In elementary, we focus on completing a Science Fair project in the classroom as a training ground for developing the skills for successful project creation and management. This includes narrowing focus of a topic, formulating a hypothesis, developing a study, research practices, writing a science report, and creating both a presentation, display board, and model. In middle school grades, this becomes a required individual long-term project grade, where students utilize the skills previously acquired and compete in the State Science Fair. In high school, students may still compete in Science Fair, but it is optional. High school students continue to utilize the skills that they previously learned in the Science Fair project, but they will use them in completing science projects for their AP and honors science courses regardless of whether they choose to compete in Science Fair or not.

The engineering design process is integral to our student learning methodology. Our students use this process throughout the day within their classes, clubs, academic teams, and most prominently during STEAM enrichment periods. Student projects and products from performance assessments are regularly presented in classes and displayed in hallways to inspire all students and to recognize individual student achievements.

STEAM Enrichment Period projects are another opportunity for our students to utilize their knowledge and for us to assess their abilities. As part of this enrichment period, students develop a hands-on project as team and are assessed using several rubrics. Additionally, through our STEAM enrichment classes, we work on the development of 21st century skills through the creation of real-world problem based projects. To illustrate, we frequently see the progression of collaboration skills within a STEAM enrichment team. At the beginning of a project, groups may be disorganized and argumentative. Over time, they evolve into an organized team, where each member has a specific role, and they learn how to effectively collaborate and problem solve, which results in an amazing project at the end of four months. Ultimately, as students improve and acquire 21st century skills, we see a positive impact in all their classes.

Finally, our academic teams, individual competitions, after-school clubs, and zero period coding classes allow for informal performance based assessment of our students’ abilities. Over 90% of our students participate in at least one of the aforementioned activities. Although not graded, students utilize all the knowledge and skills that they have acquired in these activities and demonstrate their proficiency, which has led our students to great success in academic competitions and significant student academic growth. We have found that allowing students to explore areas of interest and utilize their knowledge in a collaborative and social manner, that in many cases affords outside recognition, promotes academic gains and motivates students to learn more, and instills a love of learning.

Our instructional methods, assessment system, projects, hands-on activities, opportunities for academic recognition, and academic exploratory opportunities are all part of a highly developed program that is designed to be responsive to student needs, continuous improvement, and prepare our students to utilize the knowledge that they acquire in a meaningful way for life-long success.