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Bringing STEM Home to Forge Community Bonds

Vanguard Preparatory School, Apple Valley, Calif.

Recently named a California School to Watch by whole child partner National Forum to Accelerate Middle Grades Reform, Vanguard Preparatory School is facing the achievement gap head on. Located in Apple Valley, a rural town in California, Vanguard’s focus on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) subjects has made it a standout in the area. Vanguard runs family STEM nights to further strengthen the connection between the classroom setting and the family support network.

Diverse Learning Community Uses Education Innovations to Aid Achievement

Summit Intermediate School, Etiwanda, Calif.

Summit Intermediate School, located in Etiwanda, California, joins the prestigious list of California Schools to Watch after commendation by whole child partner National Forum to Accelerate Middle Grades Reform. Summit pursues unique and innovative educational practices like “X-Time,” an extra support period for students, as part of its mission to provide for its diverse student community. These efforts are clearly paying off, as Summit’s standardized testing score averages have increased considerably in the past five years.

Sharing Ideas for Higher Achievement

Sanger Academy Charter School, Sanger, Calif.

As one in a trio of Sanger, California schools to be designated a California School to Watch by whole child partner National Forum to Accelerate Middle Grades Reform, Sanger Academy Charter School proves the efficacy of a commitment to quality education. Collaboration between Sanger Academy and its two sister schools—also designated as California Schools to Watch—can be seen on all levels, from middle school sports tournaments to monthly meetings between the three principals to share ideas and techniques.

Rural Schools Team Up for Success

Quail Lake Environmental Charter School, Sanger, Calif.

As one of whole child partner National Forum to Accelerate Middle Grades Reform’s California Schools to Watch, Quail Lake Environmental Charter School joins a commendable group of educational innovators. Located in Sanger, California, Quail Lake faces many of the same challenges commonly seen across small, rural schools. But with professional development and a collaborative strategy for instruction, Quail Lake and similar institutions in the area have come together and made significant progress in closing the achievement gap.

High Expectations Yield Valuable Lessons

Fairmont Elementary K–8 School, Sanger, Calif.

Fairmont Elementary K–8 School, recently named a California School to Watch by whole child partner National Forum to Accelerate Middle Grades Reform, sets the bar high for educational achievement. Located in Sanger, California, Fairmont works to help its students succeed by providing them with a safe learning environment, diverse intellectual opportunities, and a strong partnership with families and the local community. Students understand the high expectations held by their teachers and school administrators, and they strive to work at that level each day.

Technology Guides Students to a Bright Future

Owl Creek School, Fayetteville, Ark.

Located in Fayetteville, Arkansas, Owl Creek School joins a select group of Arkansas schools as a 2013 Diamond School to Watch with whole child partner National Forum to Accelerate Middle Grades Reform. The Owl School promotes growth and achievement in its students through a strong commitment to technology-based instruction and a positive campus community. This supportive, in-school environment is bolstered by high levels of engagement with families and the local community through workshops; family activity nights; and a strong, involved Parent Teacher Organization.

Caring and Belief Are Key at this New Jersey Middle School

John A. Carusi Middle School, Cherry Hill, N.J.
 

Carusi students tell visitors they feel even more cared about at Carusi than they did at their elementary schools. Science teacher Angela Warrington notes, “We at Carusi are so committed to our students’ success. We all believe we can make a difference.” The hallways and classrooms are covered with student artwork, posters, and documents that publicize the school motto: Enter to Learn, Go Forth to Serve. The motto, however, is much more than words on a wall or poster. It embodies a school that infuses character and academics into every class, every interaction, every day. Character education informs every decision at the school, including curriculum design, student–teacher relationships, and approaches to discipline.
 

An Individualized Education Rich in Academics

St. Louis Charter School, St. Louis, M.O.
 

Comprehensive character education has been a part of St. Louis Charter School’s mission since its inception 11 years ago: “To provide children with an individualized education rich in academics and character.” All classrooms emphasize core values. According to school board member Lynn Yearwood, the values are so embedded in the school that “[t]hey are even woven into board meetings.” St. Louis Charter staff work hard to create community among their students—who come from different parts of the city and from different backgrounds—and to celebrate their differences. Student work and art are everywhere, even on attractively painted ceiling tiles. Staff members monitor data closely and plan program changes in response. The school also uses its data to help individual students improve. St. Louis Charter does an outstanding job of providing professional development opportunities for the entire staff to help them meet the needs of their students.
 

Charter School Promotes Parents as Primary Educators

Benjamin Franklin Classical Charter Public School, Franklin, Mass.

Established in 1995 as one of the first charter schools in Massachusetts, Benjamin Frankilin Classical Charter Public School (BFCCPS) also has the distinction of being among the first schools in the country to be named National Schools of Character, in 1998. Named a National School of Character again in 2011 by whole child partner the Character Education Partnership, the mission of BFCCPS is to assist parents in their role as primary educators of their children by providing students with a classical academic education coupled with sound character development and community service.

One of the key strengths of BFCCPS is its determination to maintain its original unique and focused vision to integrate virtues not only into its mission but into what takes place there every day—and its history of success in doing so. In addition to providing an education based on the cardinal virtues of the ancient Greeks, BFCCPS uses a teaching strategy borrowed from an American founder, Benjamin Franklin, to set weekly character goals which enable staff and students to focus on these virtues in both academics and personal interactions, in order to help develop virtuous habits. Also, the school incorporates current research based strategies taken from Responsive Classroom, such as class meetings and service opportunities, to facilitate reflection on the character goals and practice in achieving them.

Family Atmosphere Fosters Sense of Belonging

Imagine Schools South Lake, Clermont, Fla.

Despite being one of the largest of the more than 70 Imagine Schools campuses, Imagine South Lake feels like a "family" school. Each day, students are greeted by the principal (who knows everyone by name), other administrators, teachers, parents, and student safety patrols. Teacher turnover is minimal, and the re-enrollment rate is above 95 percent. When speaking of her schoolmates and teachers, fourth grader India says, "They are my family." Named a 2011 National School of Character by whole child partner the Character Education Partnership, Imagine South Lake's staff students, and parents live the core values. Staff members incorporate character within the classroom in ways that best meet the needs of their students and reflect the school's mission statement. Middle school language-arts teacher Joyce Crawford notes that "being here at Imagine means you have a voice;" all classrooms have meetings where students' "voice and choice" is heard and appreciated. Teachers care about the students academically, socially, and emotionally. Fourth grader Eliya states that the teachers "don’t want us to fail. They teach us how to learn from our mistakes."

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June 3, 2014

The Dilemma of Choice

Empowering students in their choices—encouraged by teachers and in turn supported by policy and practice—would change how many schools operate and function. How do we achieve this?

The Examples Map

Use our interactive map tool to find examples of schools and communities worldwide that are implementing a whole child approach to education.

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