Educational Program - Core Beliefs
WHAT IT MEANS TO BE AN EDUCATED PERSON IN THE 21st CENTURY
Darnall Charter School believes that children in the 21st century must become literate and articulate, mathematically competent, and technologically adept. Darnall further believes that all children should have the opportunity to develop their creative and physical abilities, curiosity and love of learning. Darnall recognizes its responsibility to generate enthusiasm and excitement for the lifelong process of learning by providing a curriculum that is relevant, integrated, and age appropriate, and that, at the same time, is aligned to the CCSS. Darnall will authentically meet the needs of today’s student, as well as today’s global economy.
At Darnall, students in K-8 engage in a challenging learning program that is tailored to their individual needs and is focused on equipping them for success in the 21st century. The Darnall curriculum and instructional programs emphasize core subjects in the timeless fundamentals such as reading, writing, mathematics, science, and social studies; learning skills required for lifelong, continuous learning; and communication skills necessary to interact with adults and children of all ages.
Darnall also believes that the individualized and supported personalized learning educational program facilitates the development of self-direction and personal responsibility among its students. In these ways, Darnall will meet the objective of producing students who are self-motivated, competent, lifelong learners.
HOW LEARNING BEST OCCURS
Darnall Charter School believes that children learn best in a safe, positive environment in which they are respected, accepted, valued, nurtured as unique individuals, and challenged to achieve their full potential. From this, it follows that students learn best when their instruction is tailored to their unique needs and when they are supported by adults who are committed to their success.
Studies also show that learning best occurs when parents actively participate in the educational program. When parents are knowledgeable and informed by the Charter School about academic and behavioral expectations, they are able to help their children and also be a part of the Charter School experience. This adds to the team and builds a strong supportive network. Building a strong community of learners, teachers, students and parents will help to move students to excellence.
Darnall Charter School is embracing 21st Century learning and teaching, and the CCSS. Our core beliefs are consistent with the eight priorities set forth by the State Board of Education and the foundation of our educational philosophy. The core beliefs that follow reflect 21st Century learning, the implementation of the CCSS, and the refined use of data to monitor student progress in order to promote the academic achievement of all students.
Core Belief: High quality instruction based on standards
We have committed time and resources to understanding and implementing the CCSS. We understand that in addition to changes in instructional materials, the CCSS have profound implications for instructional practice. In response, we have implemented Professional Development focused on supporting teachers in making necessary changes in their use of materials and their instructional practice (State Priority 2). In 2012-13 we adopted core curriculum for Reading Language Arts (RLA) with English Language Development (ELD) K-6 and Spanish Language Arts (SLA), K-2 for our biliteracy classes. With the addition of 7th and 8th grades, we adopted the companion curriculum to provide K-8 vertical alignment (State Priority 1).
This curriculum was selected after a rigorous review process by a team comprised of the Instructional Leader and Grade Level Representatives. The core RLA/ELD curriculum is state approved; however, it only references the CCSS rather than being based on the CCSS. We are diligently working to supplement the adopted materials and raise the level of rigor through teacher preparation. Our mathematics curriculum, newly adopted in 2012-13 in grades 6-7, and 2013-14 in grade 8, is based on CCSS. We anticipate acquiring CCSS based mathematics curriculum K-5 during our next adoption cycle. In 2013-14 we will enroll a cohort group of 7th and 8th grade students in web-based Algebra I classes to prepare them for high school A-G coursework.
Core Belief: High expectations for academic achievement
Our students, who are predominantly English learners (ELs) and children of families of low socioeconomic status, represent a population that is generally underserved in education. Darnall Charter School will consistently implement researched-based instructional practices to meet the needs of all students including, but not limited to:
- Individualized instruction
- Small group instruction
- Targeted ELD
- Techniques from Teach Like a Champion
- Integration of technology tools for teaching and learning
In addition, we will educate our families about the transition to the CCSS and the more rigorous expectations placed on students. In the future, we hope to increase parent participation and engage our families in their children’s education through workshops, informational meetings, and membership in school decision-making committees (State Priority 3). We will implement core replacement curriculum designed to accelerate student achievement as needed and use researched-based instructional practices proven to meet the needs of our diverse and unique population
Core Belief: Personalized learning opportunities to meet the unique needs of each student
Darnall Charter School believes that the best way to develop a child’s potential is by knowing the strengths and challenges of each child. We believe that through thoughtful planning and responsive teaching we can adapt learning opportunities to support each child’s realization of his or her potential. Darnall teachers will continue to develop expertise in the use of formative assessment, differentiated instruction, and technology to support responsive teaching and individualized learning. We know that personalized learning is a lofty goal. However, this goal is made more attainable with the increasing integration of technology tools. We continue to maintain a robust technology plan with the goal of one to one learning. Through the systematic implementation of our technology plan, we have a high ratio of student devices.
Core Belief: Students’ critical and creative thinking will be actively engaged and developed
All students, including ELs and students with special needs will be enrolled in a broad course of study in core curricula (Education Code 51210 and 51220(a)-(i); State Priority 7). To the fullest extent possible, curricula will be integrated within units providing rich and relevant learning experiences that inter-relate the language arts, mathematics, sciences, history, technical subjects, physical education, art, and music. Learning will be problem-based and relevant to promote critical thinking skills and creative solutions. Teachers will create learning opportunities that foster student interaction and facilitate student discourse to engage students, thereby encouraging and developing collaboration and the ability to understand other perspectives.
Core Belief: Decisions informed by data
Darnall Charter School begins using data upon enrollment through universal screening and a systematic intake process. We screen incoming Kindergarten students for readiness skills, and speech and language. The intake process allows parents of new students to share information about their child that is relevant to his or her education, social, and emotional growth. When appropriate, diagnostic assessments for core replacement classes and the PST are administered to students. We will continue to develop our capacity to make decisions based on reliable and valid data at both the student and school level. For example, we currently use PST results to determine individual student strengths and identify learning needs. These same data allow us to monitor the progress of subgroups of students as well. We will utilize our student information system to more efficiently store relevant data that can be easily retrieved and used for planning.
Core Belief: A safe and caring learning environment
We support the development of socially responsible and productive citizens through RtI2 and, in 2013-14, implemented a Positive Behavior Intervention and Support system (PBIS) to ensure a school climate that fosters learning through proactive and consistent expectations for students and staff alike (State Priority 6). Our overarching expectations are described in our school motto:
This simple creed provides the foundation for an orderly campus and classrooms focused on learning and teaching. Data are collected on student referrals for conduct infractions and suspensions are reviewed regularly to determine the effectiveness of PBIS.