What is a Traditional School?

From the Director of Admission.

In the age of micro-schools, homeschooling, online schools, and more, some parents ask me what traditional schools look like these days. Are they the schools that many of us attended—teachers presenting information at a chalkboard and students sitting in rows taking notes? My answer to this question is both “yes” and “no.”

Education books typically define traditional schools as teacher-centered delivery of instruction to students with a focus on having students master academic core subjects, including math, reading, writing, science, and social studies. A majority of schools in the U.S. fall into this category. At Washington Episcopal School, we provide a thorough grounding in the core academic subjects as well as augmenting the curriculum with a robust enrichment program filled with foreign languages, physical education, fine arts, performing arts, social-emotional education, executive functioning skills development, and more. Instruction incorporates a variety of methods and best practices to ensure the school day is engaging and relevant content is acquired and key skills developed. 

As you walk through our building, you may see students sitting at their desks and taking notes, but you will also find students doing a variety of other activities, including:

  • Working in groups to identify and explore core concepts in a text
  • Building models to bring math concepts to life
  • Utilizing PowerPoint and other multimedia technology to present research project findings to their teachers
  • Testing science concepts through hands-on labs and experiments
  • Listening to experts discuss their work and process via Skype

You may even see empty classrooms—at least four times a year WES students take study trips to local sites, and, in Middle School, our students go abroad to Utah, Italy, France, and Spain to apply and further develop classroom learnings. 

The benefit of our students learning through a blend of traditional and innovative instructional practices is that our graduates are prepared to succeed in a range of D.C. area, day, boarding, private, and public schools. During their time at WES, our students discover what type of learners they are and what methodologies and learning environments engage and motivate them. By the time our students apply to high school, they know what kind of school suits them best. Currently, we have 135 students at 30 different high schools. In the past four years, we are aware of only two students changing schools for reasons other than moving.

Below are five questions to ask on a school tour to determine if it is the right fit for your child:

  • What type of learners do best at your school? Are there any types of learners for whom you would not recommend your school? 
  • What schools do your graduates attend?
  • How do you monitor and assess a child’s progress?
  • How easy is it for children who transition in the older grades of your school? 
  • What percentage of students leave your school before graduation, not including families who move out of the area?

More and more schools are differentiating themselves through new instructional practices. Attending a Nursery—Grade 8 school grounded in traditional instruction and curriculum and enhanced with confirmed research-based best practices is a great way to ensure that your child develops a love for learning and is prepared for high school and beyond. By knowing your child and asking the right questions, you can be confident that you are on the right path to finding a school that fits your child and family’s needs.