A Year of Progress: Reflecting on the First Year of Our Strategic Plan

By Roslyn Benjamin, Head of School

As we look back on the first year of The Children’s School’s strategic plan, I’m excited to share the incredible progress we have made. Our journey began with the community planning process during the 2022-23 school year and we  formally announced the plan this past November during the All School concert. 

This strategic plan, alongside our accreditation process, has guided us in strengthening our school across various dimensions.

Strategic Plan and Accreditation: A Combined Effort

Our strategic plan serves as a comprehensive framework for the next 3-5 years, encompassing our school’s identity; student academic and social-emotional learning; diversity, equity, inclusion and justice work; and community partnerships. 

In conjunction with  rolling out our strategic plan this year, we also went through the accreditation process with the Southern Association of Independent Schools (SAIS). Accreditation is a voluntary process tailored for independent schools, which honors each school’s strengths while making sure the school meets strict compliance standards. There are two components to the process: a self-study and a peer review to ensure TCS is compliant with the required standards. I’m excited to report TCS received confirmation in May that SAIS voted to confirm our accreditation through June 2029!  

One of the benefits of the accreditation process is the feedback we receive from administrators at our peer schools. By aligning our strategic plan with the accreditation process, we were able to leverage the accreditation committee’s insights to enrich our strategic plan initiatives.

During our self-study, we focused on four key areas from the strategic plan: curriculum and instruction; the growth of our Middle Grades program; our Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Justice (DEIJ) work; and supporting our neurodiverse students. This approach allowed us to receive valuable commendations and recommendations, which will guide our continued progress and create a more structured path forward.

Key Milestones and Accomplishments

  1. Curriculum and Instruction: Much of our work this year centered on evolving our faculty’s teaching practices to further enhance our literacy and math instruction and improving our communication with parents. We introduced data-informed conferences and revamped our reporting structure to enhance clarity and engagement on your child’s academic and social-emotional progress.
  2. Making Learning Visible: We also wanted to make our students’ learning more visible to our families. As a progressive school without formal grades, our student’s academic achievement is best expressed through their student-led, project-based learning (PBL) demonstrations and videos and returned work.

    Our first “Learning in Action Night” in January was designed to show the progress TCS students make during their time here. Kindergarteners taught us about trees and plants, third graders explored natural disasters, sixth graders presented poetry, and eighth graders showcased their understanding of physics. With over 250 attendees, the night was a resounding success that highlighted the dynamic learning happening at TCS! For the 2024-25 school year, we look forward to providing you with more opportunities to engage with your children, their teachers, and the curriculum.
  3. Hands-on, Engaging Project-Based Learning: We extended learning beyond the classroom walls, fostering deeper community connections. Sixth graders, for instance, examined the impact of segregation in Atlanta through the PBL unit, “Where are the Signs of Segregation in Atlanta?,” visiting historical landmarks and creating informative projects that were shared with the community. The class sharpened their research skills, continued learning about reputable sources, and even interviewed experts to inform their projects. They’ll continue to use these research and writing skills for future PBL units in middle school, high school and college!
  4. Strengthening Academic Excellence: Faculty and staff dedicated time during Late Start Wednesdays and professional development days to enhance their math and PBL teaching skills and refresh Responsive Classroom techniques. This commitment to professional growth has enabled our teachers to create safe, trust-filled environments where your children can thrive academically.
  5. A Commitment to DEIJ: In October, TCS sponsored and marched in the 2023 Atlanta Pride Festival and Parade to show our support for our LGBTQIA+ families and community and hosted the “Vigil for Peace and Humanity” for families to reflect on the devastating events in Israel and Palenstine.This year also marked the inaugural gathering of TCS’s BAACA (Black, African American, Caribbean American group, celebrated through the event “Harmony in Bloom.” This event fostered unity and empowerment within our community. A beautiful plaque, created by a TCS parent, now adorns our campus, symbolizing our dedication to DEIJ values. These events brought different members of our community together, celebrating the notion that diversity makes our community stronger!
  6. Learning Beyond TCS: Our Midtown location provided students with enriching hands-on learning experiences. Eighth graders advocated for legislative bills at the state capitol, sixth graders studied segregation along the Beltline, fifth graders camped at Red Top Mountain, and our youngest learners enjoyed a visit to the Center for Puppetry Arts. These experiences broadened our students’ perspectives and underscored the importance of community engagement.

Challenges and Lessons Learned

One of our biggest challenges this year was balancing current and future priorities. It was difficult to find time for strategizing and executing plans alongside our daily responsibilities. To address this, we used professional development days to enhance faculty learning. Moving forward, we will reinstate a committee structure with working groups focused on specific curriculum and co-curriculum areas. This approach will help us maintain momentum and effectively address ongoing needs.

Looking Ahead

As we move forward, our priorities for next year include:

  • Curriculum Alignment: Emphasizing alignment across subject areas to ensure consistency in skill development, eliminating knowledge gaps and redundancies in the children’s learning experiences year-to-year. We will document and share a comprehensive map of TCS’s curriculum, reinforcing our commitment to social-emotional learning through new and existing strategies, including Responsive Classroom and Building Character and Community (BCC).
  •  Middle Grades: Implementing voice and choice for our middle grades students by allowing them to select specialized elective classes such as team sports in PE, textiles in art, digital storytelling in STEAM, and more.
  • Literacy Trajectory: Updating our literacy curriculum to ensure writing units and reading units compliment one another to deepen comprehension across all literacy content areas.
  • Math Trajectory: Introducing a new, play-based math curriculum, Developing Roots by Mathodology, for Early Learning and kindergarten. This program is rooted in the Singapore Math approach and was created to transition seamlessly into Math in Focus, building a solid math foundation that will benefit students through eighth grade and beyond.
  • Student Assessment: Updating assessment methods and improving communication with families about student academic progress.
  • Progress Reports: Analyzing and refining our progress reports to better reflect student achievements.

The dedication and hard work of our students, faculty, staff and families have been instrumental in this year’s successes. Together, we are continuing to ensure TCS is an inclusive learning environment where challenging academics are embedded within a nurturing community where every child can thrive. 

Thank you for your continued support and partnership as we look forward to another year of growth and learning at The Children’s School.