Frequently Asked Questions
What is a progressive school?
At SRV, progressive education means that the learning that takes place in the elementary years should be authentic, active, and should involve children at a very deep level as partners in their own learning. Our community respects children individually and as members of a group. Our commitment to progressive education means that a child’s social, emotional and physical development is valued just as much as their growth intellectually and academically.
How is The School in Rose Valley different from other elementary schools?
SRV is located on an 8.5-acre wooded campus surrounded by a nature preserve. To us, the outdoors is an extended classroom. Science class often takes place on the trail, we have our own student-created organic garden, students go sledding when it snows, and we even have sheep! We are a small, close-knit community of learners. Children are well known here by many adults who are a part of their daily lives. There are many opportunities for older and younger children to interact and learn from each other. We are well known for our social skills curriculum, our service and partnership learning program, our commitment to educating the whole child, and our strong belief in the preservation of childhood.
What are the benefits of a small school?
In our small school setting, children are known extremely well by their teachers and their peers. There is a high level of individual attention on a daily basis. In such a small community of learners, the younger children know the older children, boys and girls play together, and there is a strong emphasis on respect for others. In smaller settings, teachers are more able to deal directly with social, emotional and academic challenges as they arise, shepherding children through situations and encouraging them to reflect on their outcomes. A small school setting also creates an opportunity for adults to work more closely together. Partnership and communication are easier when there are fewer channels to work through.
Is there enough structure at SRV for my child?
There is structure to daily life at SRV and it looks quite different than in traditional school settings where there are much larger class sizes and usually one teacher directing the daily work. There is a set schedule to each school day, with specific time dedicated to core academics as well as weekly special subjects like wood shop, music, art, technology, sports, and science. Students know where they are supposed to be and what is expected of them at all times. There is a great deal of thoughtful attention given to work spaces, opportunities for collaboration, and assessment of individual students and their progress according to the curriculum and state and national standards. This is done in a setting with enormous emphasis placed on children and their developmental needs as opposed to the school’s or teacher’s convenience, limitations, or outside requirements.
What are SRV's school hours?
SRV has programs for children nearly 365 days a year. On school days, regular half days are 8:15 to 11:45, and full days are 8:15 to 3:00. Pre-day and after-school programs are available to extend the day from 7:30 to 6:00. The school calendar roughly follows local public school districts’ calendars, although we tend to start a day or two later and end a day or two earlier. We also have programs for children for single days when school is not in session, such as Parent/Teacher Conference Days, and for the two-week winter and one-week spring vacations. SRV has an 8-week summer camp program, plus Mini Camps during the weeks between school and Summer Camp in June and August.
Does SRV have a religious affiliation?
SRV does not have any religious affiliation. We strive to ensure that all members of the school community feel comfortable participating in all school programs and activities. For that reason, the school does not teach any religious beliefs or officially sanction or initiate celebrations of any religious holidays. We do: welcome sharing from children about their religious, cultural and family stories and traditions; teach children to understand and appreciate the many different kinds of people around the world and their respective religions, cultures and traditions; teach children certain values (such as non-violence and respect for all living things); and celebrate at school certain non-religious special days and traditions related to the seasons (such as Apple Day and Winter Festival).
What is the student - teacher ratio at SRV?
The maximum size for the 3-day preschool is 12 students with 2 teachers; for the 5-day preschools it is 16 with 2 teachers; K-6th may have 1 or 2 teachers, depending on the group size, with a maximum of 20 students with 2 teachers. The average class size is 14. Counting the specials teachers, our student/teacher ratio is approximately 8:1.
What is the community of children like at SRV?
SRV intentionally nurtures a strong sense of community among the children. Specific events and activities (assemblies, mini-courses, special days, playground games, etc) develop meaningful relationships among children of different ages. Mentor relationships are created with reading partners, writing letters to pen-pals, and assembly buddies. Children are taught social skills, and are given freedoms and privileges as well as responsibilities. They learn to take care of each other and their environment.
What type of curriculum does SRV have?
The math curriculum teaches to the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) standards. These standards are based on recent research about how children learn math and what it means to be mathematically literate. At all ages at SRV, students engage in meaningful exploration of concepts and problems. Students develop confidence and flexibility in approaching problems. They think in depth and use drawing, writing and speaking to express and explore their thinking, make connections and recognize mathematical relationships.
In preschool the math program is implemented through hands-on games and activities in which the children explore basic concepts. In the K-6th grades, the primary program used is Everyday Mathematics, and this is supplemented by teachers as needed with a variety of rich materials and resources. Literacy at SRV is serious, purposeful and joyful work. We use state and national standards as well as our progressive pedagogy to inform our teaching practices and guide our curricular decisions. Our goal is to help children live rich literate lives. To do this we offer a balanced literacy program that includes 5 main components: reading phonics/spelling/word work writing listening speaking.
The social studies curriculum includes three primary elements: work on individual social skills and classroom community-building; work on specific social studies experiences and skills; and studying broad topics and themes in which the skills are applied and in which the students gain some familiarity with and understanding of diverse peoples, places and times in the world. The community-building and social skills aspects of the curriculum are discussed elsewhere. The social studies skills that are taught in age-appropriate ways at all levels include geography and map reading, learning basic concepts of culture, government and economy, using a variety of reference sources and materials to conduct research, and writing reports.
The specific content of the topics and themes covered in rooms each year varies according to the interests and questions of the teachers and students. In general, the themes focus on the children’s expanding horizons as they grow older, from families and the classroom in preschool and Kindergarten, to local, state, continental and global studies in the older elementary years.
What is the purpose of a vertical grouping?
At SRV, first and second grades are grouped together (Primary Circle), third and fourth grades are grouped together (Middle Circle) and fifth and sixth grades are grouped together (Oldest Group). This enables children to be in the same group, usually in the same room with the same teachers, for a two-year span of time. This reduces or eliminates the time it usually takes a student to learn new classroom routines and expectations, and the time it takes a teacher to get to know a student as a learner and a member of a classroom community. A vertical grouping allows for more flexibility, enabling children to be exposed to a greater range of instruction based on skill level and not age. There are also more opportunities for children to emerge as leaders or mentors in the areas in which they excel.
Can my specials needs child attend SRV?
Maybe, but most likely not. SRV is not a special education school, and we do not have the expertise, training, program or facilities to handle most severe learning differences or emotional or behavioral problems. We may be able to accommodate children with certain mild issues, depending on the child, the issue, the proposed group, and the available support from family and special services. Parents should talk with the Admissions Director.
Does SRV offer foreign language instruction?
All students receive Spanish instruction in small groups for 30-45 minutes a week. A progressive approach is used to capture the interest of all learners and excite students about learning a second language. Music, movement, drama and games are used as learning tools across age levels. Older children are introduced to developmentally appropriate grammatical structures both verbally and in written work. The Spanish teacher also introduces all students to aspects of culture of various Spanish-speaking countries, and Spanish is integrated into the curriculum in Language Arts, Math, Art and Music.
What extracurricular activities does SRV offer?
During the after-school Afternoons program, children have free-play indoors and out. We also offer organized art and craft activities, and occasionally special classes in things like music and dance.
Are lunch and snacks part of SRV's program?
Yes, lunch is cooked and served at SRV every day It is always healthy, delicious and child-friendly. We also provide healthy snacks. Its cost is included in tuition. Children are not permitted to bring their own food unless they have extreme food allergies or requirements.
What about homework at SRV?
There is very little homework given at SRV. We feel strongly that children need time to play and to be with their families after school. If parents like homework because it helps them feel in the loop about the material their children are covering, we encourage parents to come into the classroom and to get involved in other ways. Below 3rd grade no homework is assigned. Occasionally young students take a book home to read with their parents, or ask a teacher to give them a paper or activity to do at home. We try to keep these projects minimal and fun, and they are optional.
In 3rd and 4th grades, teachers’ systems vary, but if there is any assigned homework, it is brief and substantive. Some teachers give occasional follow-up or practice assignments to support work done in school. Others may give students a packet of suggested activities to do at home, requiring that they complete and hand in one or two of the activities by a given due date. This helps the students begin to develop some responsibility and good work habits. In the 5th and 6th grades, students receive a packet of homework to complete in a week. They learn to budget their time, and work towards being independent and self-motivated, taking ownership of their learning. Again, assignments are brief and substantive, with optional enrichment suggestions for those who want more.
Does SRV give tests?
We do not test children as part of the regular program. We do continuous assessments in which teachers observe and record not only what the students know, but how they are learning, what problem-solving strategies they are using, what their learning styles are, etc. The students are self-motivated to learn, not driven to work for grades. They know that the grade that they get on a test does not define who they are. We do sometimes do evaluations on certain children to determine whether they have particular needs and to help the teachers design appropriate curriculum. Also, our 5th and 6th graders take standardized tests for practice. We teach them test-taking and study skills to prepare them for their next schools.
What is SRV's grading system like?
As in many elementary schools today, we do not give typical “grades.” Based on their assessments and observations of the children, teachers create and give to parents two written progress reports a year. All reports have narrative sections in which the students’ physical, social, emotional and academic development, and personal interests, strengths and vulnerabilities are described. Some of the reports also include checklists that enumerate developmental milestones in different areas and show where the students are and where they need support. Parent conferences are also held two or three times a year, during which information is exchanged and parents and teachers discuss shared strategies and goals. Sometimes older children play a role in these conferences.
Where do SRV graduates go?
SRV graduates go on to both public and private schools. Schools they have attended in the past decade include Friends’ Central, Strath Haven Middle School, Friend’s Select, The Westtown School, Baldwin, Springton Lake Middle School, Wilmington Friends School, Woodlynde Academy, The Walden School, Media Providence Friends School, E. T. Richardson Middle School, The Crefeld School, the Academy of Notre Dame de Namur, Bala Cynwyd Middle School, Delaware Valley Friends, and others. Each year we contact the schools our graduates go on to. We speak directly with guidance counselors, principals, admissions directors and heads of schools about their transition. They often tell us that SRV grads transition beautifully into their new environment. They tend to be the children who are still excited about learning and who know themselves well both as learners and as friends. They make strong connections with peers and adults alike. “Send more children like them!” is the resounding refrain.
How do SRV graduates make the transition, and how do they succeed?
We periodically survey alumni and the schools they attend. Teachers from middle schools love our graduates because they are still interested in learning, they speak up, and they are not afraid to ask questions. They often make rote assignments more challenging for themselves, just because they want to. Schools also appreciate SRV graduates’ values, social skills, sense of justice, and willingness to take a stand or act. Academically, SRV graduates do very well. They tend to have a realistic sense of who they are, what their strengths and vulnerabilities are, and to feel good about themselves. They are creative, practical problem solvers, good at thinking for themselves. They generally have the same skills in place as their counterparts, and they have the ability to go out and learn what else they may find they need to know. They are generally stronger than most in creative writing, conducting research, and the conceptual and real problem-solving aspects of mathematics and science.
The transition experience varies from child to child (SRV is only one element of their lives), but on the whole it is positive. They tend to enjoy “playing the game” of taking tests and getting grades, and they are prepared for the challenge. Sometimes the larger social scene seems foreign to them, but they usually adapt quickly. They tend to become leaders in their new settings.
How does SRV handle discipline?
The goal of our discipline strategies is that children learn to be self-disciplined, and it is recognized that all children are on a continuum of development from the self-centered infant to the fully disciplined and socialized adult. Teachers support the students’ acquisition of discipline and social skills through modeling, practice, and when necessary, by facilitating communication and problem-solving. Classroom behavioral expectations are kept reasonable and age-appropriate. The students themselves help create classroom norms, setting for their own community the standards of what is appropriate and how they wish to be treated. Children are taught that they make choices when they behave in certain ways, and that they are the ones who are responsible for the choices they have made. Consequences for misbehavior are, whenever possible, natural and appropriate, taking into consideration the child’s age and circumstances. Strategies that may be used include loss of a privilege related to the misbehavior, time-out to think about the choices made, conversation with a teacher or the Head of School, and a call to parents.
Are SRV's teachers certified?
SRV is certified by PAIS, which is licensed by the state to certify schools, and to get this accreditation, we meet very high standards. Most teachers are certified and many hold graduate degrees.
Is SRV accredited?
The School in Rose Valley is fully accredited by PAIS (the Pennsylvania Association of Independent Schools). We were re-accredited in 2009 after an 18-month process of self-evaluation and outside inspections, and we received a glowing report. The School in Rose Valley is a member in good standing of the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS), the Pennsylvania Association of Independent Schools (PAIS), and the Association of Delaware Valley Independent Schools (ADVIS).
What type of outdoor space does SRV have?
We have 9 ½ acres, including about 5 acres of undeveloped woodland. Adjacent to our property is a 12-acre nature preserve. We use the woods for hikes, picnics, science, etc.
What about safety at SRV?
Safety is a top concern at SRV, and the school is a safe environment. Because children are permitted to play outdoors, including in the woods, in all kinds of weather, they do get dirty, and scrapes and bruises happen.
How can parents get involved in the school community and curriculum?
There are many opportunities for parent involvement at SRV, from volunteering in the classrooms, to serving on the Board or committees, or participating in the Parent Community Organization (PCO). The school was founded by a small group of committed parents in 1929 and parents continue to be integral to the school community today. We believe in establishing strong partnerships with parents to ensure that we are all working together to support children academically, socially and emotionally. We have many events throughout the school year to keep parents ‘in the loop’ as well as established lines of communications. Parents meet with teachers regularly and our Head of School’s door is always open. Parents are welcome in classrooms, but should respect teachers who set up reasonable boundaries about suitable times.