Instead of grouping students by a fixed trait such as age, we group our students by level of independence. Students are given as much structure and support as they need to be successful in their academic and character growth. This grouping system puts students in control of their progression from level to level.
We organize students by Independence Level in order to support student autonomy.
How are Independence Levels assigned?
Every student is assigned to an Independence Level, which they can expect to be part of for one to three years. There are currently six Independence Levels for students ages 5 to 15+. Students new to TLS will be placed in a group with the majority of their same-age peers for a two-week trial period, or they will be placed based on a diagnostic assessment.
How do students progress to the next Independence Level?
It is the responsibility of the Lead Advisor to prepare students for the next level of independence.
It is the responsibility of the student to advocate for his/her own promotion.
Students who feel they are ready for the next level of independence are expected to initiate discussion with their Advisor. Students who have mastered a majority (at minimum, all but three) of the habits and skills at their Independence Level will be recommended for promotion at the next transition point. If the Advisor evaluates that the student is ready for more independence, s/he will inform the student’s parents as necessary and take their feedback into account in making a final decision about promotion.
The final determination of all student assignments (and subsequent reassignments) shall be at the sole discretion of the section Heads (ex: Head of Lower School) in consultation with the teaching team (Advisors and Content Specialists). In order to be fair to all, parent requests for student Independence Levels assignments will not be accepted. Advisors take into account the student’s ability to handle greater independence, and in some cases the student’s emotional maturity. Advisor preference, parent interest, and friend groups are not compelling reasons for promotion or retention. TLS reserves the right to transition a child to a different Independence Level up to twice each school year: once in March, after Term 3, and once in September, after Term 5.
Are there promotion ceremonies/graduations between Levels?
Each student at TLS is on his or her own development track independent of age; therefore, we do not have typical grade level promotion ceremonies. Exhibitions are held at the end of each term to share student work, projects related to the investigation topic, and student progress with the community. We may also celebrate individual milestones and accomplishments in Advisory or Community Meeting.
Do students interact across Independence Levels?
Yes, and in a purposeful way! We believe it’s important for students to learn from each other and teach one another. Students in different Independence Levels come together for small group seminars based on academic ability. These groups change from term to term.
During Genius Hour or Friday’s Extended Community Meeting, our older students learn how to be teachers to our younger students. In turn, our younger students build confidence interacting in a mixed-age setting and having their voices heard in front of a large group. Each student at TLS is assigned to a “Family” of students of various ages and interests who work collaboratively on community projects.
Our mixed age setting is intended to foster collaboration and impactful relationships rather than competition.