Philosophy and Approach Meeting the Needs of All Learners
An innovative approach to education, with an emphasis on a rigorous curriculum, embedded technology, equality, character education, and challenging learning standards will provide the foundation to assist students with higher learning options and future employment. An introduction to the fine arts, world languages and cultures will provide kinesthetic, visual, and auditory exposure to a wide variety of interests and career paths that are not captured through traditional instruction. In every classroom, children will encounter carefully constructed settings in which to build upon a foundation that learning is developmental, active, skill-based, and enhanced by self-concept and deals with the whole child. The Academy’s International Program will foster intercultural awareness and understanding through a challenging curriculum that promotes a positive attitude toward learning. All students are eligible to participate in an exchange program with their international counterpart.
The expected diversity of the Academy’s student population requires a strategic plan to address specific student needs. The instructional staff will utilize differentiated instruction in order to meet individual student needs and ensure academic success for every student. The Academy has embraced Lev Vygotsky’s Theory of Readiness and Bloom’s Taxonomy. The Academy will use these constructs to recognize that individuals learn in unique ways and that teachers are required to use a varied set of strategies. The variety of strategies will ensure the curriculum is processed effectively by every student. The Academy’s differentiated instruction teaching methodology will focus on four primary methods of varying the curriculum: content, process, product and environment (Theroux, 2004).
The philosophic pre-suppositions supporting the Academy’s pedagogic approach to teaching and learning emerge from Vygotsky’s Social Development Theory. Vygotsky’s theory is one of the foundations of constructivism. It asserts three major themes:
- Social interaction plays a fundamental role in the process of cognitive development. In contrast to Jean Piaget’s understanding of child development (in which development necessarily precedes learning), Vygotsky felt social learning precedes development. He states: “Every function in the child’s cultural development appears twice: first, on the social level, and later, on the individual level; first, between people (interpsychological) and then inside the child (intrapsychological).” (Vygotsky, 1978).
- The More Knowledgeable Other (MKO). The MKO refers to anyone who has a better understanding or a higher ability level than the learner, with respect to a particular task, process, or concept. The MKO is normally thought of as being a teacher, coach, or older adult, but the MKO could also be peers, a younger person, or even computers.
- The Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD). The ZPD is the distance between a student’s ability to perform a task under adult guidance and/or with peer collaboration and the student’s ability solving the problem independently. According to Vygotsky, learning occurred in this zone.
Vygotsky focused on the connections between people and the sociocultural context in which they act and interact in shared experiences (Crawford, 1996). According to Vygotsky, humans use tools that develop from a culture, such as speech and writing, to mediate their social environments. Initially children develop these tools to serve solely as social functions, ways to communicate needs. Vygotsky believed that the internalization of these tools led to higher thinking skills.
Many schools have traditionally held a transmissionist or instructionist model in which a teacher or lecturer ‘transmits’ information to students. In contrast, Vygotsky’s theory promotes learning contexts in which students play an active role in learning. Roles of the teacher and student are therefore shifted, as a teacher should collaborate with his or her students in order to help facilitate meaning construction in students. Learning therefore becomes a reciprocal experience for the students and teacher.
Beginning in the fifth grade (tentative school year 2011-2012), students will be offered the opportunity to engage in an educational and cultural exchange program with the International School of Gdansk, Poland (a United States State Department Sponsored School). Teachers will also engage in an exchange program that will allow for ongoing professional development related to the IB program as well as global exposure. The Academy will use advanced technology tools, such as webinars, to engage in learning activities with its sister school. Additional international partnerships will be formed over time with schools in Africa, South America andAsia.
Core Curriculum (English Language Arts, Mathematics, the Natural Sciences, Social Sciences)
To develop a solid academic foundation, the Academy will offer a traditional education in English Language Arts, mathematics, science, and social studies through implementation of the Kent County Collaborative Core Curriculum (“KC4”). The curriculum is housed within a dynamic, web-based structure referred to as the Curriculum Crafter®Tool (“CCT”). The CCT, including both the web structure and the embedded kindergarten through twelfth grade curriculum, are revised periodically to maintain a strategic alignment with Michigan Department of Education’s grade level and high school content expectations. Academy faculty will also be able to update, revise, and align curriculum tailored to the individual and group needs of the students.
Curriculum Crafter® instructional units are organized in a developmentally appropriate and purposeful sequence. Each instructional unit builds on the next for a smooth academic flow of content to put students in the best position for success. In addition, CCT ® provides an easy to use mapping function that will allow teachers to customize the sequence and duration of instructional units to fit the needs of the students. CCT® while currently aligned to Michigan’s content standards, will be aligned to the upcoming National Standards, the Common Core State Standards, developed by the Common Core State Standards Initiative for English Language Arts and Mathematics. (www.curriculumcrafter.org).
The Academy has adopted The Michigan Model for Health®, the highly recognized, nationally acclaimed school health education program. The Michigan Model for Health® curriculum facilitates skills-based learning through lessons that include a variety of teaching and learning techniques, skill development and practice, and building positive lifestyle behaviors in students and families. (http://www.emc.cmich.edu/mm)
The Academy has adopted the award-winning Exemplary Physical Education Curriculum (EPEC) for kindergarten through twelfth grades. EPEC is aligned to the National Association for Sports and Physical Education (NASPE) standards for physical education. EPEC promotes the teaching of knowledge, skills and attitudes that will enable children to be active for life. Unlike physical activity programs, EPEC is a true curriculum that provides step-by-step instruction enabling all students to be successful in the physical education classroom. Built around NASPE content standards and strong on assessment, EPEC is currently being used nationally by teachers to strengthen physical education, and its reputation, in their communities. (http://www.michiganfitness.org/EPEC).
The Academy has adopted the Character Education Curriculum K-6 as integrated throughout the Michigan Model for Health Curriculum®. The curriculum focuses on six core values:
- Justice & Fairness
- Civic Virtue & Citizenship
The Academy has also adopted the Michigan Model for Health® Modules for Character Education and one Service Learning Module for the middle and high school grades (6 through 12). The curriculum goals and objectives of these modules focus on:
- Choosing Who I Am – Choosing Who I Become
- Building Character in Ourselves and Our School
- Managing Life in a Less-Than Perfect World
- Building Character Through Service-Learning
State of the art technology tools will be in every 21st century learning center and include computers and SMART boards. Student use of technology will be embedded into the core curriculum with technology competency being driven by content area learning opportunities. By theeighth grade, students will meet the Michigan Department of Education technology learning skill requirements. The Academy’s technology tools, such as Skype, provide staff and students the opportunity to interact with their international counterparts. Through real time interactions and participation in lessons, students will work collaboratively with students from different cultural backgrounds, gain knowledge of global issues from different perspectives, and learn to evaluate and synthesize information concerning global issues.
The Academy has developed and adopted a Visual Arts Curriculum for kindergarten through fifth grades, aligned to the Michigan Art Education Content Standards. The Visual Arts Curriculum targets instruction in performance, production/visual communications, art criticism, art history & aesthetics, and integration into other disciplines in the Academy’s curricula. The Academy’s visual arts program emphasizes the elements of art, the principles of design, and color theory. The art classes provide students the opportunity to use, combine, and discuss various types of media to create personal works of art as well as develop an appreciation of the arts. Students work individually and within small groups to produce productive works (sketches, models), keep journals, participate in research projects and art exhibitions, conduct peer critiques, and perform self-evaluations. Through art instruction, students learn how to classify works of art and identify artists.
The Academy has adopted the nationally known, research-based, scope and sequenced Krauss Music Curriculum for kindergarten through twelfth grades. The curriculum is aligned to the Music Educators National Conference (“MENC”) National Music Standards of the National Association of Music Education. The Academy’s music program introduces and builds upon the elements of music including sounds, rhythms, tempos, and melodies through singing, chanting, listening, and performing. The program is designed to teach music in the manner that students learn music skills, concepts, and how to perform. Performances and studies are based upon several approaches including the Orff, Kodaly, and Dalcroze processes. The curriculum is designed to challenge all students based upon their learning styles, and also includes remedial activities and enrichment activities. (www.classroom-music.info/index.htm)
The Academy has adopted the Rosetta Stone Classroom Curriculum for kindergarten through twelfth grades. The Rosetta Stone Classroom Curriculum is aligned to the American Council for the Teaching of Foreign Languages (“ACTFL”) and the Michigan Department of Education’s World Language Standards. The curriculum incorporates listening comprehension, speaking, reading, and writing to assist in language development and acquisition. Academy students use innovative technology for speech recognition and for more accurate pronunciation. Through the Contextual Formation TM component of the program, interactive speaking activities immerse students in real world conversations and ensure students produce spoken and written sentences. Further, the Academy utilizes the program’s adaptive recall to review materials, test student language knowledge, and retention.(www.rosettastone.com)
The Academy has also adopted the Sonrisas Spanish School Elementary Curriculum for specific use in kindergarten, first grade, and second grade. The curriculum is aligned to the national Foreign Language Standards, and combines pedagogic philosophy and curriculum implementation that includes Waldorf techniques and ESL best-practices. The curriculum uses stories, art, dance, and Spanish music that appeal to the various learning styles and multiple intelligences of students. (www.sonrisasspanishschool.com)
The Academy’s full-day kindergarten program is structured to enable children to develop mentally, socially and academically. The Academy’s program promotes language development, problem solving, and the development of a variety of fine motor and cognitive skills. The core curriculum for English language arts, mathematics, the natural sciences and social studies is implemented using the KC4 and is supported with the approved curricula for introduction to physical education, health, character education, modern languages, and the fine arts.
The Academy’s kindergarten program draws from theorists such as Vygotsky whose theories have far reaching implications for the education of young children (Walsh, 1989, Ruddell & Ruddell, 1994). Vygotsky’s theory and research findings suggest that large blocks of time are required for optimal learning conditions during the early years:
“Vygotsky believed that mental functions are acquired through social relationships in which adults scaffold for children when necessary, stepping back at the appropriate time and allowing youngsters to internalize activities, emulate behaviors, and incorporate them into existing structures of knowledge. Providing opportunities for this type of process learning requires large blocks of time for exploration, and a variety of experiences and materials. This is not always possible in the constraints of a half-day program” (Morrow, Strickland, & Woo, 1998, p. 11).
The Academy’s program utilizes the large blocks of time to engage students in activities that are developmentally appropriate and integrate new skills with past learning experiences through project work and mixed ability grouping (Drew & Law, 1990; Katz, 1995). To promote learning, Academy students are provided with hands-on activities utilizing manipulatives that develop numeracy and literacy skills. The Academy develops numeracy and literacy skills by incorporating a center-based approach to learning and provides “play time”. Further, the Academy’s program develops students’ self-esteem, social awareness, and positive peer interactions. A healthy focus on the development of these areas during the first year of schooling proves integral to future academic and social functioning (Magnani & Galvin, 1995; West, Denton, & Reaney, 2001).
The Academy’s full-day kindergarten program provides stimulating activities and lessons that help a young brain build the neural connectors that carry learning and independent thought (Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children, 2000). The Academy uses formative, summative, and diagnostic evaluation and remediation as part of the teaching-learning strategy. Academy staff monitor student growth and progress to identify the child’s stage of learning and provide the appropriate learning experience and supports (Harrison-McEachern, 1989; Karweit, 1992; Naron, 1981).
When making educational placement decisions for students with disabilities, the Academy will ensure that parents are notified and invited to become members of the group making these decisions. When determining how services will be delivered to students with disabilities, the Academy will follow all guidelines issued by the Michigan Department of Education. If a child with a current Individualized Educational Program (IEP) enrolls in the Academy, the Academy will implement the existing IEP to the extent possible, or will provide an interim IEP agreed to by parents until a new IEP can be developed. IEPs will be developed, revised, and implemented only in accordance with the Individuals with Disabilities Educational Improvement Act (IDEIA) and state laws and regulations.
The Academy will fully comply with applicable laws and regulations governing children with disabilities, particularly IDEIA, as follows:
- The Academy is responsible for providing a free appropriate public education to children with disabilities enrolled in the Academy that have been determined through an IEP to require Special Education programs and services.
- The Academy will ensure that children who are suspected of having disabilities are properly evaluated by a multidisciplinary team, as defined in the Michigan Special Education Rules, and that children who have already been identified are re-evaluated by the multidisciplinary team at least every three years.
- When a multidisciplinary team determines that a special education student requires Special Education programs and services, the Academy will ensure that the IEP is fully implemented in accordance with IDEIA, and reviewed on an annual basis or more frequently as determined by the IEP team.
The Academy will use the Response to Intervention (“RTI”) approach to meeting students’ needs. The first stage of implementation will require educating all building team members about RTI, specifically, that it is a model designed to address individual student needs with specific interventions that begin with those that are least intrusive and gain in intensity. During the first year of operation and in subsequent years, all staff will need professional development related to implementation of RTI.
The Academy will have an active Child Study Team that acts as the first stage of intercession for any student who demonstrates an increased need. The Child Study Team will accept referrals from classroom teachers, parents, support staff and administration that identify a student with academic, social or behavioral concerns. These students are considered “Tier II” students and will receive supplemental interventions based on individual need. The Child Study Team will work closely with the classroom teacher, whose presence is required during the RTI meeting for their student, to develop a list of interventions intended to support academic achievement based on a careful data analysis. The data analysis will consist of multiple data sources which may include: assessment data, observation data, behavioral surveys, home surveys and any other available data.
Continuous progress monitoring will be used to ascertain the effectiveness of the individualized interventions. A student’s case will return to the Child Study Team for review after a specified intervention period has passed. At that time, the Child Study Team will determine whether a student’s supplemental interventions may be removed and the child becomes a Tier I student, whether the student will remain Tier II with a new series of interventions, whether the current interventions will be maintained, or whether a student requires Tier III status. Tier III status will require intensive instructional services, usually provided through a formal (IEP). Intensive special education services, IEP development, monitoring and required reporting will be facilitated through special education consultants that are highly qualified and experienced in special education services. The teacher consultants will serve as part of the Child Study Team, and work closely with the Administrator to ensure full compliance with all special education legislation.
Small Group and Individual Tutoring
The Academy will provide direct instructional services to students focused on improving academic achievement. The services will supplement the instruction provided in the traditional classroom using both push-in and pull-out services.
Social Work/Counseling Services
The Academy will provide social work services as needed for students in order to address specific social, behavioral and family needs that may be hindering academic achievement. The social worker will work closely with teachers, paraprofessionals and administration to facilitate communication between all school stakeholders to ensure that a team approach is used to guarantee academic success for every student.
Starting insixth grade, in preparation for the development of the individual student’s Education Development Plan, Taylor International Academy will offer students a career development and planning program. Academy students will participate in programs such as career pathways, career awareness, career exploration, career assessment, and a comprehensive guidance and counseling program.
Education Development Plan
Students will be provided the opportunity to begin development of an individual Education Development Plan (“EDP”) during grade seven.
The primary emphasis of the EDP is to develop a student’s statement of career goals and a plan of action for reaching them. Through the EDP process, each student becomes more aware of the connection between a career goal and the requirements for attaining that goal. The EDP provides opportunities for a student to learn about himself or herself, to understand career pathway options, and to explore postsecondary education and training. The EDP engages each student to think about the credits he or she needs to take in middle school and high school, and how those
credits coordinate with his or her career pathway so that an understanding of the relevance between high school and preparation for entering college or the workforce is enhanced. Each student should be aware of the basic requirements for college and employment, disability supports (if receiving special education services), and traditional or alternative pathways for meeting the Michigan Merit Curriculum (e.g., community college, trade schools, technical college, apprenticeship program, Career and Technical Education, or an interdisciplinary course sequence).
The EDP program will be mentored through the Advisor-Advisee Program. Eachseventh grade student will be assigned an “Advisor” from the professional faculty and/or trained professional adult volunteers whose primary responsibility will be to mentor an assigned student in the area of career and educational goals. The core of this program will revolve around the development, fine-tuning, and maintenance of the student’s EDP.
Extracurricular Activities and Before and After School Care
The Academy will provide community access for, and offer, school sponsored programs for students based on student demand including: mentoring, debate, sports, liberal arts, book clubs and academic enrichment. Before and after school childcare will also be available for enrolled students. This service will benefit parents who have other obligations before and after school hours, such as work, by providing a safe, caring environment for students. Additionally, drop-off and pick-up times give staff additional opportunities to communicate with parents regularly.
Professional Development Planning for Faculty/Staff
The annual professional development plan will focus heavily on comprehensive differentiated instruction training for all instructional staff and administration, in order to support the philosophy of instruction at the Academy. In addition, professional development will be governed by the findings of the School Improvement Planning Process, which will be a continuous improvement strategic planning process that will support student academic achievement and personal growth.
Community Outreach-Strong Parent and Community Relationships
Academy team members, including families, will work together to ensure that all students will exit the school with the core knowledge and technological skills necessary for students to succeed in a global society. All team members will firmly impart the belief to students, some who have not met with academic success in the past, that all children can and will learn. Active participation in the Parent Partner Involvement Program will be required of each family with a child enrolled at the Academy. Parents, and/or other significant adults in the child’s life, will be required to partner with the school for twenty (20) hours an academic year. Details will be outlined to parent-partners at the Parent/Student Orientation Meetings in August. Standard practices such as school newsletters, web sites, parent/teacher conferences and parent organizations (PTA and Parent University) will be utilized as well as developing partnerships with community organizations that benefit families such as: housing, human services, health services and employment agencies, Lawrence Technological University, Mary Grove College, Oakland Community College, Siena Heights University, local libraries and the YMCA of Metropolitan Detroit.
The Taylor International Group will engage in a corporate partnership focused on internships, career skills and professional job opportunities for Academy students. The corporate partner will also serve as a sponsor for some of the Academy’s advanced technological needs.
Commitment to Character Development and Service to the Community
All students will engage in community service and instruction related to social responsibility. Community service opportunities will foster community relationships benefiting school families as well as creating students who care and contribute to their local community.
Community Character Development Programs
In addition to the Character Education Program embedded within the curriculum, the Academy will support and encourage community programs that facilitate character development and emphasize the importance of critical values that are necessary to facilitate high academic achievement such as: perseverance, intrinsic motivation and confidence. These programs include Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, and Girls on the Run.
Phase II Future Plans
Special review will focus on the results of best-practices resulting in schools that have adopted the middle school philosophy and practices as outline in Turning Points 2000 (Carnegie Institute).
Academy High School Graduation Requirement Overview
Planning and preparation will begin on the development of the high school curriculum component during the 2011 – 2012 school year. The Academy offers students the option of earning a traditional high school diploma or an IB Diploma.
The Academy requires 18 credits to graduate. The high school program will include the current Michigan Merit High School Graduation Requirements:
|English||4.0||English Language Arts 9 English Language Arts 11English Language Arts 10 English Language Arts 12|
|Mathematics||4.0||Algebra I, Geometry, Algebra II, and one additional math course in the final year of high school.|
|Science||3.0||Biology, Physics or Chemistry, and one additional science credit|
|Social Studies||3.0||.5 credit in Civics, .5 credit in Economics, U.S. History and Geography, and World History and Geography|
|Language Other Than English||2.0||Two years of a foreign language|
|Visual/Performing Arts||1.0||Visual or performing arts course|
|Physical Education/Health||1.0||Physical Education and Health course|
|Electives||1-4||Courses will vary|
|Online Learning||An online learning experience will be offered to students throughout their required course of study.|
The Academy will award credit based on proficiency in expectations, not seat time. Credits may be earned prior to a student entering high school or by testing-out of a course. Additionally, credit may be earned through advanced studies such as accelerated course placement, advanced placement, dual enrollment, or international baccalaureate program or an early college/middle college program. The high school curriculum will contain an International Baccalaureate Program component for grades ten, eleven, and twelve.
A parent or legal guardian of a student may request a personal curriculum for the student that modifies certain Michigan Merit Standard requirements. The Academy’s high school counselor, or other designee appointed by the principal, will assist in the development of the personal curriculum. If all of the requirements for a personal curriculum are fulfilled, then the Academy may grant a high school diploma to a student who successfully completes his/her personal curriculum even if it does not meet the requirements of the Michigan Merit Standards.
Dual enrollment permits an eligible high school student to take a college class while still enrolled in high school. The college class may be taken for high school credit, college credit, or both. Eligible classes at college are generally in academic areas where the student has exhausted the high school curriculum or the class is not offered by the high school. The Academy will pay for the course cost but is not obligated to cover fees for books, transportation, parking costs or activity fees. While all students will be granted high school as well as college credit, all classes must be applicable toward a college degree. The high school administrator must approve all dual-enrollment courses before the student registers.