Curriculum & Assessment


The foundation of our curriculum is student choice, supported by the democratic and constructivist philosophies of education, which put forth that academic engagement is best established by allowing students to make their own meaning and construct their own knowledge, through action, experience, and reflection. “The drive to learn,” says anthropologist Edward T. Hall, “is more basic than the drive to reproduce.” We trust that our students really do want to learn, and to build interesting, positive, and healthy lives. And so, we give them some freedom by default, to direct and demonstrate their learning based on their individual interests, abilities, and work values.

However, we believe that learning is both an individual and social process. Teachers, staff, and families build connections and relationships that can be counted on when students need guidance. In these times, we utilize both formal and informal communication to communicate how the student is doing, to the student themself, their family, and appropriate school personnel. Everyone involved uses the shared information to support the student in learning to make appropriate choices, to challenge themselves at their individual developmental level, and to self-assess. While the process can be long and involved, we do it because we know that these thinking strategies are critical skills for success in school, and beyond.

Academics are incredibly important at Trillium. However, we recognize that success in school, and beyond, is based on a child succeeding socially, emotionally, physically, and artistically. In addition to a strong academic core, we care about and teach to the “whole child.” We use age-appropriate curriculum to teach children to think about others’ feelings, to solve problems cooperatively, increase their level of social competence, and to manage anger in a positive way. Additionally, we encourage them to experience and explore their emotions through art, music, and mindful movement. Learn more about these programs here.

Finally, we believe that learning is most successful when it occurs in a variety of ways. Trillium’s integrated curriculum allows students to construct knowledge without the restrictions of conventional subject areas. Our progressive teachers are committed to providing students culturally relevant and rigorous classroom instruction, using alternative resources, rather than relying on text books alone. Outside the classroom, they organize interdisciplinary, project-based learning curricula, so that students may “learn by doing.” In the upper grades, students have additional opportunities to do this independently, through service activities, internships, applied research, and leadership experiences in the community.


Trillium relies upon a balanced set of assessment tools. Along with the Oregon state-mandated tests, Trillium uses narrative evaluations for all grade levels, and provides our high school students with letter and number grades. Other forms of assessment include project presentations and performances, portfolios,  and exhibitions. An exhibition is a student presentation to a panel of faculty and experts, to determine their knowledge and ability to explain what was learned. By using a variety of assessment tools, we increase the likelihood of gathering accurate information.