Measuring What Matters


When we sit down to talk with Detroit community stakeholders about The Triad Model Curriculum, we are often asked “How are you going to measure this kind of learning?” It’s a potent inquiry in a period of time where students, parents, and community members are all too aware that numbers have power, particularly the data that results from standardized testing.

From SAT scores to state standardized testing, the debate is hot for how to get students to show what they know. Arguments rage as to whether standardized assessments hold any value as we move ever deeper into a knowledge-based economy, or if modification to the existing standardized assessment structure is the fix. While the battles rage, some colleges and universities drop the SAT from their list of admissions requirements and some schools remodel their entire teaching and learning structures with the single-minded goal of improving test scores. Time, employment numbers, innovation, and the economic growth of the country will be the ultimate arbiters of which approach is most effective.

At VentureSchool, we believe in the importance of assessing student growth, analyzing outcomes, and tracking content mastery (synthesis) through a variety of meaningful measures. Formative assessments will allow teachers and students to work together to check in multiple times during a learning objective to figure out whether the students “gets it” and can apply what is being explored. The information gained from these less formal and more frequent assessments will guide the next steps in instruction and help teachers and students consider additional learning opportunities needed to ensure success. Formative assessments will be used as the assessment for learning, while summative assessments will be the assessment of learning at the end of an instructional unit. These more formal, less frequent measures will be a way to ensure that content students have learned meets a variety of required benchmarks and standards.

The use of student portfolios will be one form of summative assessment our faculty will use to gain a more well-rounded understanding of how students are developing not only as scholars, but as people. The portfolio approach allows students to express their mastery of academic content throughout the entirety of their high school experience in a format that maximizes relevancy, leverages the relationships they’ve developed, and reflects the dynamic learning experience they had VentureSchool. Portfolios also give students the opportunity to reflect on the process of learning, rather than just the product of learning. This will allow them to critically evaluate their own work, engage in self-assessment, and set goals for themselves — a set skills that will greatly aid in their personal development as leaders and entrepreneurs. We want students to walk away with a body of work that they can show to investors in their future success that paints a vivid picture of who they are, what they have learned, why it matters to them, and who they want to become.

We are confident that regardless of what kind of assessment we use to measure student learning, our foundation in the Triad Model Curriculum will prepare students to successfully meet the challenges of showing both why and how they have synthesized the knowledge we have worked as a team to uncover. The philosophies of Montessori, Reggio Emilia, and Dewey’s Progressive model come together to give students ample opportunities to be reflective of their own work and learn from previous mistakes to inform their future growth. The Triad Model is further reinforced by VentureSchool’s focus on being student-centered, entrepreneurially-focused, and community-rooted. This ensures that the very root of teaching and learning provides our students with a scaffold to climb and maneuver the intellectual rigors of tests, projects, creating their ventures, and meeting the requirements of colleges and careers.

In order to get students prepared for this kind of new model which they may not have experienced in their previous schools, VentureSchool will offer Ignition — an orientation experience that will establish culture, build community, and allow students to set goals for the upcoming school year. This holistic approach will serve as an opportunity to engage students and the democracy-centered foci of the Triad Curriculum. Parents, caregivers, students, and community stakeholders will be key in shaping the experience of Ignition programming. As we explore the central tenets of VentureSchool, we will ask the families and community members who are partnering with us what they think the culture of the school should be, what they need from their school, and what an ideal learning environment should look like for their students. By working together before the school year begins, it is our goal to establish a true partnership where the school reflects the community it serves, and the community functions as the soul of the school.

Have questions or comments about the triad method? Email Nicole here.