We have high expectations for each student. We view learning as a process of growth and change that is accentuated by the creation of quality products. The criteria we use to assess the student’s work is individualized based on who they are and where they are in their educational journey, but at the same time, the standards are always real and rigorous, as gauged by the student’s Learning Plan panel.
Students in LiHigh School’s social-entrepreneurial program do not take tests and they are not given grades. Instead, they are assessed based on exhibitions of their work, a three-phase model of student ownership that tracks their maturity when it comes to self-directed learning, and lengthy narrative evaluations that are written by their advisor at the end of each term. In addition, they feel the real world assessment of their entrepreneurial work based on how successful their ventures become.
Exhibitions are demonstrations by students of their work and learning. They are some of the most important events at LiHigh School. This is when the students show off their best work and are held accountable to their learning plans. Each student presents in front of a panel that includes the advisor, parent(s)/guardian(s), peers, and mentor (if possible). The student’s phase level is used as the basis for assessing the work.
Instead of receiving report cards with letter- or number-based grades, students receive lengthy narrative evaluations written specifically for them by their advisor. The narrative reads like a letter and reflects in depth about the student’s work, their performance during their exhibitions, their behavior, and their experiences. Before writing the evaluation, the advisor seeks out critical feedback from the student’s mentor, as well as from other LiHigh School staff members who’ve interacted with the student on a regular basis throughout the term. The student also writes a short reflection of their work that term, allowing the advisor to understand how the students see themselves.
The form of the evaluation changes based on the student’s phase and the type of work they’ve done throughout the term, but in general, the advisor reflects on the overall strengths and challenges of the student. This provides an authentic assessment based entirely on who the student is and what they’ve managed to accomplish throughout the term.
Phase Level Expectations
We don’t have grade levels at LiHigh School. There are no eighth graders or tenth graders or anything like that because we don’t think a student’s ability should be dictated by their age or by their peers. Instead, we have three different phase levels, each of which are designed to meet the student where they are at and then propel their learning at their own pace.
Phase I: Guided Learning: In the first phase of the student’s work with LiHigh School, the advisor takes the lead in determining how the student’s passions will connect with the work they do in the school. The student participates in the formulation of their learning plan, but the advisor drives the process. To complete Phase I, the student must satisfy all of the expectations and defend a portfolio of work that demonstrates they have done so.
Phase II: Negotiated Learning: The advisor and student negotiate how the student’s passions connect to the learning plan, and the student works to deepen the academic connections in their projects. The student is expected to complete an initial draft of their learning plan and work closely with a mentor to develop an internship in the real world. The advisor’s role during Phase II is to ensure that the student’s plan is rigorous and demonstrates growth from Phase I.
To complete Phase II, the student must be able to demonstrate growth in each of the skills when compared to the work in Phase I by satisfying their specific Phase II expectations. They must also develop a solid understanding of what it means to be a Phase III student at LiHigh School.
Phase III: Independent Learning: In the final phase, the student takes the lead in creating their learning plan. The student’s advisor and mentor vet the plan, but it is primarily designed and crafted by the student. The Phase III plan must incorporate a professional internship, academic work, social-emotional dimensions, and a high quality senior capstone project. Students who succeed under Phase III prove their ability to be rigorous and community-conscious independent learners, and as such, they earn their LiHigh School diploma.