ACPA’s Program of Instruction is a hybrid of the teaching and curriculum-creating experiences of its founders. These include a research-base of well-established programs such as Understanding by Design, the Rigor/Relevance/Relationship model, Differentiated Instruction and Reading Apprenticeship, voracious reading in diverse fields, attendance at conferences including Model Schools and Reaching At Promise Students, teacher action research reflected in scholarly papers and a commitment to take theory-to-practice.
ACPA’s Curricular Framework begins with the careful alignment and purposeful embedding of Common Core Standards into all levels of teaching and learning experiences. ACPA will also incorporate the guiding framework of the CollegeBoard Springboard for College Success that is aligned to Common Core Standards into teaching and learning experiences. The Common Core Standards meld easily with the concept of Differentiated Instruction, allowing educators to infuse rigor and relevance into the curriculum through personalization and student choice within the context of carefully monitored ongoing assessment. ACPA believes the Common Core Standards provide the “what” while the curriculum provides the “how” of the teaching and learning engagements.
ACPA’s Collaborative Seminar-Based Approach
ACPA’s Collaborative Seminar-Based Approach is designed to facilitate opportunities for teachers to craft interdisciplinary lessons. As no content stands on its own and knowledge, learning and understanding cannot be divided into neat little boxes called subjects, ACPA believes interdisciplinary connections create relevance, interest, meaning, capture instructional time and continuously reinforce standards, most specifically reading, writing and mathematics across the content areas. As such, Seminars will be created for Math and Science and for English and History. These Seminars will jointly create “big questions” around which to organize their classes. Teachers and students will actively seek connections and tensions between subjects, content, classes and times. These Seminars will embed Common Core Standards throughout instruction. For example, an English/History Seminar may require a research paper which asks students to conduct research in a variety of sources and mediums, craft a clear, concise thesis statement, provide adequate support and analysis to that thesis and present their paper at a student colloquium. Another example in a Math/Science Seminar may require students to identify an environmental issue in the world today, research that issue, write and film a public service announcement educating others about the issue and how they can work to fix it in their own lives. Projects and presentations such as these will be shared with other students, families and the Tucson community each semester at a Seminar Fair. These projects create opportunities for students to apply the discrete skills they are learning and mastering, while creating connections and deeper learning.
ACPA recognizes that students need to make connections between their learning, their lives and the community in which they live.
ACPA recognizes that students need to make connections between their learning, their lives and the community in which they live. As such, students will participate in community service projects each semester as well as interact with the Tucson community. Students will be encouraged to find organizations and agencies working on issues they care about to volunteer or bring into the school community to inform others of their work. In addition, students will participate in exploratory activities off-campus that are relevant to each Seminar.
ACPA recognizes that students at different developmental and academic levels require different types of support.
ACPA recognizes that students at different developmental and academic levels require different types of support. Drawing on the work of the International Center for Leadership in Education, the curriculum at ACPA is supported by a deep understanding of the specific needs of particular cohort classes. A significant focus is placed upon assisting 9th grade students to transition successfully to high school. This will include student and family visits to the school while in 8th grade to observe students, teachers and classes in action. Preparing students for AIMS and PSAT testing is a focus for 10th grade students. ACPA will insure 11th grade students are well prepared for the process of applying to college and taking the PSAT, SAT and AP exams. The focus for 12th grade students is to graduate, apply to college, acquire adequate financial aid and transition to college successfully. Additionally, ACPA will facilitate experiences for 9th and 10th grade students on college campuses including tours, utilizing libraries, attending lectures and taking advantage of other resources on campus. Opportunities for 11th and 12th grade students to participate in the Dual Enrollment program at Pima Community College and Advanced Placement courses authorized by the CollegeBoard will be offered. Together, these along with other activities, create a college-going culture from the first introduction to ACPA throughout the student’s high school career. This is accomplished through multiple layers of support including annual individual summer meetings with each student and his or hers parent to craft a personal plan of action for that particular year, the assignment of a teacher as an advisor to pay attention to individual students and their progress as well as report to parents on a quarterly basis in addition to written progress and report cards.
ACPA creates a structure of academic support and intervention that is provided to all students with the intention of preventing failure before it occurs and building upon student strengths and successes.
ACPA creates a structure of academic support and intervention that is provided to all students with the intention of preventing failure before it occurs and building upon student strengths and successes.Far too often, schools intervene with academic support only after failure has occurred. The ACPA Faculty and Administration will carefully monitor and report the progress of students in class, in skill acquisition, in college readiness and achievement. The CEO will review progress reports and report cards at least quarterly. The teachers and advisor will communicate on a monthly basis and parent contact will be made. At school, the academic support and interventions offered will be personalized for each student and individual scenario. These can include, but are not limited to peer tutoring, one-on-one tutoring with a teacher, additional practice, offering alternative resources and use of technology.
ACPA will comply with all school, state and federal regulations and requirements regarding special education and ELL in spirit and to the letter of the law.
ACPA will comply with all school, state and federal regulations and requirements regarding special education and ELL in spirit and to the letter of the law. To that end, all faculty members, working under the direction of the Special Education Director, Special Education teacher and CEO participate in the necessary training, consultation, meetings, serving Individual Education Plans, 504 plans and Individual Language Learner Plans. The Special Education Director and Teacher insure screenings, timelines, meetings and evaluations are conducted in an timely and appropriate fashion. All students at ACPA, including those with identified Special Needs benefit from the learning environment, small class sizes and the focus on differentiation and personalization.
ACPA’s Course of Study
ACPA’s Course of Study is designed to allow students to be placed in classes according to their skill level rather than their cohort class. Placements are determined by reviewing records, meeting with students and families, pen and paper assessments and other formal and informal measures. Additionally, courses are aligned vertically and horizontally to insure smooth transitions between courses and years. For instance, a teacher of 9th grade level Western Civilizations integrates Common Core Standards in reading, writing and mathematics for 8th, 9th and 10th grade students. This allows for Differentiation as well as understanding the vertical nature of ACPA’s curriculum. At the same time, all teaching faculty are cognizant of the activities and projects being offered in other Seminars students in their classes are likely to take. This horizontal alignment allows for more interdisciplinary connections to be made across the curriculum. This curricular alignment and communication will be facilitated by the Chief Education Officer and Content Area Coordinators. (brain research) ACPA’s Course of Study is further designed to offer continual challenges to students while maintaining appropriate levels of support. In an ideal world, all students would enter high school ready for high school level work. However, as ACPA anticipates a diversity of skill levels among its students, Seminars are designed to offer remediation to those who need it and enrichment and challenge to those who need that. As such, ACPA anticipates offering Seminars at a variety of levels, including Advanced Placement courses in the Core Curricular areas of English, history, math and science. These Advanced Placement courses meet both the Common Core Standards and are approved by the CollegeBoard through the AP Audit process.
ACPA creates and maintains a Professional Learning Community of its teachers, administrators and other stakeholders.
ACPA creates and maintains a Professional Learning Community of its teachers, administrators and other stakeholders. ACPA’s Professional Learning Community (PLC) is united in its vision to collaborate, to inquire continuously, to agree to implement the instructional strategies and engagements within the context of individual sections and Seminars, to improve individual and collective practices as the focus on increasing student achievement, civic engagement and college attendance remains paramount. The Principal and Content Area Coordinators facilitate the PLC using the Professional Learning Community Discourse Practicum Cycle of Teacher Learning tool. The PLC meets regularly throughout the course of the week and during regularly scheduled Faculty In-service throughout the year.
ACPA’s faculty selects instructional strategies and engagements with great care and purpose.
ACPA’s faculty selects instructional strategies and engagements with great care and purpose. The over-arching approach to teaching and learning is that it is a constructive, ever-changing, reciprocal process requiring teachers and students to be aware of themselves and others. Teachers model, generate opportunities for guided practice and eventually release students to independent work. Simultaneously, students move from more dependence on teachers to increasing independence as their skills, confidence and understanding increase. Additionally, the selection of instructional strategies and engagements draws heavily upon the Rigor and Relevance Framework and Bloom’s Revised Taxonomy. At the same time, ACPA supplements these frameworks with Relationships, Reflection and Results. The instructional strategies and engagements are selected from the Yellow Pages (ACPA created teaching guidebook) and have sound theoretical and research bases. These include teacher modeling, metacognitive conversations, direct instruction, collaborative group work, teacher questioning, problem-based learning, using manipulatives, computer-based simulations, peer mentoring and others.
ACPA has created its curricular framework, professional development and selection of instructional strategies and engagements with high-risk, college-bound students in mind.
ACPA has created its curricular framework, professional development and selection of instructional strategies and engagements with high-risk, college-bound students in mind. “The democratic aim of having a broader spectrum of students attain higher levels of academic achievement than at any previous time in US history drives a good deal of educational reformnational tests reveal that although the majority of US students can read at a “basic” level, they cannot read and comprehend the types of higher level texts essential to an individual’s success in an information-based economy…we have come to refer to this as the literacy ceiling – a ceiling that limits what students can hope to achieve in the classroom and in their lives outside of school” (Schoenbach, Greenleaf and Cziko, 1999). As such, the curriculum and engagements are designed to facilitate multiple layers of interdisciplinary instruction, connecting what students do not know with what they do know, creating meaning and understanding across the content areas.
ACPA believes the type of assessment a teacher selects will influence both the student achievement and the availability of data to make sound instructional decisions.
ACPA believes the type of assessment a teacher selects will influence both the student achievement and the availability of data to make sound instructional decisions. To that end, ACPA uses a combination of formal and informal assessments. These include daily formative assessments used to make minute-by-minute instructional decisions within the context of a single class period and throughout a unit of study. When designing such assessments, teachers will ask themselves “What do the students need to know? How will I know that they know it?” The formative assessments will allow teachers to benchmark students. Teachers will also utilize summative assessments when appropriate. The assessments may include pen and paper tests, in-class writing, team-based projects, presentations or exams, problem-solving, teacher questioning or Socratic Seminars. ACPA conducts a Finals Month in December and May. This mimics the experience of Finals in college. In addition to teacher created assessments, ACPA offers Beginning of the Year (baseline) assessments in math, reading and writing which assists in determining student placement. These assessments are administered at the End of Course exams as well to document student progress, determine attendance in the Summer Program and contribute to class placements the following school year. ACPA also draws heavily upon the data available through state-mandated testing such as the Stanford 10 and AIMS. This data is supplemented by information provided by the CollegeBoard once students take the PSAT in 10th and 11th grade. The Principal and Content Coordinators mine this data to assist teachers in making sound decisions regarding curriculum and instruction and to add in a layer of accountability for student achievement.
ACPA believes all students benefit from clear, consistent grading and high expectations.
ACPA believes all students benefit from clear, consistent grading and high expectations. To that end, students earn credit on their transcript toward graduation for earning a minimum of 75% or “C” in each class. Additionally, students scoring less than 85% on any quizzes or tests in their math classes, with the exception of the Final Exam each semester are required to participate in review, re-teaching and re-testing until they reach 85% mastery.
ACPA’s focus on project-based, collaborative learning result in quarterly projects designed by a Seminar teaching team.
ACPA’s focus on project-based, collaborative learning result in quarterly projects designed by a Seminar teaching team. These projects are created to stimulate student inquiry, create connections between content areas, apply skills attained in “real-life” scenarios and provide ample opportunities to demonstrate their learning and understanding. The projects may be product-based, such as creating a tri-fold poster, PowerPoint or Prezi presentation or writing a research paper. The projects may also be performance-based such as participating in student-led debates or colloquiums or performing a dramatic reading of a piece of literature. Students prepare documentation of their projects, reflect upon the projects and incorporate the documentation and reflection into their Student Portfolio. All quarterly projects are approved by the Principal and Content Area Coordinators to insure purposefulness and alignment with the instructional focus and curriculum of ACPA and Common Core Standards.
ACPA maintains small class sizes, a low teacher to student ratio, advisory and mentoring programs to support a rigorous academic program with personalization and small learning communities
ACPA maintains small class sizes, a low teacher to student ratio, advisory and mentoring programs to support a rigorous academic program with personalization and small learning communities. By doing so, ACPA expects to increase student participation, engagement and individualization. In addition, smaller class sizes allow teachers to model and differentiate more effectively while conducting formative assessments to guide instruction frequently.
ACPA creates an environment rich in inquiry, content learning, skill acquisition and meaning-making.
ACPA creates an environment rich in inquiry, content learning, skill acquisition and meaning-making. ACPA helps students develop the ability to analyze, reflect on their own learning, make wise decisions, pose challenging questions embedded in the content and their own interests, question their own and others assumptions, value diverse points of view and engage in creating a stimulating, thought-provoking environment conducive to the learning of all. “When learners fail to see the interconnections and coherence of divergent views, collaborative thinking falters. If each student fixates on his or her own certainties, each perceives the solution to a problem solely from his or her own viewpoint. Such an egocentric view hinders serious reflection and honest inquiry…Collegial interaction is a crucial factor in the intellectual ecology of the school and classroom. Collaboratively, individuals can elicit thinking that surpasses individual effort, but such collaboration is difficult because it means temporarily suspending what I, individually, think. It means relaxing our grip on certainties and opening our minds to new perspectives, abiding by and supporting group decisions that are arrived at through deep, respectful listening and dialogue. Learners must come to understand that as they transcend the self and become part of the whole, they will not lose their individuality, only their egocentricity” (Costa, 2008).
ACPA believes that learning through experience and collaboration within the context of a challenging, rigorous but supportive environment prepares students to be successful in college, in their communities and in life.