Certain key foundational beliefs and practices have helped us build an innovative, successful, and engaging public education program.
College preparatory curriculum that begins in kindergarten: We work hard to help our scholars believe that college is a realistic and attainable goal for each and every one of them. Our scholars are explicitly taught the importance of attending and graduating from college. Every classroom features college and university signage and decorations. Students are addressed individually as scholars and collectively as the year that they will graduate from college (scholars that started Kindergarten in the fall of 2009 are called “The Class of 2026”). Additionally, every year, students visit colleges and universities. By exposing students to the skills and knowledge they need to succeed in college and simultaneously stressing that every Equitas Academy scholar can and will attend and graduate from college, we help to dramatically improve the educational outcomes for the students of Pico-Union.
Slow growth model of growing one grade level each year: Our model of growing just one grade level per year after launching with Kindergarten and first grade has proven to be a tremendous boost to our ability to develop capacity over time and make improvements and refinements to our program based on data. Our small school environment helps foster a child-centered approach to learning in which children form meaningful relationships with several adults and receive individualized instruction and attention. Students, parents, teachers and staff develop an important sense of “belonging” in our school community- a powerful force in combating the challenges faced outside our school walls.
Laser focus on the core content areas of literacy, mathematics: Our academic program is centered on mastery of foundational skills in literacy and mathematics, along with mastery in the core content areas of social studies and science. Students benefit from longer literacy and math instruction in the primary years. Specific attention and longer instruction in literacy will ensure students have early literacy success that supports them to higher levels of achievement in the future. The overall literacy program is based on the five components of a balanced literacy program: phonemic awareness/phonics, fluency, vocabulary, comprehension, and writing.
Intentional use of data to drive instructional decisions: Teachers plan and deliver instruction informed though frequent assessment. School leadership and teachers analyze assessments and plan instruction for students to master the individual objectives embedded within standards. Daily, weekly, and trimester-based systems are put in place to monitor the effectiveness of instruction and student learning. Teacher-created and curriculum-generated assessments are used to inform weekly lesson plans. On a more formal basis, Interim Assessments are administered three times a year to inform instruction, which is modified based on the resulting student performance data to ensure student mastery. We expect students at Equitas Academy to perform competitively on state and nationally-normed assessments. For this to be possible, a thoughtful, sequential series of frequent assessments continuously informs leadership and staff as to the efficacy of the instructional program and student supports, as well as guides all decisions in a time-effective and proactive manner for every student.