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School Design

The School Charter Plan:

4. SCHOOL DESIGN

4.1 School Mission
4.2. Goals and Objectives

4.3. Educational Program

4.4. SVRCS/Pennsylvania State University Partnership

4.5. Extracurricular Activities
4.6. School Accountability

4.7. Student Evaluation

4.8. School Community

4.9. Conflict Resolution
 

Reference: Education Program Outline and Curricula for the SVRCS (Attachment B ) SVRCS Policy Manual (Partial) (Attachment C) SVRCS Development and Support (Attachment D)

 

4.1. School Mission

The mission of the Sugar Valley Rural Charter School is to provide a rural, community-oriented lifelong learning center which both reflects and helps to shape the best of Sugar Valley's social, cultural and educational heritage as embodied in its citizens' knowledge, values and skills. Striving for a continued zero dropout rate; high academic achievements; and 100% post-secondary continuing education, Sugar Valley Rural Charter School extends the conventional K-12 classroom teaching/learning boundaries to include varied educational endeavors, employing multiple mediums, settings and locations to model and promote the practice of lifelong learning.

To accomplish this mission, Sugar Valley Rural Charter School will have:

1. A school atmosphere that encourages school attendance and academic achievement, recognizes the importance of hard work and personal responsibility and holds out high expectations for every student and teacher - while fostering fairness, a respect for others and for the rights and responsibilities of citizenship in a democratic society;

2. Rigorous curricula, with well-defined outcomes in line with state, national and international standards that focus on cumulative acquisition of knowledge and skills in academic and vocational areas;

3. Instruction that provides children the support and challenges they need to master grade-appropriate skills, ideas and facts in every subject area;

4. Integrated formal and informal assessments to confirm student progress, promptly identify situations that require intervention or greater challenge and to guarantee accountability of the school; and

5. Timely and complete communication with parents about their children's progress.

 

4.2. Goals and Objectives

The overall goal of SVRCS will be to establish a community of learners: teachers, students, parents and community who will support and celebrate each other's giftedness, creativity and strengths on a daily basis.

4.2.1. Goals

Academic goals of the Sugar Valley Rural Charter School are to:

· Ensure that all students and parents realize the value of education and the importance of completing formal education;

· Practice standards for excellence which will produce students who are able to demonstrate knowledge, skills and proficiency in academic and non-academic goals;

· Enable students to meet challenges of a rapidly changing society grounded in an awareness of their own societal and cultural roots;

· Maximize the greatest potential of each student in regard to personal and academic achievement;

· Provide integrative, flexible delivery of services which meets the needs of the population served;

· Provide students with course offerings needed to become well-educated, responsible members of their community;

· Provide relevant assessment that supplies information for adaptation and modifications through holistic evaluation; and

· Include the 9 goals of quality education as delineated by the state of Pennsylvania which address attainment of 53 learning outcomes.

Non-academic goals of the Sugar Valley Rural Charter School are to:

· Acknowledge the perspectives and opinions of others; celebrate the uniqueness and diversity inherent in each individual, family and culture; and an awareness of one's own heritage and roots;

Instill the qualities of integrity; civility; friendship; empathy; kindness; supportiveness; and personal, social and civic responsibility;

· Instill the merits of collaboration, cooperation, conflict resolution and consensus decision-making as evidenced by the union of home, school and community; and

· Uphold the highest expectations and standards for staff; interns; volunteers and students; and value and provide the models for truth; justice; freedom; and personal, social and civic responsibility through service.

4.2.2. Objectives

Specific objectives of the educational program at the Sugar Valley Rural Charter School include:

· Students will develop clear and effective written and oral communication skills using standard English;

· Students will acquire a strong foundation in mathematical reasoning, skills and applications;

· Students will learn about the political, economic, cultural, geographic and technological forces which have shaped the history of the world and of the United States;

· Students will acquire knowledge and skills in the sciences and will be able to conduct inquiries using the scientific method;

· Students will develop an informed appreciation of the arts and participate in creative endeavors;

· Students will be able to speak, read and write in a language other than English;

· Students will learn the essentials necessary for a healthy, safe and physically fit life;

· Students will recognize the importance of hard work, personal responsibility and respect for others;

· Students from all demographic groups will perform at comparably high achievement levels;

· Students all have special needs, possess unique talents and abilities and diligent efforts will be made to accommodate all students; and

· Students will be given opportunities to participate in extra curricular activities and community programs.

 

4.3. Educational Program

The educational program of the SVRCS will prepare students for academic success in their further education; will empower students to have a broad spectrum of options available for their future endeavors; and will enable and encourage them to become responsible and productive citizens.

Sugar Valley Rural Charter School will provide students an early and thorough grounding in reading, writing, mathematics, history, science, foreign language and the arts, so as not to foreclose their future choice of academic specialty or professional career. The school will focus on core knowledge and essential skills so that children may achieve the mastery on which further learning will build. The SVRCS education program also includes comprehensive health and physical education. The core SVRCS outcomes meet the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Chapter 5 Content Standards and are defined, in part, by referring to existing national and international standards.

In order to prepare students for the future, SVRCS will foster a range of attitudes and behaviors such as hard work, personal responsibility, constructive engagement in activities, self-discipline to tackle various assignments, a sense of fairness and respect for others.

In the course of their studies, students in SVRCS will be expected to develop and hone the skills necessary to formulate questions and define issues. They will find relevant information using appropriate tools and evaluate it through critical thinking and quantitative analysis. They will solve problems and make decisions based on available information and organize and present their work both orally and in written or graphic form.

Sugar Valley Rural Charter School will strive to lead every student to these accomplishments, which are essential to future success in school and at work, to the responsibilities of citizenship and family and to the satisfaction of a cultivated mind.

Interest in rigorous education crosses all demographic boundaries. Sugar Valley Rural Charter School will seek a diverse student body and offer those students both excellence and equity in education. The school's strong academic program will reduce achievement gaps by eliminating an important cause - the insufficient mastery of basic knowledge and skills required for further academic achievement.

Sugar Valley Rural Charter School will use a variety of teaching methods to ensure mastery of appropriate skills, ideas and knowledge for all students, regardless of race, gender, or family's socioeconomic and educational background. Since knowledge and skills are acquired cumulatively and systematically, it will be essential to detect any learning difficulties early and to intervene before proceeding to the next level. Regular assessments integrated with the curriculum will help to evaluate how well students are learning and to identify those areas that need more support or greater challenge.

Sugar Valley Rural Charter School, aided by active participation of parents, will be responsible to satisfy the educational needs of its students. Beyond its core program, SVRCS will be dedicated to challenging and stimulating every child. A modified program will be provided for those children with diagnosed disabilities which require adjusted teaching strategies or definitions of success, all within the general framework of SVRCS's education goals.

SVRCS has adopted a curriculum model which integrates traditional subject matter and skills with activities appropriate to each child's stage of development and learning modalities. While maintaining the highest academic standards, rigor and expectations, SVRCS embraces an integrated process that places learning, ideas and experimentation in a real life context that requires interdisciplinary thinking and application. The home, school, community and the global community become the frame for these endeavors. SVRCS promotes the reciprocal bonds that tie home, school and community to breach the confines of theoretic learning and expands learning into tangible, hands-on applications that accentuate the rich diversity of local resources.

The lens of the educational program of SVRCS is trained on instilling a sense of belonging which empowers all participants to be valued as stakeholders in education excellence. It is the contention of SVRCS that, based on Maslow's theories, learning takes place best when basic needs to "belong" are met. The community of caring and nurturing partnerships cultivated between home, school and community fulfills this need. Students are not veiled in anonymity, but are known and valued assets within the social context.

SVRCS does not underplay belonging - having a social context - as a powerful requisite for the development of self-esteem and self-confidence. The essential importance of belonging is a precursor to the development of self-esteem and the motivation to pursue education. It is not uncommon for educators to work from the premise that achievement and mastery, rather than belonging, are the primary if not the sole precursors for self-esteem. This inversion of Maslow's hierarchy has dissected needs so that belonging has been transformed from an unconditional need and right of all people into something that is earned. Maslow's hierarchy of needs serves as a potent reminder of how essential it is for people to live and work within the context of community.

Maslow's hierarchy also illustrates that self-actualization implies that every person has abilities that warrant specific development within themselves. In espousing this premise, SVRCS seeks to provide the ability for students to work and concentrate in areas in which they naturally excel. Educational elements are grouped under Intellectual, Social, Personal and Creative components which allow equity in education choices, personal development and appeal to diverse learning needs and modalities. Each component is divided into four cycles with benchmarks which enable students to strive for concrete goals and experience success while achieving high standards in a manner commensurate with individual abilities.

The hallmark of SVRCS is a significant focus on knowledge and skills in conjunction with exploration and experiential learning spun from the richness of community resources. This serves to increase opportunities to maximize the individual potential of every student in all social and cultural settings. In every field of human endeavor, achievement involves experience and, from experience, evolves problem solving skills, inquiry and discovery. To write well, it is necessary to write frequently, for varying purposes, while utilizing the tools and devices of exemplary authors. This is true in all fields of study - exposure and experiences to apply knowledge and skills internalize learning and ensure mastery.

Service is an integral part of the learning experience and community-building of SVRCS. Students are encouraged to participate in school improvement projects and may propose projects of their own. The school will cultivate a number of meaningful community service relationships so that students may experience the satisfaction of contributing beyond the school setting.

SVRCS extends this foundation into school to work programs to enable students to explore and gain experience from almost thirty community businesses, providing a working resource laboratory and learning environment that reiterates the extent of community involvement and commitment and substantiates a sense of belonging for students in a larger context.

Because belonging is an inherent right of being human, belonging and acceptance is not viewed as conditional upon achievement in limited spheres. A casualty of limiting these spheres, and inversion of Maslow's hierarchy, is the exclusion of diversity. To redress this casualty, often manifested in high drop-out rates, SVRCS seeks to personalize interest and cultivate abilities of young people and provide experiences and appropriate expressions of diversity which value all individuals and their right to belong.


4.3.1. Teaching Methods and Pedagogy

At the theoretical level, it is acknowledged that all individuals cannot be profitably arrayed on a single intellectual dimension. At the practical level, it is acknowledged that any uniform educational approach is likely to serve only a minority of children. In its efforts to "personalize education", SVRCS endorses an ensemble of propositions: we are not all the same; we do not all have the same kinds of minds; education works most effectively for most individuals if these differences in mentation and strengths are taken into account rather than denied or ignored. Teaching strategies and pedagogy center on creating a learning environment with the following characteristics: differences among youngsters are taken seriously; knowledge about differences is shared with children and parents; children gradually assume responsibility for their own learning; and materials that are presented in ways that afford each child the maximum opportunity to master those materials and to show others (and themselves) what they have learned and understood.

SVRCS articulates three basic premises which undergird teaching philosophy and practice.

Premise: Young people are powerful learners.

Positive affirmation will enhance students' abilities to develop their own learning style at their own pace, while concurrently supporting and encouraging independent, creative and thoughtful learning

Practice: Young people will be viewed and affirmed as capable, intelligent and powerful learners. As much as possible, young people will be empowered to direct and design their own learning, both individually and in groups.

Premise: Authentic learning excites "perpetual curiosity".

Young people learn best when they are actively involved in meaningful pursuits.

Practice: Learning will be active and "hands-on"; young people will pursue real research and applications in a relevant context as much as possible.

Premise: Maintain a learning community

Learning is solidified and enhanced when many adults, (teachers, parents and community members), model and participate together with young people. All are immersed in the continuing process of growth and learning.

Practice: Learning will be cooperative and interactive. Students, teachers, parents and community members will participate together as learners.

4.3.2. Innovative Tools for Practice

To uphold the premises cited above, creation of a device referred to as HELP (Holistic Educational Learning Plan) will become the tool through which each student will be empowered to direct their own learning; refine their strengths; build weaknesses to a position of strength; define the individual's role in the learning process; and facilitate and expand the role into broader spheres. This plan will be developed upon entrance to SVRCS, contain input from the individual, parents/care givers, teachers/staff and, will be revised regularly. The plan will include, but not be limited to, student generated learning goals, interest areas, steps/objectives to achieve stated goals, input and facilitating roles of adults involved and, as appropriate, career/post-graduate aspirations and direction to bring aspirations and goals to fruition.

The HELP document will become a part of the portfolio and be used as a tool to assess learning growth and development as thoughtful practitioners. Students are challenged to utilize, refine and enhance skills and resources for cumulative growth. Documentation of MASH participation and projects will also become part of the portfolio and be used to determine progress and development of non-academic goals.

HELP component - To exemplify the premises that students can monitor and direct their own learning and thought processes and to perpetuate the natural curiosity of young people, a model to be named KWL + 1 (What I know, what I need to know, what I have learned and how is this learning applicable and valuable), will be incorporated into the HELP document to aid in personal assessment and evaluation of thinking and learning processes.

Many Active School Helpers (MASH) - MASH will be the tool through which a learning community will be built, supported by students, teachers, parents and community members. Through cooperative, interactive participation as learners together, MASH becomes the device which solidifies non-academic and academic goals which encourage responsibility and cooperation building through school and community projects.

In addition to the more personalized HELP component and the community-building aspects of MASH, a feature of the SVRCS program that distinguishes it from most public schools is that early intervention is provided so that children do not experience frustration and fall irremediably behind. Numerous tools for practice are used to promote achievement for all students:

1. Staff tutoring - During daily half hour periods, students may receive tutoring from the staff. The use of tutoring is designed to enhance support or enrichment for every student. All students benefit from this kind of one-on-one instruction.

2. Peer tutoring - An integral part of the program at SVRCS is encouraging students to participate fully in the learning environment. Students' learning is enhanced when they themselves teach others. Older students will lend learning support to peers and younger students as determined by the staff.

3. Block Scheduling - SVRCS will implement a block scheduling format to reduce fragmentation of learning and to extend opportunities to "absorb" the interdisciplinary nature of learning. Block scheduling maximizes instructional time and reduces non-productive time devoted to moving from class to class. This scheduling format will reduce disruptions which can occur in the school environment.

4. Flex schedule adjustments - The school views all content areas as important, but success in communication skills and mathematics is especially vital, particularly for younger students to ensure successful progression. If a daily tutoring session proves inadequate, the staff, in consultation with parents, may adjust the student's academic schedule to afford additional instructional time. This accommodation may be made for students who require additional support or enrichment. An appropriately modified program is provided for any student with an individual educational plan or HELP which requires it.

5. Flexible and Mobile groupings - When appropriate, the teacher may use either achievement level or special interest groupings as a tool to ensure that all students receive appropriate and stimulating instruction and experiences.

6. The staff establishes public milestones to punctuate a student's progress and to give students and the community an opportunity to celebrate achievement. Milestones are not competitive. These milestones represent those goals that student, teacher and parent have set for the student which have been successfully met. These milestones may stem from creative endeavors (e.g., art, or musical or dramatic performances) of from the presentation of reports; science projects, research or original stories and poems.

7. Active breaks are incorporated into the schedule to allow students to release energy, socialize and exercise to increase attentiveness during instructional time.

8. The curriculum minimizes fragmentation of disciplines into independent and unrelated units. The emphasis is to explore, experience and apply multi-discipline learning to enhance further learning and discovery.

9. Assessment is integrated with curriculum to identify students for whom additional support or challenges may be appropriate. Assessment is also used to evaluate the effectiveness of different teaching methods and curriculum materials.

4.3.3. Mathematics Curriculum Overview (K-12)

The learning expectations for mathematics identify academic content for essential components of the mathematics curriculum at different levels (cycles). Standards (expectations) are identified for each cycle (level) and throughout a student's schooling, specific content strands or topics are included. These content strands are Number and Number Sense; and Computation and Estimation; Measurement; Geometry; Probability and Statistics; and Patterns, Functions and Algebra. The expectations (standards) for each strand progress in complexity at each level (cycle) and throughout other courses of study.

The standards of learning (expectations) are not intended to encompass the entire curriculum for a given level (cycle) or course or to prescribe how the content should be taught. Teachers are encouraged to go beyond the standards and to select instructional strategies and assessment methods appropriate for their students. Students are also encouraged to stretch their mathematical prowess.

GOALS

Students today require stronger mathematical knowledge and skills to pursue higher education; to compete in a technologically oriented workforce; and to be informed citizens. Students must gain an understanding of fundamental ideas in arithmetic; measurement; geometry; probability; data analysis and statistics; and algebra and functions, and must develop proficiency in mathematical skills. In addition, students must learn to use a variety of methods and tools to compute, including paper and pencil, mental arithmetic, estimation and calculators. Graphing utilities, spreadsheets, calculators, computers and other forms of electronic information technology are now standard tools for mathematical problem solving in science, engineering, business and industry, government and practical affairs. It is imperative that the use of technology must be an integral part of teaching and learning. However, the use of technology shall not be regarded as a substitute for a student's understanding of quantitative concepts and relationships or for proficiency in basic computations.

The content of the mathematics standards (expectations) is intended to support the following four goals for students:

1. Become mathematical problem solvers;

2. Communicate mathematically;

3. Reason mathematically; and

4. Make mathematical connections

Problem Solving

Students will apply mathematical concepts and skills and the relationships among them to solve problem situations of varying complexities. Students also will recognize and create problems from real-life data and situations within and outside mathematics and then apply appropriate strategies to find an acceptable solution. To accomplish this goal, students will need to develop a repertoire of skills and strategies for solving a variety of problem types. A major goal of the mathematics program is to help become competent mathematical problem solvers.

Mathematical Communication

Students will use the language of mathematics, including specialized vocabulary and symbols, to represent and describe mathematical ideas, generalizations and relationships. Representing, discussing, reading, writing and listening to mathematics will help students to clarify their thinking and deepen their understanding of the mathematics being studied.

Mathematical Reasoning

Students will learn and apply inductive and deductive reasoning skills to make, test and evaluate mathematical statements and to justify steps in mathematical procedures. Students will use logical reasoning to analyze and argument and to determine whether conclusions are valid. In addition, students will learn to apply proportional and spatial reasoning from graphs.

Mathematical Connections

Students will relate concepts and procedures from different topics in mathematics to one another, using a variety of representations - graphical, numerical, algebraic, verbal and physical. Through the application of content, students will make connections between different areas of mathematics and between mathematics and other disciplines, especially science.

4.3.4. Science Curriculum Overview (K-12)

GOALS

The purposes of scientific investigation and discovery are to satisfy humankind's quest for knowledge and understanding and to preserve and enhance the quality of the human experience. As a result of science instruction, students will be able to:

1. Develop and use an experimental design in scientific inquiry

2. Use the language of science to communicate understanding

3. Investigate phenomena using technology

4. Apply scientific concepts, skills and processes to everyday experiences

5. Experience the richness and excitement of scientific discovery of the natural world through the historical and collaborative quest for knowledge and understanding

6. Make informed decisions regarding contemporary issues taking into account the following:

· public policy and legislation;
· economic costs/benefits;
· validation from scientific data and the use of scientific reasoning and logic;
· respect for living things
· personal responsibility; and
· history of scientific discovery

7. Develop scientific dispositions and habits of mind including:

· curiosity;
· demand for verification;
· respect for logic and rational thinking;
· consideration of premises and consequences;
· respect for historical contributions;
· attention to accuracy and precision; and
· patience and persistence.

SVRCS instructors may consider altering the sequence of sciences taught and may embed environmental issues and stewardship, as appropriate, provided students are progressing toward achievement of the standards for learning. Many of the learning expectations for the Health/Medical learning outcomes are nested within the science curriculum.

Level I (K-3) Primary

Introductions to life, physical, earth sciences, scientific thinking and environmental stewardship.

Level II (4-6) Intermediate

Scientific methods and investigation, life, physical, earth sciences, chemistry, biological processes, earth/space sciences and environmental stewardship.

Level III (7-9) Middle

· Life sciences
· Physical sciences
· Earth sciences
· Environmental Stewardship

Level IV (10-12) High

· Biology
· Chemistry
· Physics

4.3.5. Social Sciences Curriculum Overview (K-12)

GOALS

The study of history and the social sciences is vital in a democratic society. All students need to know and understand our national heritage in order to become informed participants in shaping our nation's future. The History and Social Science Standards of Learning are designed to :

1. Develop the knowledge and skills of history, geography, civics and economics that enable students to place the people, ideas and events that have shaped our state and our nation in perspective;

2. Enable students to understand the basic values, principles and operations of American constitutional democracy;

3. Prepare students for informed and responsible citizenship; develop students' skills in debate, discussion and writing; and

4. Provide students with a framework for continuing education in history and the social sciences..

History

History should be the integrative core of the social sciences curriculum, in which both the humanities (such as art and literature) and the social sciences (political science, economics and geography ) come to life. Through the study of history, students can better understand their own society as well as others. By better understanding the relationship between past and present, students will be better equipped to deal with the problems that might arise in the future. Students will understand chronological thinking, the connection between causes and effects and between continuity and change. History enables students to see how people in other times and places have grappled with the fundamental questions of truth, justice and personal responsibility; to understand that ideas have real consequences; and to realize that events are shaped both by ideas and the actions of individuals.

Geography

The goal of geography instruction is to provide an understanding of the human and physical characteristics of the earth's places and regions, how people of different cultural backgrounds interact with their environment and how the United States and the student's home community are affected by conditions and events in distant places. Geographic themes include location, place, human environment, movement and region. Geographic skills include the ability to use maps, globes and aerial imagery; to interpret graphs, tables, diagrams and pictures; to observe and record information; and to assess information from various sources.

Civics

The goal of civics instruction is to develop in all students the requisite knowledge and skills for informed, responsible participation in public life. Civics instruction should provide regular opportunities at each level for students to develop a basic understanding of politics and government and to practice the skills of good citizenship. Students should develop an understanding of the values and principles of American constitutional democracy. They should be aware of their rights; be willing to fulfill their responsibilities; be able to obtain, understand and evaluate information relating to the performance of public officials; and be willing to hold those officials accountable.

Economics

The United States is recognized as a leader among the nations of the world in large part because of its economic strength. In order to maintain that strength, American citizens must understand the basic economic principles that underlie the market economy. It is necessary to understand how our own economic system works, as well as how other systems work. It is also necessary to learn to make wise economic decisions about their own lives and become diligent consumers, employers and workers. A solid grounding in economics will help students prepare for the global marketplace.

Organizational Framework

Achievement of the History and Social Science Standards will be enhanced by close coordination with the Communications curriculum. The Communication standards require that a high percentage of required reading relate to topics studied in history and the social sciences.

SVRCS believes that these standards can best be achieved in a curriculum organized along the lines of the framework outlined below. It is recognized, however, that SVRCS instructors may wish to adopt a different organizational framework as long as students are able to make progress toward achieving the standards.

Level I (K-3) Primary

Introduction to History and the Social Sciences

Level II (4-6) Intermediate

· Pennsylvania studies: from founding to present
· United States History to 1877
· United States History: 1877 to present

Level III (7-9) Middle

· Civics and Economics
· World History to 1000 A. D.
· World History: 1000 A. D. to Present

Level IV (10-12) High

· World Geography
· United States History
· United States History and Pennsylvania Government

4.3.6. Communications Curriculum Overview (K-12)

GOALS

The goals of communication education are to prepare students to participate in society as literate citizens, equipped with the ability to communicate effectively in their communities, in the work place and in postsecondary education. As students progress through the school years, they will become active and involved listeners and will develop a full command of the English language, evidenced by their use of rich speaking and writing vocabularies.

Students will become familiar with exemplary authors and literary works through a sustained and structured study of literature. Students will read selections which encompass all literary types and exemplify universal themes; that transcend time and place; and encourage students to acquire a lifelong love of reading. A significant percentage of readings at each level will be literary classics, that is, poems, stories, essays, plays and books that have withstood the test of time. Proficient use of the English language will enable students to explore and articulate the complex issues and ideas encountered in public and personal life. Students will acquire the ability to make full and effective use of the written language in their future educational, occupational and personal endeavors.

Organization

Standards for each level are organized in four related strands: oral language, reading/literature, writing and research. Each level is preceded by an overview that describes the major concepts and skills that each student will be expected to understand and demonstrate. The standards reflect a balanced instructional program and document a progression of expected achievement in each of the four strands. Communications standards are organized by level because schools are typically organized by levels. This organization of standards also reflects the gradual progression in the development of skills.

Oral language includes speaking and listening. In the early levels, students will learn to participate in classroom discussion. Over the course of several levels, students will learn to prepare and deliver presentations and to critique them in order to improve delivery. Daily speaking opportunities, both formal and informal, should be a part of every communications program.

Reading begins with an awareness of the concepts of print and the sounds and structure of language. Students acquire a strong foundation in phonetic principles in the primary level. Students will use independent reading strategies to read fluently and with comprehension. Students study the structure of words and language throughout all levels. Frequent interaction with a broad array of quality literature will engage the reading skills of students and invite them to develop an appreciation for the power and beauty of the written word.

Writing begins with letter formation. Students become increasingly aware of the structure of language and improve written communication through frequent opportunities to apply narrative, persuasive, expository and creative skills. Daily reading, writing and oral language experiences are essential for all students. A combination of teacher-guided reading experiences and student reading choices is necessary in helping students develop a lifelong reading habit and an appreciation for literature. Developing this appreciation is a process that should be emphasized at every level and throughout each discipline.

Research standards also are developed across levels. Through these standards, students will learn to acquire information from a variety of sources. Information may be used in planning and delivering presentations and reports in any content area.

Although the strands are developed separately, they are integrated in the classroom. Students use speaking and listening as they read and write. Students use reading, writing, speaking and listening as they work on research projects. The communication strands also are critical if students are to be successful in learning other subjects. Students research topics in history and social science, write summaries of science experiments and explain mathematical problem-solving strategies. Use and practice of effective communications skills reside in every facet of school life.

Proficiency in reading, writing, listening, speaking and research skills allows students to learn and use knowledge to make meaningful connections between their lives and academic disciplines. There should be concerted effort to relate required reading selections in literature to studies in other core subjects, including math, science and, especially, history and social science. Standards that incorporate rigor in communications will help students develop the expected performance competencies.

4.3.7. Special Needs

At SVRCS, inclusive classrooms start with a philosophy that all children can learn and belong in the mainstream of school and community life. Diversity is valued; it is believed that diversity strengthens the class and offers all its members greater opportunities for learning. SVRCS upholds the conviction that every child has special needs and that every child possesses giftedness and unique talents and abilities.

It will be the obligation of every adult (parents, staff and community members) to ensure that the unique and special needs of each student are met. To accomplish this, an individual Holistic Education Learning Plan (HELP) will be developed for each student. The student, teacher and parent will be involved in the development of this plan. Progress toward goals will be assessed at Parent/Teacher Conferences. These meetings will occur at a minimum of three times yearly. Students will participate in these meetings as deemed appropriate, along with any other SVRCS staff or advisors they or their parents may request.

SVRCS will use a variety of teaching methods to ensure mastery of appropriate skills, ideas and knowledge for all students. However, it is essential to detect marked learning variances to identify areas that require more support or greater challenge. Regular assessments, integrated with the curriculum, will help determine how students are learning.

SVRCS is dedicated to challenging and stimulating every child. A modified program. including flex time opportunities, will be provided for those children with diagnosed disabilities or demonstrated need for greater challenges. The program will utilize adjusted teaching strategies or definitions of success within the framework of stated education goals.

Adherence to all federal and state regulations governing special education benefits the quality of education received by students at SVRCS. All staff will be made aware of resources available within the scope of the school and community to provide services and support for students with special needs. Any necessary accommodations will be made. Certified special education teachers will ensure that all legal mandates are met. Each teacher will be responsible for facilitating every effort to fully integrate students into the life of the classroom and the school. Children who enter SVRCS with IEPs in place will receive adaptations and services articulated in the document at the time of receipt. Parents and teachers will reserve the rights to review and request appropriate changes to meet needs and goals within the new setting.

When proper arrangements are present, inclusion works for all students with and without special needs in terms of mutually held positive attitudes; gains in academic and social skills; and preparation for living in the community. A fundamental purpose of education is to facilitate and assist the learning and adjustment of all students; and a part of this process is to value diversity and welcome the differences among all people.

 

4.4. SVRCS/Pennsylvania State University Partnership

A cornerstone, upon which the educational program at the school will be built, is a partnership to be established between the SVRCS and the College of Education at the Pennsylvania State University. The direct connection between PSU and the SVRCS will be through the presence of Dr. J. Dan Marshall, Associate Professor of Education in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction. Dr. Marshall has the complete support of his Department Head to help develop and implement professional ties with SVRCS.

The College of Education at PSU sustains a serious commitment to a variety of programs and efforts which have as their key feature the linking of university faculty and resources with students and educators in schools and communities throughout the Commonwealth. Many of these partnership efforts can be found within the Department of Curriculum and Instruction, where the majority of the college's future teachers are prepared and where faculty work to enhance the professional and technical backgrounds of veteran educators through graduate course work.

It is anticipated that the partnership with PSU will develop in depth, breadth and variety as the SVRCS develops its own strong identity. There are several ways in which this partnership might grow:

Below are three examples of the ways in which our partnership with the Department of Curriculum and Instruction and Penn State University's College of Education may evolve. Beyond ideas such as these, we fully expect that various additional opportunities to enhance this partnership will be sought through grant opportunities. As long as there are faculty at PSU who maintain a commitment to sustaining a relationship with the SVRCS and people in Sugar Valley who find value in shared endeavors with PSU, we expect to have a vital and mutually beneficial relationship which benefits all those taking part.

4.4.1. Internship Connections

PSU prepares certified educational professionals for all fields: agriculture, art, physical education, music, bilingual education, administrative personnel, vocational/technical, special education - in addition to the "regular" certification areas of secondary (mathematics, science, social studies, language and literacy, foreign languages) elementary and early childhood education. With the opening of the SVRCS, persons responsible for each of these certification areas will be contacted by Dr. Marshall in order to explore the possibilities of developing a formal relationship which would enable a specific program area (e.g., music education) to use the SVRCS as an intern placement site.

4.4.2. Telecommunications

The College of Education is presently constructing two model classrooms which will be completely wired and outfitted with the latest in pedagogical technology. Currently, these spaces are understood as self-enclosed learning environments; i.e., PSU students will meet and work within these confines to use and manipulate technology in the study of teaching and learning. One idea already under discussion is to consider the possibility of utilizing these rooms as locations where PSU students could observe and interact with others in a SVRCS location in real time. For example, PSU students could observe SVRCS teachers in action; SVRCS students could participate in a lecture/discussion on the PSU campus; and SVRCS faculty could interact with PSU faculty for professional development purposes.

4.4.3. Initial Teacher Preparation

Experience is fundamental to becoming a professional educator. Most colleges and universities have, in recent years, dramatically increased the number of opportunities students have with teachers and students in classrooms and schools in order to allow would-be teachers to better appreciate the highly contextualized nature of teaching and learning.

Currently, PSU students in early childhood, elementary and secondary certification programs must spend at least 80 hours in contact with children and youth as a prerequisite for admission into their certification program. Beyond these hours, students must take an early course which requires their guided presence in multiple classrooms over a 15-week semester. As pre-service students continue through their course work they attempt to accumulate additional hours and, in some cases, have these built into their certification courses. In their final two semesters, all certification students spend at least five weeks of supervised activities with students in a cooperating teacher's classroom before going into their actual student teaching experience - a 15-week experience under the guidance of both a cooperating and supervisory teacher.

This collection of clinical experiences has improved the initial preparation of teachers to a high degree as students witness and participate in day-to-day life in classrooms. At the same time, this larger number of clinical hours has its problems - the most serious being that with the exception of the 15-week student teaching experience, pre-service students never spend enough time in a single school to begin to explore, understand and appreciate how the cultures of that school help to shape and get shaped by the teaching and learning mission.

Our solution is to actively recruit a cohort of entering PSU students who intend to become teachers. We would look for students who believe that they would like to teach in a rural community and who believe that they would like to make a long-term commitment to becoming a member of the SVRCS school population as a teaching intern. These interns, selected by a committee consisting largely of SVRCS educators and parents with input from PSU faculty, would be expected to begin their commitment slowly - perhaps with a ½ day per week commitment as freshmen, working up to their 15-week student teaching experience before graduating four years later. New students would be recruited each year to replace those who leave the program. Eventually, we anticipate a group of 15-20 students seeking all types of certifications (early childhood, secondary, etc.) and operating at various levels of internship, all supervised by a PSU faculty member.

What makes this particular idea so important is that the College of Education currently has no active partnerships or formal relationships with rural schools. Because Pennsylvania is largely a rural state, this opportunity will certainly strengthen the university's commitment to it's rural constituents. Furthermore, a partnership commitment from PSU can go a long way in helping a fledgling charter school get through its most difficult, early years in that such a connection gives entree into the myriad of human, informational and physical resources available to the university.

 

4.5. Extracurricular Activities

The SVRCS will make extracurricular activities available to all students. Guidelines for accreditation will be established in defining how participation in extracurricular activities may apply to students' overall programs - particularly band, chorus, Performing Arts, FHA and FFA as part of students' curricula.

It is anticipated that many of the school's organized sports (especially in the early years of operation) will capitalize on the availability of existing "community league" programs such as AYSO soccer and youth league baseball and softball. These types of programs promote active participation and fair play and are not cost-prohibitive. The SVRCS may seek Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association (PIAA) membership for sports that are not available at the community level (e.g., wrestling). PIAA guidelines will be followed, where applicable. Arrangements will be made with the local school district to accommodate students who opt to participate in sports or other activities not available at the SVRCS.

Due to the many benefits that extracurricular activities can bring, student participation will be promoted and encouraged. Individual and business sponsorships will be sought, where appropriate. Past practices of active fundraising (bake sales, dinners, car washes, etc.) by school-sponsored clubs and organizations will be encouraged. Students will be responsible for contributing their fair share toward expenses not budgeted by the school by assisting in fundraising activities or paying participation fees.

 

4.6. School Accountability

Sugar Valley Rural Charter School will provide a real choice among education opportunities for students, parents and teachers. The availability of choices within the education system, not just for those who can afford private schools, ensures a real option for all residents of the Keystone Central School District, regardless of their financial status.

The availability of choice is an important element in educational accountability and promotes higher standards throughout the system. Those students whose families prefer a rigorous education may choose SVRCS, while remaining free to return to the regular public schools in the district of their residence if they become dissatisfied. This mechanism puts emphasis on the needs of the students and helps to ensure that these needs are met in either regular public schools or at the SVRCS. The accountability that choice encourages will also help maintain strong public support for public education as a whole.

Sugar Valley Rural Charter School will be accountable to its community, its students and staff, its Board of Trustees and the public agency granting its charter on three fronts:

1. Legally, as to whether it is fulfilling the terms of its charter and regulatory and statutory requirements;

2. Academically, as to whether its students are performing at improved or consistently high levels as measured by various assessment instruments; and

3. Organizationally, as to whether the school is financially stable and competently governed and staffed.

SVRCS self-evaluation will entail comparison of its performance against its stated mission, goals and objectives and not against the performance of any other public or private school. It will be the assignment of the board, the school administration and the teachers, along with any ad hoc parent committees which may form to that effect, to develop detailed, clear, measurable school-wide performance objectives. These objectives will naturally emphasize student achievement as measured against baseline data, but they will also include factors such as pupil and staff attendance rates; numbers of applications and enrollment; degree of parent participation; school environment including safety and order; staff development; condition of the physical plant; efficiency of fiscal management; and so forth. All indicators will be concrete, quantifiable and objective.

Many indicators of school performance are cumulative, in that documentable trends provide a macroscopic view of the school's adherence to its mission. These indicators include:

· number of students applying to the school;
· number of teachers applying to teach at the school;
· daily attendance of students and teachers;
· student and teacher transfer rates;
· input from community meetings and focus groups; and
· survey results.

The administration shall submit to the Board of Trustees each year a report containing aggregate statistics of the performance of every grade on state-mandated tests and on other major assessments specified by the SVRCS curriculum. These data shall not identify individual students, but they shall include statistical comparisons to indicate whether students collectively are benefiting from their instruction. After the administration's report has been accepted by the Board of Trustees, these data shall be summarized in the Annual Report in the form prescribed by the PA Department of Education, copies of which shall be submitted to the chartering authority and, upon request, to the parents or guardians of SVRCS students.

As part of the staff evaluation procedure, the Board of Trustees will specify clearly defined criteria for performance review. The criteria will include:

1. Commitment to the SVRCS mission and goals;
2. Level of professionalism;
3. Level of accomplishment; and
4. Participation in the SVRCS team.

The Board of Trustees will also specify tools to be used in the evaluation process. Such tools may include written evaluation based on classroom observations and comparisons of the students' performance on major assessments specified by the SVRCS curriculum in each grade. Special contributions by the SVRCS staff to the school's program will also be an element in the performance review.

SVRCS will provide the staff with professional improvement opportunities that include participation in professional development programs and attendance at professional conferences, when appropriate. SVRCS will also foster collegial interactions among the staff members to ensure that the staff works effectively as a team. The SVRCS partnership with Penn State will provide a multitude of resources and opportunities for professional development.

 

4.7. Student Evaluation

Assessment will be an essential component of Sugar Valley Rural Charter School's educational plan. Assessment confirms student progress; identifies areas of strengths and weaknesses; and improves the accountability of the school. It will begin with the teacher's evaluation of student progress based on written class work, oral contributions and homework. Such evaluations are important, but may be insufficient to assess long-term subject mastery. Formal assessments, integrated with the curriculum, will indicate overall achievement levels. Assessment results will allow teachers and parents to determine which students would benefit from additional help or additional challenge. It is the intention of SVRCS to pursue multiple assessments to evaluate student performance.

The teaching staff will establish a sequence of tests, mastery demonstrations and portfolio assessments designed to measure explicit content and skill requirements for each level. Assessment information is used:

1. By Students

· for self-assessment and growth.

2. By Teachers

· to assess individual students or groups;
· to provide feedback to students;
· to assess the effectiveness of curriculum;
· to revise and improve curriculum.

3. By the School Community

· to assess the quality of the academic program.

Assessments are intended to follow the goals of the school. The student will be required to demonstrate that she/he strives to:

· be a constructive thinker;
· be an effective communicator;
· be a self-directed learner;
· be a collaborative producer;
· demonstrate responsible behavior;
· illustrate creativity through originality of thoughts and expression;
· communicate awareness of global issues; and
· acquire knowledge and apply the knowledge to experiential and service learning.

Portfolios and process-folios will be assessed in language arts, mathematical processes, technology, science, health/ physical education, social studies, workplace learning, citizenship, foreign language, life skills, environmental stewardship and career planning.

Portfolios or process-folios can be assessed using a variety of criteria, including:

· number of entries;
· richness of entry;
· degree of reflection shown;
· improvement in technical skills;
· achievement of goals;
· interplay of production, perception and reflection;
· responsiveness to internal and external feedback; and
· development of themes.

Sugar Valley Rural Charter School students will meet the same testing and academic performance standards as established by law and regulation for other public school students in Pennsylvania. This includes demonstrating sufficient proficiency on all state-wide tests (SAT, CAT, SRA, etc.) administered to students. The SVRCS expects high achievement as assessed through these instruments because its standards will be high and its programs will support student achievement.

The needs of students who do not perform at acceptable levels on the statewide proficiency tests despite ongoing remediation that will be available at the school, will be addressed in a uniform manner: 1) determine whether the student is doing his/her job in terms of attendance, attention in the classroom and completion of class work and homework; 2) determine whether the teacher is doing his/her job of teaching and is consistently requiring a high level of student performance. If the required work is not being done by one or both parties, then appropriate steps will be taken to ensure the work is done. If these steps do not solve the problem, or if the required work is being performed by both parties then an effort will be made to 3) identify the factors hindering the student from meeting the necessary proficiency level; 4) isolate those factors which may be remedied in the school environment from those which may not; 5) develop, in concert with the teacher and parents, an individual plan to address and remedy school-related factors. Problems external to or beyond the control of the school will be discussed with parents and documented. The school will encourage the supportive efforts of parents and guardians and will work with them to identify options outside the school that might benefit their child.

Assessments will constitute the basis for regular and frequent communication with parents. Teachers will provide written report summaries at regularly scheduled intervals. Parent conferences may be supplemented by informal parent-teacher meetings. Student assessments in the aggregate will serve as an indicator of the overall quality of the Sugar Valley Rural Charter School's academic program.

 

4.8. School Community

Unfortunately, in today's society, many people judge a school's success by how well it prepares students to leave their communities. To some degree this will occur at the SVRCS, but with greater emphasis on understanding and learning within the community, students will come to know about the opportunities that lie closer to home and to value the quality of life in rural places. The SVRCS will not only use its community as a basis for learning, but will also provide the groundwork for youth to understand who they are and what they may become in the world. When students know their community - its social structure, its economy, its history, its music, its environment - they become more likely to find ways to stay or return.

The founders of the SVRCS and other residents of Sugar Valley are extremely fortunate in that they live in a community that has a lengthy and deeply-rooted tradition of true community spirit and camaraderie, especially in issue that involve the community's children. A "how can I help?" attitude in pervasive among the young and old alike. Local organizations and businesses fully support the concept of the SVRCS and twenty-nine businesses have already offered their involvement in the proposed school-to-work program which will be implemented in association with the Clinton County School to Work Program.

Goals and objectives contained in the National Career Development Guidelines, Competencies and Indicators (adapted from the National Career Development Guidelines Handbook published by the National Occupational Information Coordinating Committee, 2100 M Street N. W., Suite 156, Washington, D. C. 20037) will be utilized to extend opportunities for SVRCS students beyond the area businesses which have expressed willingness to provide "hands-on" experiences for SVRCS students.

The competencies and indicators represent the knowledge, skills and abilities students need to cope effectively with daily life; to make decisions about secondary and postsecondary education; entering the world of work; and financing further education and training. The presentation of the competencies and indicators does not imply a sequential order for delivery, but is an inclusive listing of elements important to a student's career guidance and counseling plan. Competencies to be assessed include:

1. Understanding the influence of a positive self-concept;
2. Skills to interact positively with others;
3. Understanding the relationship between education, achievement and career planning;
4. Skills to locate, evaluate and interpret career information;
5. Skills to prepare to seek, obtain, maintain and change jobs; and
6. Skills in career planning.

Many of the competencies cited above are embedded in areas of the curriculum and are encouraged and supported by the integrated nature of course offerings. Some of these competencies are contained in direct instruction in Life Skills , the HELP document and through research.

The Board of Trustees of the SVRCS will include teachers, parents and community members. While recognizing the importance of able leadership on the part of the Board, the founders of the SVRCS feel strongly that, in order to carry out the school's mission, parents, students, staff and active community volunteers must be full participants in the decision-making process.

To help ensure success of the school, a high-profile Community Relations Committee will be established. This standing committee will include at least one Board member, an administrator, a community services coordinator and other community members who hold convictions for the mission of the school.

Each year, the Community Relations Committee, in conjunction with the school administration, will sponsor five community in-service events. Patterned after teachers' in-service, attendance will be broadened to include students, parents and community members. The primary goal of the community in-service events is to provide for direct community involvement in the educational programs at the SVRCS. Accordingly. SVRCS will foster community involvement by treating parents, students and community members not only as partners, but also as customers in its every action. As with any successful endeavor, SVRCS's customers must be treated with respect and courtesy. SVRCS will routinely gauge, both formally and informally, the reactions and concerns of the School Community and utilize this information to improve the school's programs and operations.

The school's admissions process requires parents and students to sign a Home/School Contract regarding their involvement in school operations. As part of this commitment to full participation in their school, those involved in the SVRCS will become stakeholders, similar to employee-owned companies and/or shareholders of corporations. The contract centers on parents being active participants in their children's education by volunteering in-school time; by ensuring their children attend school through graduation; by expecting high academic achievements; by participating in school related activities and organizations; by being responsible for their children's behavior; and by aiding in the prevention of drug and alcohol abuse.

 

4.9. Conflict Resolution

In any human services endeavor such as a school, conflicts are bound to arise among participants. In an effort to model and practice effective conflict resolution, it is encouraged that concerns and problems be addressed to and by the appropriate parties. Parents, staff and students are encouraged to share their concerns by consulting privately after classes, on the telephone or in a manner deemed appropriate by those involved. All parties reserve the right to request the presence of a third party to ease mediation, subject to the approval of the parties involved. It is anticipated that this third party will be an education specialist.

Some problems and concerns may require the intervention and mediation of the Client Advisory and Mediation (CAM) Team. This team will include a member of the Board of Trustees, parents, teachers and an administrator. The CAM Team hears issues and complaints on the part of individuals or groups who allege violation of the provisions of the school's charter, by-laws, policy or codes or gross misconduct on the part of school participants. The review process includes:

1. A written description of the grievance, along with any supporting documentation, to be presented by the aggrieved party to the Team no later than one month after the fact.

2. The team will review the grievance and all supporting materials along with interviews of the aggrieved and other relevant parties within one month's time.

3. The team will make a decision or request additional information within one week. If additional information is needed, the process reverts to step 2.

4. The team makes its decision and recommendations concerning solutions and deposition of the issues to the school's Board of Trustees for action.

5. The Board considers the recommendations of the team at its next regularly scheduled meeting and renders a decision.

6. All remedial action is to be taken as expeditiously as practical.

7. If the aggrieved is dissatisfied with the decision of the Board, appeals may be made to the entity which sponsors the charter, or to the Pennsylvania Department of Education.

All CAM Team meetings shall be documented and a report which includes remedies that must be implemented will be submitted to the school administrators. It is the responsibility of the administrators to contact the parties involved to determine the effectiveness of remedies taken and to ensure that sufficient steps are taken by all parties. Follow-up by the administrators and their designees will occur in a timely manner.

If issues and complaints are taken first to an administrator, without attempts to address concerns directly with parties involved, the administrator bears the responsibility to inform all parties involved in writing and to establish a meeting time and place to determine solutions.

If the issue is of a magnitude to warrant intervention of the CAM Team or, if the Team is requested by parties involved, the administrator also bears responsibility to inform all parties involved in writing and to establish a meeting time and place to determine solutions. The administrator and education specialist jointly bear the responsibility to ensure that remedies and solutions, as determined by the team, are implemented by all parties involved. Again, all meetings and outcomes are documented.


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