At WCDS, we feel that it is essential to education to acquire mastery of a basic core of knowledge that will enable the students to interpret and make critical decisions about the world in which they live. To achieve a command of content material, a classical, sequential curriculum based on continual reinforcement from pre-school through the twelfth grade assures that each grade will cover the areas of English, math, science, history, geography, and language in a manner appropriate to the student's developmental level. Art, sports, and music are structured parts of the curriculum until the eighth grade when they become an elective addition to the core curriculum. To assure competence and consistency in key areas, certain programs are disseminated school-wide, creating a core of material studied by everyone, and also a bond of shared experience. These programs include the summer reading program, the Word-of-the-Day program, the Great 100 Historical Figures, and the grammar program.
The Word-of-the-Day program is the backbone, but not the totality, of a rigorous vocabulary program. Each week, in addition to a challenging list of vocabulary words, students in grades 1?12 focus on five WOD's. In the lower school, the WOD list is compiled by a team teacher and taken from material covered in class. During the week students are expected to become thoroughly familiar with the definitions and, in grades 5?12, the etymologies of each of the words to prepare for the vocabulary-WOD test that occurs at every grade level.
The "Great 100's" is a list of men and women who have had an impact on the course of history since the dawn of time. Throughout each year, students in grades 4?12 review and are tested on the contributions of these seminal figures and become familiar with the ideas, movements, and time periods in which they lived and worked.
The purpose of the summer reading program is to expose students to as many literary works as possible while enhancing studies in literature. Before leaving for summer vacation, all students, grades 1?12, are given a list of assigned reading. After enjoying the books, the students complete a written assignment that they hand in on the first day of school.
Grammar is taught consistently in grades 1?12 in such a way that its complexity increases as the students mature. This sequential curriculum builds from the recognition of parts of speech, to analysis of the uses of nouns and pronouns, parsing of verbs, identification and labeling of phrases and clauses, and extensive diagramming of sentences. Prep School students take departmental tests throughout the year so that they come to have a firm grasp of traditional English grammar.
National testing is one way in which WCDS students are measured against their peers locally, regionally, and nationally. Students in grades 1?8 take the ERB (Educational Research Bureau) standardized tests, written by the SAT administrators to provide the most rigorous testing for students in private school. Students in grades 4-8 also take the ERB Writing Sample, and some students in grades 5?7 qualify for the Johns Hopkins Talent Search. All students in grades 8?11 take the PSAT and the students preparing for college take AP's, as well as the SAT or, in the case of international students, the TOEFL. We also administer the National Mythology, and National Latin and Greek exams.
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