If we are providing an environment that helps each child develop his intellectual potential, then our curriculum and programming must evidence excellence for children of all abilities. We cannot help children grow to their fullest potential unless we offer them learning opportunities that are commensurate with, and stretch, their abilities. This applies to the average student and to the high ability or gifted student.
First, we study where our graduates attend high school and how they perform in high school. For 35 years, the report we received from teachers and administrators in these schools is that our graduates – whether they are intellectually brilliant or average – are consistently among the best ninth grade enrollees in Cleveland’s highest performing high schools. They not only achieve in the classrooms – almost 20 percent of our graduates have earned National Merit recognition – but they are also known as some of the best students – industrious, self-determined, and accountable. Whether our graduates are considered high ability or average, they have distinguished themselves among others as excellent students.
Second, we believe that if we claim excellence then we must compare our students’ achievement with that of students across the country. Since 1985, we have given our students opportunities to participate in some of the most challenging academic competitions at the local, state, and national level. Our students are consistently among the top-performing students in history, writing, poetry, mathematics, science, and problem-solving contests.
This external comparison continues with national standardized tests. Birchwood students consistently score in the 95th percentile on the Iowa Test of Basic Skills and based on these scores, 60 percent of our students qualify to take the PSAT™8/9 test (grades 3-6) or the SAT® and ACT® (grades 6-8) which are offered through Northwestern University. Here also our students have distinguished themselves. Just last year, six of the top 24 students in the Midwestern United States, was a Birchwood student.
Measuring excellence does not begin and end with high ability students. Every child is capable of excellence in every subject area, and that excellence is a measurement of their individual progress and growth. In this measurement of academic excellence, we often compare a child’s previous performance to his or her current performance. We use the Success Cycle as a means to urge each child to their highest potential. This is our most important measurement of all because it is our mission to make sure each child is realizing their potential whatever it might be and is learning the habits of industry to bring their potential to its highest level attainable.