ARCHES Academy has carefully chosen our Methods in order to have the best possible outcomes for all of our students. A tremendous amount of research has been done over the last decades into how children learn and how the brain works. This research has informed a lot of what we call “best practices” within the field of education. Many schools pick up on one or two of these and base a curriculum around them. But the best results come when we put them all into practice at once. We take it as a challenge to include as many of these into each lesson as possible. Below is a list of our Methods and how we use them to increase achievement for our students.
One of the most basic elements at the center of our philosophy is that people learn by doing. There are other ways to learn things, but experiencing something for oneself is the most powerful, memorable way to learn anything. The way to engage students in learning something is to find a way to immerse them in it. It has been repeatedly shown in the research that lack of experiences is one of the most limiting factors for low-income students, especially in relation to vocabulary building, which has an impact on every other subject. ARCHES’ task-based curriculum is designed to maximize experiential, hands-on learning and immerse students in real-world, powerful knowledge building. This will be done both inside and outside the classroom and in the larger community and world. Shared experience will be the basis for achieving mastery of the standards, as well as for building life-long friendships and a love for learning.
Clothing has always been a part of any culture and will be a part of ours. We believe that uniforms help unite a school’s population and help them identify with one another as team members. It has also been shown that people behave differently based upon what they are wearing. School uniforms provide a visual reminder of where we are and how we should be behaving. Uniforms also put all students on an equal footing and largely eliminate class divisions based on clothing.
Another part of the Leader in Me program is that students are not only expected, but actually equipped to take on real leadership roles within the school and the larger world around them. Each student at the school will have, in one capacity or another, a meaningful leadership role at the school. This may be something the student is already good at, or something they feel the need to get better at. The roles are as varied as the students. Some students will be chosen to be ambassadors for the school, giving tours to guests and prospective future students and families. Others will have roles within the classrooms as peer tutors, materials managers, data collectors, etc. All the students will have the opportunity to help plan and participate in school-wide leadership events at least yearly. The roles themselves are less important than the idea that the role holds meaning for the child who holds it and allows him the opportunity to practice and demonstrate leadership qualities. Of course, we will also have a more traditional student council as well, but leadership will never be restricted to a privileged few at ARCHES.
The ARCHES curriculum has been written, using a project- or task-based approach, specifically to meet and exceed the Arizona State Department of Education’s Academic Standards. We believe the task-based approach brings real-world relevance to the work done by students and provides an authentic means of assessment of learning in the process. Each required task meets several standards from different subject areas. Such integration of various subject material requires application of knowledge, problem-solving skills, and higher-order thinking. Many of the required tasks will also require group cooperation, laying the groundwork for team-development and real leadership development. Within each subject area, ARCHES has selected the curricula that we feel best fulfills the needs of our learners. Namely, The Spalding Method for language arts, supplemented with Shurley English in the middle school grades; Math U See for mathematics; Core Knowledge for science, social studies, art, and music; and The Leader in Me for leadership development and character education. Each student will be instructed in each subject area at the appropriate instructional level for that child, regardless of traditional grade-level distinctions. As each student enrolls in ARCHES Academy, great care will be taken to assess the student’s needs, talents, interests, and learning styles. This data will be used to properly place students in appropriate classes. As students progress, regular, authentic assessments will take place, allowing us to ensure continual best placement. Instruction at the correct level keeps students challenged and minimizes frustration which often leads to low engagement.
Research has long born out that cooperative learning models are highly-effective in helping students acquire needed skills. The ARCHES Academy task-based curriculum offers students of all ages many opportunities to work in small groups to accomplish something real and meaningful. This approach also gives each member of each group the opportunity to build on strengths and improve weakness while practicing how to build and work within teams and exercise leadership qualities. Cooperative learning also ensures engagement, as team members rely on one another to complete the task and everyone always has something to work on (as opposed to watching as one, out of twenty or more, takes a turn). This model assures far more time-on-task for each student.
Community involvement is critical to the ARCHES model. Studies continue to show higher student achievement when parents participate in the education offered. We will be not only encouraging, but requiring family volunteer hours at the school or on school projects. We will also actively cultivate community partnerships with businesses in our area, in order to bring more learning opportunities for students. Volunteers will help in classrooms, mentor and coach students, provide specific learning opportunities, and plan and implement school-wide events.
Any teacher can tell you that until a child chooses to engage in the instruction provided no learning will take place. Engagement is the evidence of the choice to learn. ARCHES will employ this method, choice, in several ways. Firstly, as a charter school, enrollment in our program is a choice to accept our educational model and to participate in it. Once enrolled, families will meet with school personnel to formulate a plan for their child(ren), based on knowledge, skills, and interests the child already has. Choices will be made at that time based on the data collected and this conversation, in which the child has a voice. Choice will also be part of the curriculum; students will be taught that their choices matter and about how to make choices that will help them get what they want. There will be many ways to exercise choice in the tasks the students are asked to complete (i.e. writing a poem vs. a play, or story, or song, etc. about a given topic). Because we know that learning is a choice, and one we cannot make for our students, we will create an environment and culture that supports the students’ taking responsibility and making good choices in regards to their own education and future.
ARCHES Academy will employ several different methods to help teach values and build positive character traits in our students. The core of our program will revolve around the Warrior Ethos by Jason Mow. This is a set of 14 statements/affirmations defining truly heroic behavior and the characteristics of “warrior” culture intended to instill universally accepted values as students incorporate them into their lives. It will be used across the campus in nearly all contexts and includes a focus on Honor, Courage, Strength, and Discipline as values to live by. In addition to the Warrior Ethos, we will also be using The Leader in Me program, produced by FranklinCovey. This program to teach Steven R. Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People to children is now in place in almost 3200 schools worldwide. The Leader in Me program is a fully developed leadership curriculum that is designed to be implemented ubiquitously. One of the defining characteristics of this program, and one that best fits the ARCHES model, is that this system is highly dependent on data. It teaches students, as well as school personnel, how to create goals, collect data, and apply it to know if we are, in fact, reaching the goals we have set. Each student will keep their own notebook of data, relevant to their own goals and progress, with which they will be able to understand where they are in relation to expectations and have an action plan to help them reach higher. When goals are achieved, new goals are set. We have found this system to be extremely effective in helping students take ownership of their own education accept personal responsibility for their own learning. Students at ARCHES Academy will have a 30-minute class daily devoted to learning and applying the principles and skills embodied in the Warrior Ethos and The Leader in Me . Additionally, all staff will be trained in these and will both teach and model these across the campus daily.
ARCHES Academy does not believe that the traditional grade-level system is effective for students. Instead, we will use an advancement system based on Mastery Education. We believe that each and every one of the standards adopted by our state department of education is important and needs to be mastered by each student. We define Mastery as at least 80% proficiency. We reject the notion of promoting a student in all areas because of mastery in merely a few. The ARCHES curriculum is, as previously mentioned, task-based. Tasks are chosen based on specific standards to be mastered. There is a different task list for each of four levels and each standard is represented multiple times within the full set of task lists. Novice level encompasses all the standards for both kindergarten and first grade, Apprentice level for second and third grade, Scholar level for fourth and fifth grade, and Master level for sixth, seventh, and eighth grades. Students will progress to the next level only after completing all the tasks on the list for their level to mastery as well as scoring above 80% on a summative assessment created for each level. Rubrics will be used to assess performance on the tasks with a requirement to perform at mastery level for each. If mastery is not demonstrated, the student will receive additional instruction and continuous coaching until mastery is met. In addition to advancing from level to level, there will be many other opportunities to receive recognition for achievement. Within each level, various milestones will be acknowledged and celebrated. Recognizing positive participation in the school and its programs encourages more students to do the same. Regular and ongoing positive recognition and advancement keeps students engaged in appropriate, desired behaviors at school, at home, and in the community, fostering citizenship in the larger world.