The core curriculum includes language arts, math, science, and social studies. An outstanding writing program has been developed and is integrated across all disciplines. The curriculum is based on the Archdiocese of Washington learning standards for each subject and grade.
There is one class of each grade with 25 to 30 students. Various instructional techniques meet the needs of each student. A kinesthetic approach using activity centers, projects, and manipulatives is emphasized in the primary grades. Learning circles and an assortment of projects are emphasized in the middle school.
Differentiated reading groups are standard in pre-Kindergarten through fifth grade. Multiple teachers are used as resources for enrichment of small groups of six to eight students. A resource teacher and guidance counselor are available to all students as needed. Critical thinking is encouraged to challenge students to connect, analyze and apply knowledge.
The reading and language arts program is multifaceted. The curriculum includes reading, literature, vocabulary, phonics, spelling, grammar, and penmanship. Cursive writing is required from third grade. The reading focus in the lower grades is on phonemic awareness, vocabulary and other essential literary skills, including the identification and analysis of theme, main idea, character, setting, cause and effect. Students read fiction and non-fiction on a challenging, appropriate level. For consistency and familiarity with structure, a common reading series is used from pre-Kindergarten to fifth grade, and teachers integrate technology with iPad applications when it is beneficial to student learning.
In classrooms in pre-Kindergarten through fifth grade, a block schedule of 80—120 minutes is in place for the use of flexible skill grouping. For primary grade students who excel in reading, there are two enrichment groups led by upper-grade teachers. For students who require remediation, inclusion support comes from the resource teacher.
In grades six through eight, students read authentic literature and novels to strengthen comprehension and analytical thinking. Literature anthologies and novels are often read in a book club format and in connection with a project related to the theme of the text. Various genres are offered to students with diverse interests. Students learn grammar and punctuation and are expected to apply their skills as they write for different purposes, different audiences and in different genres. Writing is taught as a separate subject but reinforced across the curriculum. In third grade through eighth grade, the classroom teacher and writing specialist instruct students in small groups two to three times weekly.
In math, there is an emphasis on basic number concepts, computation skills and problem solving. Manipulatives help students apply and see concepts in different ways. An upper-grade math teacher takes an advanced 4th grade group for enrichment. Each class in grades 5-8 is divided into a regular math group, an advanced group, and a third-level accelerated group unrestricted by the curriculum. See the Mathematics Page for more information. Pre-algebra and algebra are the core math classes in 7th and 8th grades.
Science has an experiential focus in Kindergarten through fourth grade supported by a comprehensive supply of materials. Students practice scientific observation and inquiry with fiddler crabs, African frogs, and millipedes. Students practice observation, measurement, classification, experimentation and dissection. Tests are augmented by discussions, demonstrations, and presentations using technology. In fifth grade through eighth grade, students explore concepts and principles within the earth, life and physical sciences. Students acquire hands-on experience during a weekly 80—minute, double-period lab. Students work collaboratively in groups to follow procedures and analyze the results of experimentation. Students write a comprehensive laboratory report using the scientific method. Students deliver oral science reports to federal government scientists, who question them on their methods and claims, encourage and often inspire them.
Social Studies themes in Kindergarten through fourth grade are multi-disciplinary and include a study of people, places and events of the world. Students discuss an appreciation for the planet, diverse populations and resources. In fifth-through-eighth grades, the curriculum includes US and World History and World Geography. Students take part in mock assemblies and strengthen their expository reading, map and writing skills.