Citizens' Academy, Cleveland, OH
School Leadership and Ready to Teach grant competitions now open; ACT and Education Trust release report on qualities of successful high-poverty high schools; Thinkport adds parent link to its website; Boston Digital Bridge Foundation expands its "Technology Goes Home @ School" program; Duke University sponsors an "iPod project;" and the National Writing Board assesses high school history papers for students applying to college.
Innovations in the News
Schools named as top performers in AP art history courses, plus information about charter schools, parental choice, school leadership, and teacher quality.
Cleveland School Committed to Conscientious Citizens and Scholars
It is early June in Cleveland, Ohio. Outside, people adorned in paper flowers, masks, and colorful costumes and giant puppets gather in the museum district called University Circle. This costume-filled event is not a summertime version of Mardi Gras or Halloween; it is "Parade-the-Circle," an annual celebration of arts, music, creativity, and the Cleveland community. Among the participants are the staff and students from one of the highest performing charter elementary schools in the state: Citizens' Academy. These students are dressed in their handmade dashikis and turbans not only to have fun, but to deepen their understanding of what it means to be a citizen and to contribute to their city. They have crafted costumes of paper and beads with their visiting artist around the theme: "The Many Faces of Diversity."
Citizens' Academy was founded with the belief that, given high expectations for conduct and academic achievement, a commitment to putting students' needs first, and a caring faculty, urban children can succeed in school and in life. Citizens' Academy was created in 1999 and now serves 350 students in kindergarten through fifth grade. The student body is primarily African-American, and 78 percent of the total population qualifies for federal free or reduced price meals. Despite the long waiting list for admission into the school, Citizens' Academy keeps its class sizes small, with a student/educator ratio of 9:1, 100 percent of whom are certified as qualified or highly qualified in their subject area.
This charter school has adopted challenging curricula in the core subjects and integrates lessons on citizenship and character development into each school day. The school's instruction is based on the Ohio State Standards in all subjects, including music, health, art, and physical education.
Every day, 110 minutes are dedicated to literacy instruction in smaller, ability-based groups. These literacy blocks allow teachers to spend more time developing students' reading, writing, spelling, speaking, and listening skills. Literacy instruction is based on a core reading program that focuses on five components of reading instruction: phonemic awareness, phonics, vocabulary, fluency, and comprehension. Teachers provide the children with exposure to poetry, fiction, and nonfiction. The school also offers an extensive tutoring program, Citizens' Academy Reads (CAR), staffed with 40 volunteer tutors from Cleveland State University/America READS and other community organizations. An extensive reading intervention program makes up the final component of Citizens' Academy's school-wide reading initiative.
The school's hands-on math program enables children to develop a solid foundation in both the language and basic concepts of mathematics. The curriculum is grounded in the incremental development of knowledge and skills. Review is a key component of the program because mathematics, like many subjects, builds on prior learning. Every day, students participate in a one-hour block of mathematics instruction.
Every student at Citizens' Academy participates in the My Achievement Plan (MAP) process. Teachers and school support staff work with each child to develop an individual learning plan, which guides instruction in the student's classes and sets clear goals for that child to reach by the end of each academic year.
In all of their classes, students discuss the idea of citizenship. Students participate in regular assemblies and compose original songs, poetry, and plays about the school's seven virtues: respect, honesty, generosity, loyalty, courage, responsibility, and perseverance. Regular field trips show the students their role in their community. For example, the entire fifth grade, including teachers and several parents, participated in an overnight retreat at the beginning of the school year. Besides having an opportunity to explore nature, the students worked on team building and leadership.
Citizens' Academy offers a number of services to ensure that all children receive the best possible education. The "Before & After School Enrichment Program" serves over 100 students. In the after school program, children receive homework assistance and individual tutoring. In the summer, the program focuses on reading intervention or enrichment for students who demonstrate a need for additional services. Teachers work with students who have just completed the second grade to help develop their reading fluency, while fourth grade students, who have demonstrated a higher aptitude, have the opportunity to participate in an Advanced Communications Workshop.
Parents are a valuable resource at the school. Parents can participate in the Parent Advisory Council, which provides a venue for families to communicate with the school staff and each other and organizes parent-led initiatives. In the summer before a child enters kindergarten, parents and their child can participate in the Kindergarten Readiness Program that addresses any gaps in vocabulary, counting, or other skills necessary for the child to start school.
Principal Monyka Price notes, "Everyone at Citizens' Academy possesses a genuine care for the children, a commitment to create responsible citizens, as well as a dedication to the parents, our partners in learning."
Out of 96 parents who completed the 2003-2004 Parent Satisfaction Survey, over 83 percent reported that their children were motivated to learn and 84 percent stated that their children's achievement levels were improving. The children's test scores substantiate the parents' opinions. Citizens' Academy tied for second place on the literacy portions of Ohio's 2003-2004 Fourth Grade Proficiency Tests compared to the state's other urban districts and all elementary charter schools. The passage rates for the reading and writing portions of the test were 81 and 84 percent, respectively. Math passage rates increased from 2 percent in 2003 to 42 percent in 2004.
Founder and Executive Director of Citizens' Academy, Perry White, whose background is in clinical social work, states, "Our success comes from a commitment to continuous improvement, learning from our academic successes with students, and listening to teachers and parents."
Funding for Citizens' Academy comes from the Ohio Department of Education, which received an OII Charter Schools Program grant (most recently in 2004). Private foundations, corporations, and individuals also contribute funds to the school.
Resources: Note: The featured program is innovative, but does not necessarily have evidence of general effectiveness from a rigorous evaluation. However, the school has improved student academic achievement over time, and has met No Child Left Behind's "Adequate Yearly Progress" standards.
The Ready to Teach grant program competition is now open. The Ready to Teach program is designed to provide quality online programming and resources for elementary and secondary school teachers so that they can better prepare all students to learn challenging academic content in core curriculum areas. The deadline to apply is April 20, 2005. (Feb. 25)
The School Leadership Program grant competition is now open. The purpose of the grants is to assist high need local educational agencies (LEAs) develop, enhance, and expand innovative programs to recruit, train, and mentor principals and vice principals. (Feb. 22)
Closing the Achievement Gap
A joint report issued by ACT and the Education Trust, "On Course for Success," studies ten secondary schools in nine states with high rates of minority enrollment, poverty, and—success. These schools are producing graduates who meet or exceed ACT's College Readiness Benchmark test scores. All schools share college-oriented curricula, highly qualified teachers, flexible instructional styles, and tutorial support for students. (Feb. 23)
Thinkport, an online resource for Maryland educators, communities, and families sponsored by Maryland Public Television and the Johns Hopkins University Center for Technology in Education, has added a section of links for parents. The links provide information on health issues, homework help, and the college selection process. Thinkport is funded by a Ready to Teach grant from OII. (Feb. 22)
The Boston Digital Bridge Foundation, a nonprofit corporation that provides technology training and computer equipment to underserved communities, has expanded its "Technology Goes Home @ School" (TGH@S) program to over 25 elementary, middle, and high schools. Boston Public School teachers provide training for families on MyBPS, an Internet portal connecting parents/guardians to their child's latest test scores, homework assignments, and evaluations. (Feb. 22)
This fall the entire freshmen class at Duke University(NC) received a special gift — a 20 gigabyte Apple iPod. The iPods were distributed as one piece of the school's overall effort to integrate information technology into all appropriate aspects of university life. Faculty and students will use their iPods to store and transfer large multimedia files such as lecture recordings, audio books, and speeches, and to help in foreign language learning. (Fall 2004)
The National Writing Board provides assessments of history research papers written by high school students. These assessments can be submitted to some colleges as part of the admissions application process. Each student is sent a three-page report about his or her paper, complete with scores and comments by two different readers. Across the country, 35 colleges and universities endorse the Board's assessments. (Feb. 28)
Innovations in the News
Art history buffs, students, and teachers alike have a reason to be proud. Montgomery High School in Somerset County (NJ) has been recognized as having the top-performing Advanced Placement art history course in the nation among schools its size. The Peddie School, a private school in nearby Hightstown, won top honors for medium-sized schools, and The School for the Talented and Gifted in Dallas (TX) was named the top small school. [More-The Times] (Feb. 17) (free registration)
New Orleans is trying "pre-AP" classes. The Eleanor McMain Secondary School, a magnet school in New Orleans, hosts the pilot program where pre-AP classes are offered in social studies, English, and biology in an effort to ease the transition from regular courses to the rigor of Advanced Placement curricula. [More-The Times Picayune] (Feb. 20) (free registration)
New legislation could bring Advanced Placement classes to more rural students in Georgia. Governor Sonny Perdue's Virtual High School bill would give students access to more than 60 classes through the Internet, such as AP and honors-level science and math classes. [More-WSAV News] (Feb. 21)
The San Diego (CA) school board unanimously approved charters for two new schools that will open in the fall. The first school, Momentum Middle Charter School, will focus on math, science, and technology and will serve grades six through eight. The second, Children's Conservation Academy Charter School, will have environmental conservation as its theme, and will serve children from kindergarten through the eighth grade. Both schools were granted charters until 2009-2010. [More-SignOnSanDiego.com] (Feb. 23)
Wisconsin now has three virtual charter schools — iQ Academies, Wisconsin Connections Academy, and Wisconsin Virtual Academy. All three provide parents and students with an alternative to traditional public schooling and home-schooling. Each school serves students with varying abilities, and children who enroll in a virtual school become students of the district that charters the program. There is no tuition charge at any of the schools. [More-Manitowoc Herald Times Reporter] (Feb. 23)
A new Indianapolis bill would give parents vouchers if the public schools in which their children are already enrolled do not meet annual academic targets. The bill would also give tax credits to parents who pay private school tuition or pay a fee to send their children to a district outside their zone. [More-Indianapolis Star] (Feb. 18)
Over 400 students in Flagler County (FL) participate in the district's school choice program. A new measure by the school board will help these children to get to school earlier. Currently, students in the choice program must ride a bus each day to the school to which they are zoned, and then catch a different bus to the school of their choice. This process often makes children late. The new ruling will have parents take their children to a bus stop in the zone in which they want to attend school. [More-Daytona Beach News] (Feb. 23)
Baltimore City and state educators (MD) have joined forces with the national nonprofit New Leaders for New Schools to train 40 new principals over the next three years. The partnership is funded by $2.8 million in funds from local and national donors and would allow the city to recruit beyond Maryland's borders. Principal candidates will attend training sessions over the summer, participate in a year-long residency, and then be assigned as assistant principals or principals in schools needing improvement. [More-Baltimore Sun] (Feb. 22) (free registration)
William Jessup University in Rocklin (CA), the first private four-year university based in Greater Sacramento, will now offer a teacher certification program to its students. The California Commission on Teacher Credentialing has approved the school's request to allow those students who complete the program to apply for teacher credentials from the state. Undergraduates can complete the program and their bachelor's degree in four years, and students who have already earned their degrees can complete the program in one year. [More-Sacramento Business Journal] (Feb. 14)
With the federal No Child Left Behind law focusing renewed attention on teacher certification, mandating that public school teachers in core subjects be certified by the end of the 2005-06 academic year, many districts are looking at alternative teacher certification programs. Philadelphia (PA) is focusing on programs such as Troops to Teachers, an OII-funded initiative that encourages qualified military retirees to enter the classroom. The national nonprofit, Teach For America, which recruits top college graduates to teach for two years in under-resourced schools, is also expanding its program in Pennsylvania. [More-Philadelphia Inquirer] (Feb. 22) (free registration)
Last Modified: 08/13/2009