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  • How do you teach skills and strategies in an integrated, project-oriented curriculum?

    Skills and learning strategies matter. They matter because they provide the tools for communication, expression, and learning across the disciplines. Each discipline offers its own unique set of tools, while many tools are shared across the disciplines. Grammar and spelling may be most strongly associated with Language Arts, however, they are used in every subject area. Inquiry and observation may be most closely associated with the sciences, but they are used across the curriculum. One of the things that distinguishes a process/project oriented curriculum from a traditional curriculum is that skills and learning strategies are not simply studied and learned for their own sake; they are learned in the context of use, when their power and purpose is understood and refined. Frequent, meaningful application of skills and strategies across the disciplines results in a greater understanding of basic skills and learning strategies.

  • Why doesn’t The Cooper School use grades? What is authentic assessment?

    First, number and letter grades are overly simplistic. Pegging a child and his/her work into one of five slots tells you very little about that person. Grades don’t tell you about the child’s individual work, his or her unique challenges, styles of learning, and achievements. Some of the most important qualities of a person’s learning cannot be measured by a qualitative system. Second, when grades are given as an extrinsic reward for performance, students are less likely to choose to learn for their own reasons. Quickly, teachers and parents will hear students evaluating work assigned and completed based on grades received rather than potential for learning, interest, or enjoyment. In addition, extrinsic rewards place the assignment of value outside the student’s evaluation and reflection. Finally, no matter what system they are based on, grades inevitably invite you to rank students against each other. This contradicts our beliefs about the value of people and the purpose of learning. Children are not in a race with each other in which there are winners and losers. Instead of grading students, we encourage students to challenge themselves, to find something that is important to them, to evaluate their work, to experiment and to consider new ways of accomplishing similar work in the future. We communicate these processes with parents and students through narratives, work samples, rubrics, and checklists designed to illustrate the quality of a student’s work. These authentic assessment tools are widely used throughout the United States in public and private school settings. For the past twenty years most schools and universities have tried to incorporate even some of these authentic assessment tools because educators understand they offer a more complete picture of student achievement than is available through traditional grading systems. *As Margaret Donaldson has observed in her article, The Desire to Learn: The traditional way of encouraging children to want to learn the things that we want to teach is by giving rewards for success: prizes, privileges, gold stars. Two grave risks attend this practice. The first is obvious to common sense, the second much less so. The obvious risk to the children who do not get the stars, for this is just one way of defining them as failures. The other risk is to all the children, winners and and losers alike. There is now a substantial amount of evidence pointing to the conclusions that if an activity is rewarded by some extrinsic prize or token something quite external to the activity itself then that activity is less likely to be engaged in later in a free and voluntary manner when the rewards are absent, and it is less likely to be enjoyed.

  • Will my child have homework every night?

    Teachers will not assign nightly homework in grades K-2. Students in Grades 3-8 will self-assign homework in their reading and writing workshops. At specific points in the curriculum, teachers and students will extend learning in school with home projects. Our math curriculum provides Home Links that connect to the daily class work. These Home Links are meant to reinforce concepts taught in school and to extend the application of math to the students’ world outside of school. Students in grades 3-8 are expected to complete this daily math homework. Extended projects in the Middle grades will require some work at home.

  • How would my child transition to a traditional school?

    Academically, children will be prepared to use the skills and learning strategies they have learned and practiced throughout their school experience. When children deeply understand these skills and strategies because they have been given the opportunity to employ them frequently and in meaningful applications, they are able to transfer this learning to other learning situations. In short, students have the tools to conduct learning in traditional paper/ pencil format as well as extended workshop and project environments. Often, children who move from strong, progressive schools to traditional schools feel that they are moving from challenging, interesting work to “easy”, close-ended work experiences that they are able to complete quickly and successfully.


  • Is there a birthday cutoff for applicants?

    Typically we adhere to the September 1 cut off date. For example, a child applying to the Kindergarten program would need to be 5 years old by September 1 of the entry year. Exceptions will be made on a case by case basis, and after the interview process has been completed.

  • Do you make an effort to balance your classes by gender?

    Yes, we make every effort to balance our classes with an equal number of boys and girls.

  • Do I wait until all parts of the application, including a moderated tuition form, are completed before I send it in?

    No. In fact, the financial application is separate from the admissions process. You will need to complete this application after your child has been accepted.

  • What is the average class size?

    The average class size is 15-20 students.

  • Do you require admissions testing?

    All prospective students are required to complete an admissions interview as part of the admissions process. This interview is an assessment of developmental readiness and achievement. Prospective students in grades K and 1 will complete this interview one on one with a primary staff member. These interviews take place after school and are scheduled on an individual basis. Prospective students in grades 2-8 will complete a visiting day at The Cooper School. The admissions interview will take place during this day. This will allow older students an opportunity to experience the work and social environment, and to interact with the teachers and administrators.

  • What makes for a good fit for The Cooper School?

    Students with a genuine curiosity and enthusiasm for learning and who have joy in discovery and exploring the natural world are a good fit for The Cooper School. Students who display a preference to be actively engaged in learning by doing and through collaboration and a desire to contribute to their communities. Parents who relish the opportunity to partner and be involved with the school in myriad ways, who appreciate The Cooper School’s emphasis on inquiry-based learning, learning by doing, and environmental education, who are open to a developmental approach to education that preserves children’s innate interest in and love of learning, and who value diversity will be a good fit as The Cooper School parents.

  • Does The Cooper School use standardized testing?

    The CTP4, published by the Educational Records Bureau, was designed specifically for independent schools. The independent school norms present an opportunity to compare a student’s reasoning and skill development with students in comparable schools nationwide. It is administered annually in grades 3-8.

  • Research behind what we do

    Bruner, J.S. (1977). The process of education. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. Dewey, J. (1964). John Dewey on education: Selected writings. R. Archambault (ed.). New York: Modern Library. Dewey, J. (1938). Experience and education. New York: Macmillan. Dewey, J. (1916). Democracy and education: An introduction to the philosophy of education. Free Press. Ehrenfeld, J.D. (2017). Mom: My daughter’s kindergarten teachers asked me what motivates her. I find that troubling. Erikson, E.H. (1964). Childhood and society. New York: Norton. Kohn, A. (1999). The schools our children deserve: Moving beyond traditional classrooms and “tougher standards.” Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co. Kohn, A. (1993). Punished by rewards: The trouble with gold stars, incentive plans, A’s, praise, and other bribes. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co. Little, T., & Ellison, K. (2015). Loving learning: How progressive education can save America’s schools. New York: W.W. Norton & Company. Vygotsky, L. S., & Cole, M. (1978). Mind in society: the development of higher psychological processes. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. Brooks, J. G., & Brooks, M. G. (1993). In search of understanding: The case for constructivist classrooms. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. Dweck, C. S. (2008). Mindset: The new psychology of success. New York: Ballantine Books. Wolfe, P. (2001). Brain matters: Translating research into classroom practice. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. Armstrong, T. (2006). The best schools: How human development research should inform educational practice. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. Elias, M. J. (1997). Promoting social and emotional learning: Guidelines for educators. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. Goleman, D. (1995). Emotional intelligence. New York: Bantam Books. Heffernan, L., Wallace, J. (2016). To get into college, Harvard report advocates for kindness instead of overachieving. Strachota, Bob. (1996). On their side: Helping children take charge of their learning. Greenfield, MA: Northeast Foundation for Children. Louv, R. (2005). Last child in the woods: Saving our children from nature-deficit disorder. Chapel Hill, NC: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill. Mooney, C. (2016). Why green spaces are good for your kid’s brain. The Bronfenbrenner Center for Translational Research (Cornell University). (2016). What do early learners need most? Play!  Wong, A. (2016). Why kids need recess. Abeles, V., Congdon, J., Attia, M., Constantinou, S., Adler, M., & Reel Link Films. (2011). Race to nowhere. Lafayette, CA: Reel Link Films.  Crain, W.C. (2003). Reclaiming childhood: letting children be children in our achievement-oriented society. New York: Times Books.Levine, M. (2006). The price of privilege: How parental pressure and material advantage are creating a generation of disconnected and unhappy kids. New York: Harper Collins.


  • What is The Giving and Growing Fund?

    The Giving and Growing Fund is the cornerstone of the The Cooper School’s fundraising efforts. Gifts provide an immediate and direct benefit to each student and faculty member, while also enhancing the quality and range of all school programming. Your donation is a direct investment in the excellence and breadth of TCS’ academics, faculty development, financial aid, arts, and activities. All gifts made directly to the Fund are tax-deductible.

  • What does The Giving and Growing Fund support?

    The three main limbs of the Fund aim to

    1) Grow School Offerings
    2) Grow Knowledge and Diversity -and-
    3) Grow Stability

    New sports equipment and new extracurricular programming for students grow our school offerings. Support of tuition scholarships and professional development grow student diversity and faculty knowledge. Contributing to reserves enables us to plan for future expansion, and maintain stability.

    The Cooper School needs the Giving and Growing Fund to consistently improve and advance its programming, offerings, and campus year-to-year. Tuition covers the cost of educating our students, but it does not cover all the costs associated with their school experience. The Giving and Growing Fund supports school initiatives, not covered by the cost of tuition, that directly impact our students.

  • How is my donation put to work?

    Examples of your donation in action include supporting the cost of professional development conferences for teachers, new facility equipment and technology (such as a basketball goal or Smart Board), and program costs that go beyond the classroom (such as visiting guest experts and performances). Your donation impacts everything we do on our campus.

    Tuition covers the daily deliverables closely tied to our curriculum while the Fund supports specific initiatives of improvement.

  • How do I know how much to give?

    We encourage each family to make a meaningful gift commensurate with your family’s personal circumstances. Every gift is deeply valued and goes toward the excellent education provided for all Cooper School students.

  • How can I make my donation?

    There are several options available to you.

    • You may send a check payable to The Cooper School c/o Advancement, 13 Oakdale Place, Charleston SC 29407
    • You may donate online by clicking here.
    • To pay by credit card over the phone, please call Kayla Sewell at 843-573-1033.
    • Set-up a recurring gift by clicking here.