Project AERO: Ensuring Quality in American International Education

As parents, we all strive to provide our children with a quality education. We want them to have the best foundation possible so they can achieve their full potential.

However, choosing a quality American school isn’t always straightforward. The culture, curriculum, educators’ profile, teaching approach and extra-curricular activities all play a huge role in deciding whether a school is a good fit for your child. You may have a lot of questions, including:

  • How will the school assess my child’s learning progress?
  • How do I know if the curriculum is up to international standards?
  • Does the school have benchmarks or standards to ensure that my child is on track?

While these questions can (and should) be answered by the school, you can get a better idea of their approach by asking about the educational standards they follow. In the case of American international schools, that should be Project AERO.

In this article, we’ll answer a few questions about this program, including:

  1. What is Project AERO?
  2. How does AERO ensure a quality education?
  3. Which subjects does AERO cover?

Read on to learn more, or click on the links above to skip to each section.

What is Project AERO?

AERO stands for “American Education Reaches Out.” The project, which is supported by the US State Department’s Office of Overseas Schools, aims to assist US international schools in developing and implementing a standards-based curriculum.

It provides schools with a set of challenging, professionally validated standards (the AERO Common Core Plus Standards) to ensure that students have clear learning targets through every step of their schooling.

It also ensures that American international schools have a curriculum that’s consistent with schools in the US which means every student will be assessed using the same standards and benchmarks regardless of where they’re located.

How does AERO ensure a quality education?

AERO supports a Standards-Based Learning System, wherein “instruction, assessment, grading and reporting are based on how well students demonstrate their understanding and mastery of the knowledge and skills they are expected to learn in the course of their schooling.”

This learning system is supported by nine components:

  1. Clear learning targets for students
  2. Assessments linked to learning targets
  3. Multiple opportunities to demonstrate proficiency
  4. Flexibility for individual learners
  5. Valuing of teacher judgment and expertise
  6. Equity and continuity across the school
  7. A balance between formative and summative assessment
  8. Clear communication about student learning
  9. Opportunities for student-involved assessment

Let’s take a look at each component one by one:

Clear learning targets for students

Project AERO provides a set of standards that students can use as clear learning targets. Students will know exactly what the objective of each lesson is and the skills they need to learn to progress.

Here are some examples of clear learning targets from the AERO PreK Math Standards:

  • Know number names and the count sequence.
  • Identify written numerals 0-10.

Assessments linked to learning targets

Under a standards-based approach, teachers are encouraged to review the assessments they use and how they align with the learning targets. Students clearly understand the purpose of each test or assessment.

While these targets are set beforehand, schools can develop their own assessment practices to measure student progress.

Multiple opportunities to demonstrate proficiency

Students can demonstrate their mastery of a topic over multiple tests or assessments (that form their Collection of Evidence). Each student is assessed based on whether they meet the learning targets, not how they performed on one specific test.

Flexibility for individual learners

With Project AERO, students can learn at their own pace and master important skills over time without worry of “being left behind.”

Tests are used to benchmark a student’s understanding of the lesson and determine whether they need additional support or resources for a more personalized learning journey.

Valuing of teacher judgment and expertise

With AERO, teachers can decide which tests or assessments will form a student’s Collection of Evidence (based on provided criteria).

Student work will be graded by teachers themselves, not by external testing organizations. When the provided criteria are applied, this teacher-driven approach has been found to be more comprehensive than standardized testing.

Equity and continuity across the school

While teachers will grade most student work on their own, they’re provided with a “common set of sufficiency and proficiency criteria” to ensure the consistency of evaluation across different classrooms. This maintains the challenging level of AERO standards throughout the American international schools that follow them.

A balance between formative and summative assessment

Standards-based learning uses two types of assessments: formative and summative.

Formative assessment is used to monitor student learning and plan future instruction. These assessments, which form a student’s Collection of Evidence, help teachers determine the concepts, topics or skills they need to focus more on in the classroom.

Summative assessments, on the other hand, are large-scale tests that provide system-wide data. The results of these tests are used to guide policy-level decision-making.

Clear communication about student learning

With the AERO standards-based learning system, progress is clearly reported and communicated to students, parents and teachers. These reports are based on objective learning targets and skill development areas such as reading, writing and more.

Students can see their progress over the school year while teachers can tailor their lessons based on previous reports.

Opportunities for student-involved assessment

According to the AERO Standards-Based Learning Live Binder, students are the primary users of assessment information.

“They have clear learning targets, understand the purpose of assessments that link to learning targets, have multiple opportunities to meet the targets in a variety of ways, track their progress in meeting targets and can clearly communicate this progress.”

Which subjects does AERO cover?

AERO provides challenging and professionally validated academic standards across five subject areas: Math, Science, English/Language Arts, Social Studies and World Languages.

These standards include teaching resources as well as the Critical Areas for every subject. Teacher guidance is also provided to help them develop the ideal assessments and activities for their students.

Taken together, these standards ensure that students are equipped with the right skills and knowledge throughout the school year. And because AERO supports American international schools, the curriculum aims to develop students into well-rounded global citizens.

XCL American Academy: Aligned with AERO standards

At XCL American Academy (XAA), we offer an authentic American education for Kindergarten 1 to Grade 8 in Singapore, closely following the AERO Common Core Plus Standards to provide our students with the highest quality education. Our rigorous, standards-based curriculum allows students to demonstrate the skills and knowledge they’ve learned throughout every stage of their schooling.

We also use the US Common Core MAP testing system to measure student progress twice a year, starting in Grade 2. This provides our teachers with the information they need to ensure that our students are reaching their academic goals.

On top of the AERO standards, we also follow internationally recognized programs such as Everyday Math, Inspired Science, and a balanced approach to literacy with materials from Scholastic.

Contact us today to learn more about AERO and how our standards-based curriculum can bring out the best in your child. You can also book a tour or join one of our open house sessions. We look forward to meeting you soon at XAA!

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