1. Instructional Design – The Six Point Plan to Increasing Student Achievement will improve student learning and achievement*. This model encapsulates an effective way to ensure high student achievement as outlined in the school’s mission by allowing for continuous evaluation of student progress and immediate modification to the student’s learning plan when needed. The six points, explained in more detail later are: 1. Setting Up a Culture of High Expectations
2. Articulating the Curriculum
3. Ensuring Best Instructional Practices
4. Administering Common Benchmark Assessments
5. Providing Interventions
6. Monitoring Progress
2. Authentic Classroom Learning Environments – It has been clearly documented that student engagement increases when students are cognitively involved and thinking critically about the content. (Wilmingham, 2007.) Authenticity has a major impact on student engagement and includes meaningful tasks that are real or have purpose, include student choice, and are product focused (Schlechty, 2002). The classrooms at REACH Academy Charter School will be designed as “mini” real world environments based on developmentally appropriate themes. One theme in kindergarten may be the setting of a Supermarket. Classroom themes aligned with the CCSS standards and content may include environments such as: An Airplane/Airport, Exploring the Farm, The Construction of a House, Fairy Tales, etc. As students get older the themes develop into broader, more sophisticated concepts such as: Types of Weather, Exploring Our Emotions, The Rainforest, etc. In fifth grade, for example, themes might include: Types of Whales, Understanding Chemistry, and Physics in Action. As stated in the school’s mission, the classroom design is a hands-on, authentic learning environment intended to broaden the background experiences and vocabulary of students who live in poverty and expand learning opportunities for all students at risk of academic failure*. It has been reported that an average student going to kindergarten living in poverty has an estimated 4.2 million fewer language experiences than an average middle class student. This study showed that students from poverty hear as many as 30 million fewer words by the time they turn three compared to children from average income households (Hart and Risley, 2004). In order to bridge the gap for those in poverty, an enormous amount of rich authentic language experiences and exposure to a wide range of books across a variety of genres are essential (Snow. and Shattuck, 2014). Each classroom will have a large inventory of authentic texts which will be included in the budget. This will provide parents and students a variety of high quality rich and unique educational opportunities*. 3. Balanced Literacy Approach - Literacy Focused - A basic belief at REACH Academy Charter School is that students in poverty need an enormous amount of rich language experiences to bridge the gap that poverty creates. As stated in the school’s mission statement, the students will be provided the tools to rise above the limitations often posed by poverty. Students who are at-risk for academic failure will engage in multiple, focused, literacy experiences throughout their school day. Using Fountas and Pinnell’s model for Guided Reading and Lucy Calkin’s model for The Reader’s and Writer’s Workshop as the basic literacy curriculum, students will receive a highly personalized approach in literacy instruction. This approach will use best practices to improve student learning and achievement by providing scholars with an integrated and comprehensive standards-based literacy program using innovative teaching and learning methods*. Through the use of mini-lessons, teachers will facilitate literacy standards through the context of on-going, purposeful student work. Students will use “accountable talk” to learn and communicate ideas as they analyze their work based on models that meet the standards. Rituals and routines will be defined, practiced and will be a part of a productive teaching and learning environment. Scholars will contribute in book discussion groups, participate in author genre studies, maintain reading logs and a writer’s notebook, conference with teachers and publish a wide variety of documents. This will provide parents and students a variety of high quality rich and unique educational opportunities* The balanced literacy approach will provide a structure and support that will enable all students to acquire the knowledge, skills, habits and dispositions needed to meet or exceed standards in reading, writing, listening and speaking. Other components of a Balanced Literacy Model will also be incorporated such as independent reading and writing, books on tape, word study, vocabulary and research that students will work at daily. This documented growth will demonstrate the school’s accountability for student progress in all curricular areas aligned with the New York State assessments*. REACH Academy Charter School will invest in high-quality, on-going staff development from experienced authors or widely recognized trainers in the field to ensure ongoing professional learning opportunities for all faculty and staff*. Cost of these invaluable learning opportunities for all staff will be reflected in the budget.
4. Utilizing Technology to Enhance Instruction, Engagement and Learning - Gallup’s 2013 State of America’s Schools Report showed that only 55% of US K-12 students are “engaged” in the learning process, while 28% are “not engaged,” and 17% are “actively disengaged.” At RACS, teachers will create situations that encourage students to be engaged. Engaged students are those who are actively learning by dynamically constructing, dissecting, analyzing, comparing, collaborating, contributing, creating and reflecting upon information and ideas. At REACH Academy Charter School , technology is a vital tool that will be used to foster student engagement through active learning tasks. Teachers will use technology based instructional methods that encourage students to actively engage with curriculum to increase students’ overall academic engagement. The benefits of including technology are many, including; providing students with real-world problem solving opportunities; providing students with experimental methods for reaching a conclusion, and encouraging students to think about and discuss learning activities during and after a lesson. Additionally, REACH Academy Charter School will increase engagement through instructional methods that utilize technology by making use of visual displays (for comparing, constructing, dissecting and analyzing); creating opportunities where students have choices on how they interact with content; allowing for opportunities to collaborate both within the classroom and across classrooms or the world; and by using up-to-date real world news in teaching