K-8, Co-educational Independent School

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Thought Leadership

Head of Middle School, Ryan Woods, presented at the Virginia Association of Independent Schools Health and Wellness Summit. The presentation, Mitigating Student Anxiety through Standards Based Assessment, outlined the practical steps ACDS took to de-emphasize grades and shift their focus to habits of learning and skill mastery to maintain academic rigor, reduce stress, and foster a healthy learning community.    
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Head of School, Scott Baytosh, was invited by the Educational Resources Bureau (ERB), a national educational testing organization, to join their Social Emotional Learning Advisory Committee.  This effort sought the input of educational leaders across the country as they developed new means of assessing social-emotional learning.  
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Head of School, Scott Baytosh appeared on News Channel 8’s News Talk to talk about how parents and educators can help children respond to what they see and hear about complex political and social issues by building skills of critical thinking, empathy, and respectful dialog.
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ACDS was highlighted in the educational publication, Education Dive, as an example of a forward-thinking and innovative model that incorporated SEL, play, and communication skills in a rigorous academic program.  The article, entitled, “What can public schools learn from private peers on road to School 2.0?” discusses how our thoughtful, child-centered, and innovative program addresses many of the challenges faced by public schools and provides a roadmap for school improvement. In this article, the writer notes that ACDS “is utilizing a focus on social-emotional learning, play, and communication skills to produce students well-equipped for the challenges of some of the nation’s best high schools and higher education institutions. That approach, says Head of School Scott Baytosh, is key to fostering and maintaining students’ love of learning.” The article goes on to quote Mr. Baytosh: “I think that’s kind of the Holy Grail that schools are trying to find. How do 
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Now a growing trend in schools, ACDS implemented mastery-based assessment four years ago throughout the middle school program. The new grading and assessment practices followed by each middle school teacher ensure that a student’s grade is only a reflection of how she/he performs against a course’s established standards. Learning habits (organization of time and materials, active and thoughtful participation in class, effort, and perseverance) are recorded and reported through our Learning Traits Rubric and inform how students can more efficiently and effectively meet standards. The disaggregation of learning habits and performance against a standard ensures that students master the skills and concepts that will allow them to thrive in high school, college, and adulthood. Shifting the focus from grades to effective learning traits and skill mastery, the ACDS academic program emphasizes deep learning, student reflection, and perseverance.  Grades are still given, but they are more meaningful and reflective of actual 
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In 2015, ACDS greeted students upon on their return from summer vacation with exciting new changes to their classrooms. Completed in collaboration with the Dean of the New York School of Interior Design whose research focuses on how classroom design influences learning, and made possible by a $3M anonymous gift, the classroom renovations emphasize flexible classroom organization and reduction in visual distraction, as well as focus on enhancing teacher resources. Although the approach was slightly different in the Lower and Middle Schools, keeping with the needs of the different age groups, all classrooms now have ergonomically responsive furniture that encourages movement and improves student focus and engagement. Lower School students sit on Hokki stools that allow for movement while Middle Schoolers use adjustable standing desks. “There’s been a lot written in the last few years about the negative effects of sitting,” said Head of School Scott Baytosh. “We know that 
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In 2013, ACDS was one of the first schools in the DC area to implement Math in Focus. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, an educational publishing company, interviewed then Head of Lower School, Melissa Davis about our experience with the curriculum.  Read the full text of the article below. Download PDF > or read full article below. How Math in Focus is reshaping the classroom at Alexandria Country Day School A conversation with the Head of Lower School, Melissa Davis Alexandria Country Day School was one of the first schools in the D.C. area to adopt Math in Focus and recently Melissa Davis sat down with HMH to discuss what led them to this choice and what results they have seen over the last two years. “Our curriculum review process included a number of different programs and covered the spectrum of approaches. Math in Focus appealed to us for two main reasons. 
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ACDS has developed a long-term relationship with educational consultant and Math-in-Focus expert, Shelly Dubose.  In addition to conducting ongoing training with ACDS faculty, Shelly has held training workshops at ACDS for area educators.  Additionally, teachers from around Virginia have visited ACDS classrooms to learn how to implement the Math in Focus program effectively.  
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