The Putney Core

The Putney School has been on the leading edge of progressive education for more than 80 years. It’s where we like to be.

Progressive education is designed to create engaged citizens for a democratic society, and we all feel the urgency of that project.

So we’ve spent the past six years redefining our curriculum.  We’ve clearly defined the knowledge, skills and habits of mind that every Putney student should have, and created a portfolio system that gives each student agency in how they learn and meet these goals.  We still teach traditional courses (traditionally progressive) but students are able to meet their learning goals in a variety of ways. We are giving them a map of the territory and a compass, rather than sending them down a predetermined path.  The ongoing student portfolio isn’t only a snapshot of a student’s progress, it is an invitation to always be learning.

The Putney Core has three components: Subject-Centered Objectives, Throughlines and Essential Experiences.

The Subject-Centered Objectives are the subject-specific markers that indicate whether a student is building a foundation of skills, knowledge and concepts in traditional subjects like Mathematics, English, and Science. A student’s progress through these courses is assessed using detailed rubrics that outline four levels of achievement: Novice, Emerging, Proficient, and Beyond.

The Throughlines are seven overarching lenses and habits of mind that conscientious people constantly call upon: Ethical, Cultural and Social Justice Perspectives, Argumentation, Collaboration, Designing and Building, Inquiry and Research, Literacy and Communication, and Self-knowledge and Self-regulation. These are also assessed using a four-level rubric with the levels of achievement of: Novice, Emerging, Proficient, and Beyond.

The third element is the Essential Experiences. These aren’t assessed, these are just experienced. Don’t you think everyone should have the experience of living in another culture and camping outdoors for five days without their phone? So do we.

We’re reshaping our path to graduation, and we’re not the only one who thinks that the way students are assessed needs rethinking. Schools across the country have begun to do similar work. Read more about The Putney School’s journey to the Putney Core or more about a group of schools that are working towards a similar end with the Mastery Transcript Consortium.