K-12 Tuition Free Public School
"The principal goal of education in the schools should be creating men and women who are capable of doing new things, not simply repeating what other generations have done; men and women who are creative, inventive, and discoverers, who can be critical and verify, not accept every thing they are offered." - Jean Piaget
WHAT IS A CHARTER SCHOOL?
Charter schools are overseen by the local
school district or county but are free to govern themselves and create
their own educational program. Charter schools are public schools
operated independently of the local school board, often with a
curriculum and educational philosophy different from the other schools
in the system. They are tuition-free, non-religious, and are mandated to
teach all. Any member of the public is invited to
attend a charter school. If more students want to attend than can be
accommodated, a random lottery will determine the order of the waiting
list. By law, lotteries dictate admissions from the waiting list.
Charter schools create new professional opportunities for teachers,
provide parents and pupils expanded choices in the types of educational
opportunities available through the public school system, and encourage
the use of different and state-of-the-art teaching methods. Charter
schools are held to higher standards for student achievement, and unlike
a traditional public school, a charter school not meeting these high
standards will not last. Therefore, there is a communal motivation
within charter schools to reach and maintain their goals.
WHAT'S SPECIAL ABOUT SCVi?
The population of the city of Santa Clarita has grown by 50,000 residents in the past ten years. The Santa Clarita Valley has a growing spectrum of ethnicity as well as cultural and linguistic heritages. However, there is no school in this geographical area that offers a program particularly designed to prepare school-aged children and adolescents in grades K-12 to become compassionate world citizens. For this reason, we propose a K-12 charter for the Santa Clarita Valley to fill this educational need. We are a group of parents and educators forming another classroom-based option for schooling in Santa Clarita, California. Recognizing that one size does not fit all for our children, we offer another choice.
Founded in the research of some of the greatest educational theorists, such as Vygostky, Freire and Piaget, we are forming a constructivist philosophy school with portfolio-based assessment. We will introduce foreign language, exchange students and teachers, the arts, advisory programs, and physical education as part of the regular curriculum. SCVi launched in the fall of 2008.
The school offers project-based K-12 curriculum and student-led assessment with global and culturally diverse influences. Through an inquiry-based approach to education, the students at the school "learn to learn." Modeled after successful schools such as International School of Monterey, Guajome Park Academy, and Bill Gates' High Tech High, we have a learner-centered approach using facilitators. The primary goal of our school is to help learners lead a successful and fulfilled life while contributing to the world around them.
In project-based learning, students work in groups to solve challenging problems that are authentic, curriculum-based, and often interdisciplinary. Learners decide how to approach a problem and what activities to pursue. They gather information from a variety of sources and synthesize, analyze, and derive knowledge from it. Their learning is inherently valuable because it's connected to something real and involves adult skills, such as collaboration and reflection. At the end, students demonstrate their newly acquired knowledge and are evaluated by how much they've learned and how well they communicate it. Throughout this process, the facilitator's role is to guide and advise, rather than to direct and manage, student work.
PBL means learning through experiences. For example, high school students design a school for the future and learn advanced math concepts and engineering along the way. Elementary students study single-cell organisms in order to provide data to researchers in a lab. Others build and race electric cars and learn about energy efficiency. Many projects focus on environmental concerns, such as testing pollution levels in local waters and researching methods for cleanup and then reporting findings and strategies for improvement to community officials. What do these projects have in common? All engage students through hands-on, serious, authentic experiences. They also allow for alternative approaches that address students' individual differences, variations in learning styles, intelligences, abilities, and disabilities.
Students in the 21st century are faced with the challenge of learning in an increasingly interdependent world where knowledge is constantly developing and evolving. Rigorous curriculum on global connectivity will give students a sense of belonging in the changing world and prepare students to fit in the global marketplace upon graduation and post- college. Exploring the world’s cultures will give students a positive attitude toward learning and greater understanding of diverse cultures, both in the U.S. and abroad.
STUDENT-LED CONFERENCES AND ILPs
The portfolio-based student-led conferences help ensure that learners are accountable to their families, their teachers, and the school community as a whole. In addition, the experience creates a powerful incentive for learners to develop their skills, through the communication of high expectations, public display of meaningful work, and opportunities to showcase talents in modalities that best suit students’ distinct learning styles.
Individualized learning plans (ILPs) are implemented for all students. Each year, students and teachers will create ILPs to guide instruction. Each student, along with his/her family and teacher, will work together to monitor the ILP and make adjustments as needed. The primary goal of the ILP is to ensure that each child will be treated as an individual and therefore will be working toward attainable goals appropriate to his/her individual development.
When students’ Individualized Learning Plans are created and at the start of major learning activities, students will review learning outcomes and set individual goals. They will learn to evaluate their progress toward those outcomes, starting at a basic level when they are younger and improving their ability to self-assess over time. At least twice each school year, each student will meet with his/her advisor and parent to look critically at what s/he has accomplished, examining a portfolio that showcases what s/he has learned throughout the school year. The student will help lead a discussion of his/her strengths and areas of growth (advisors will coach students through this process and practice with students while they are learning how to help lead and ultimately to direct these discussions). The group will work together to develop goals and strategies to overcome challenges.
Multiage classroom environments with two or more grades allow students the flexibility to progress at their own pace along a continuum of learning.
Research supports educational environments with two or more grades that allow students the flexibility to progress at their own pace along a continuum of learning. Multi-year relationships between teacher and student provide for deeper knowledge to guide instructional decisions and familiarity with the social-emotional health of a student (Anderson and Pavan, 1993). Classrooms may be a mix of two grades to allow students to progress and to be grouped with others, rather than to be limited by age-based groupings.
Excerpt from The Leader in Me: How Schools and Parents Around the World are Inspiring Greatness, One Child at a Time, by Stephen Covey, November 2008, also author of the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People:
"Until recently, we were living in an era known as the information age. In that era, individuals who had the most information—the most 'facts' in their heads—were the ones who became the fortunate few to the ascend to the tops of their professions. During that era, it only made sense that the primary focus of parents and schools was on pumping as many facts into the student’s brain cells as possible—assuming they were the right facts for the right tests. After all, 'facts in the head' is what allowed students to score high on the right 'fact-based' tests, which got them into the best 'fact-based' universities, and that in turn set them up for an accelerated climb up the right 'fact-based' career ladder.
"But that era is now being transcended as the global economy has entered another phase of speed and complexity. While factual information remains a key factor for survival in today’s world, it is no longer sufficient. With the massive spread of the internet and other digital resources, facts that at one time were closely guarded trade secrets and only available from the top universities, can now be accessed in most every nook and cranny on the globe at the click of a mouse or on a smart phone. As a result, many of the so-called elite professions that once required extensive schooling are today being passed on to computers or to people at far lower education levels and wages across the planet. Factual knowledge alone is thus no longer the great differentiator between those who succeed and those who do not.
"Instead, the individuals who are emerging as the new 'winners'—the new thrivers—of the twenty-first century are those who possess above average creativity, strong analytical skills, a knack for foresight and surprise, surprise—good people skills. As Daniel Pink and others are asserting, it is the right-brainers who are taking over the present economy. They are the inventors, the designers, the listeners, the big picture thinkers, the meaning makers, and the pattern recognizers—those who know how to optimize and creatively maneuver the facts, not just memorize or regurgitate them. All this they do while knowing how to effectively team with others. And in case you have not noticed, people with such talents are popping up on every continent, even in remote villages. As Larry Sullivan, former Superintendent of the schools for the Texarkana (Texas) Independent School District, points out, 'Today’s students are no longer merely competent with students in neighboring towns, states, or provinces, they are competing with students in China, India, Japan, Europe, South America, Madagascar, and every island and continent in between.'"
Research shows that when learners feel connected to their school, they do better academically. One of the ways we achieve this is through our advisory program, where we dig deep into the world around us. The advisory program will be morning meetings for lower grades and daily seminars for upper grades. In a small group setting, we explore the causes and effects of cultural, personal, and community events. Groups of learners and facilitators stay together for two years so relationships can be nurtured and developed over time. Additionally, in as many academic subjects as possible, there are mixed-grade classes to support learning at each learner’s level and to encourage unity and collaboration. We plan to do yearly retreats, both for faculty and learners, to foster team-building and collaboration within our school community. The school serves the students of the quickly growing Santa Clarita Valley who are looking for innovative choices in education.