Why Your Student Needs a Progressive No Grades High School

High School student at The Sycamore School, also known as TSS, a private high school in Northern Virginia.

What if a high school has no grades? No Advanced Placement (AP) classes. No International Baccalaureate (IB) program. To most parents in Northern Virginia, this is profoundly unsettling information. They ask, “How will my child get into college?”. The current model is not working for many students, but parents are afraid of the unknown. What…

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TSS Earns Cognia Accreditation

TSS students in class

“Is your school accredited?” Since opening The Sycamore School, that has been one of the most common questions. Answering that seemingly simple question was not easy and required some explanation. Schools can only apply for accreditation after they have been open for at least three years; some accreditation organizations require five years. As soon as…

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Summer Break Update

Summer Break Update at The Sycamore School - featured image

Summer: a time for barbecues, swimming pools, and some much-needed R&R. The weather outside may be slowing everyone down, but here at The Sycamore School (TSS), we’ve hit the ground running. The staff has been hard at work to get set up for the 2021-2022 school year, planning experiences and electives, re-organizing the school, and…

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Let’s Take A Walk Experience

Lubber Run Middle School Arlington

How do I fit into my community? How does my community affect my identity? What about my environment shapes my point of view? These are the questions we pondered this past year in the Middle School experience class, Let’s Take a Walk (LTAW). At The Sycamore School, instead of separate core classes, our students engage…

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A Unique Approach to Math

At The Sycamore School, we take a different approach to math instruction.  As an independent private school, we are unencumbered by arbitrary year-end standardized tests. Students are free to follow their choice of math concepts throughout the year in a manner that makes the most sense to them and a timeline that works for their…

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Why Grading Erodes our Students’ Love of Learning

Our education system is getting derailed, and as parents, we are unwittingly becoming part of the problem. Somehow, we have lost what education and school are all about: learning.  We want our kids to love learning and thrive in school. However, as a culture, we’ve become obsessed with achievement and accolades. Grades serve as academic…

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Ecosystems Experience

Owl Pellet Lab

Ecosystems Experience Blog – by Jon McKenney  At The Sycamore School, instead of separate core classes, students engage in transdisciplinary experiences each semester that weave together content from english, science, history, and math under a unifying theme. Past themes have included Identity, Civilizations, Motion, and Forensics. This year, our Middle School 2 cohort (6th and…

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Remote Learning Part II

Remote Learning

Over the summer, we created a comprehensive COVID reopening plan which offered our students the choice of full time in-person or remote instruction. The vast majority of our students chose in-person and it has gone incredibly well. We certainly had our share of adjustments but overall the fall in-person instruction was quite successful. I think…

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A Beginner’s Mind


At The Sycamore School, we regularly participate in professional development training. They cover a wide range of topics over the course of a year from familiarizing staff with our on-line platforms, authentic assessment, and executive functioning supports, to anti-bias training and social-emotional skill-building. Last week during our teacher workday, we had professional development training on…

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First Week of In-Person and Remote Learning

In-Person Learning

Back to School 2020 has necessitated months of creativity and planning.  The hard work paid off when our in-person learners walked through the door Monday for their first day of school.  Simultaneously, our remote learners were logging on to start their first day. Each was exciting and eventful in their own unique way.  But we…

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Opening Day In-Person Countdown!

In-person Learning

It’s one week before we open our doors (literally) for the new school year at The Sycamore School!  It’s been a wild ride since we had to switch to a virtual model this past spring and as we’ve been preparing to resume class in-person next week.  Every summer at this time, staff wish for an…

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