The other two positions are posted both internally and externally until April 26. I have received applications. Hiring should take place in early to mid-May.
Is the bussing for Marengo figured out?
Marengo Valley students will probably ride a middle/high school bus to a point where they can transfer to an elementary bus (this is currently being done for LSE students who live farther out). On the middle/high school bus, AECS students will sit in the front of the bus or with a relative if arrangements are made for that.
How will the students be transported around the community?
We will walk as much as we can. If smaller groups are going somewhere, the school district vans may be used. If larger groups are going and we need bus services, we will be using the Lakeshore Bus Company, as per the district contract with them.
What are the class sizes?
Out of the 91 applicants from the first enrollment period (students who are guaranteed their place on the roster list), we will have 38 third graders, 27 fourth graders, and 26 fifth graders.
What will the first few days be like? How will the students get to know each other?
In any classroom, the first few days (and actually the first six weeks according to Responsive Classroom practices) need to be devoted to building a classroom community. Students and teachers need to get to know each other, expectations & routines need to be established, and a respectful, safe environment for learning must be created. Students will get to know each other through Morning Meetings, games & activities, project work, and times set aside for social interactions. In addition, over the summer, the teachers will be working with their educational consultant to design a 60 day plan to start the year.
Will the students still have specials (encore)? Will the encore classes be the same or different?
Yes! Students will attend classes for music, art, phy. ed., library, and guidance. They will follow the same 5-day rotation schedule as the students in LSE. They will attend these classes in multiage groups of AECS students; they will not be with their 3rd, 4th, or 5th grade peers. The priority with our daily schedule is to have two large learning blocks – one for ELA (English Language Arts) & math, and another block for our PBL time. In order to have those, our students need to go to their encore classes within the same time frame.
What about lunch and recess?
AECS students will attend lunch with each other. Their time might overlap with another grade level but it would not work to have students go with their respective grade levels. We would have students coming and going for nearly two hours of the day.
What will the academic expectations for students be? Higher?
Our academic expectations will be high for all students. Multiage groupings of students and a team teaching approach will allow us to individualize instruction. Students will set goals based on their individual strengths, weaknesses, needs, and interests. The state of Wisconsin has adopted the Common Core State Standards for ELA and Math. Those standards, in addition to the Wisconsin Model Academic Standards, will be our guide for academics. The 21st Century skills of collaboration, communication, critical thinking, and creativity will also be our focus.
How do you teach multiage?
Because we are not multiage experts, we have recognized the need to work with a consultant who is. This summer we are hoping to bring a consultant to our school to work with us for a day or two. We do know that we want to make learning more individualized for students by looking at where they are right now and where they need to go. Assessments will be used to determine current progress levels. Assessments will include: MAP testing, curriculum based assessments, observations, written tests, discussions, etc. Currently, we (the teachers & consultant) are collaborating to figure out the best way to deliver reading, writing, and math instruction.
We will be visiting a multiage, project based learning school in May. We are excited to see first-hand how they manage this and make it all work. Students setting goals based on the standards they are expected to achieve and monitoring their progress towards those goals, helps ensure that all students are meeting expectations.
What are some project examples?
A few project ideas we have talked about our: learning about the history of Ashland through the city murals and creating our own mural; learning about Ashland history and creating an exhibit for the museum; growing our own garden, harvesting the food, and planning snacks/meals; designing learning spaces in our rooms; creating a learning environment in our nearby school forest; writing, illustrating, and publishing books; writing and acting out movies; learning about water preservation and conservation using Lake Superior; inventing a new product using at least 50% recycled materials; and publishing the school newspaper. The idea list for projects is endless. Our projects will vary from shorter in length to longer, individual work to group work, in theme, in products produced, in materials used, and in the type of presentation at the end.
Have you thought about making documentaries?
We have thought about students making movies.
When will the supply list come out?
Students will bring home an LSI supply list at the end of this school year with their report card. Please disregard that list. We will mail home a supply list for AECS students by mid-summer.
What will the report cards be like?
Our report cards have to be developed. They will be standards-based and will use the 4,3,2,1 scale.
What constitutes success of the school?
For our school to be successful, our students need to be successful in both their academics and social interactions. In addition, student and parent satisfaction in our school has to be high. If students want to be there and parents want to send them there, we are doing our job.
If our guiding principles are visible in what our students, families, and teachers are doing, we will have a successful school. (Our guiding principles are: Foster passionate learners. Emphasize the learning process. Do real things. Encourage innovation. Engage everyone – learn everywhere. Value diversity. Rethink everything.)
A successful school has these elements: high expectations for all (students, teachers, parents, etc.); dedicated, passionate, & inspired teachers; effective classroom management coupled with community building approaches; a variety of instructional techniques; individualized instruction; a climate conducive to learning (safe, organized, clean, caring); ongoing assessment that supports instruction; high level of parent & community involvement, support, and partnerships; and high-quality leadership.
How can parents help?
Parents are essential partners in educating their children, as recognized in our grant.
Goal 4: High degree of parent and community support and involvement. The charter school will be a place where parents and community members volunteer as classroom and project coaches, participate in “presentation of learning” events, and help plan and organize activities that support the school. Students and teachers will routinely venture into the community to perform service and implement projects that meet the learning goals of students, and address needs in the community.
We will be working towards a goal of 1,000 hours of volunteer participation per year in our school. Parents have numerous skills, talents, and areas of expertise that can benefit the learning of our students.
What will the relationship with the LSI principle, Mr. Esposito, be?
Mr. Esposito will be a supporting mentor to our school. He will not be the principal for our school. The lead teacher will act as a principal in all situations possible.
What about a PTO for fundraising?
We intend to have some kind of parent organization.
Will the students participate in AR?
We have not actually discussed this. The new AR program is a web-based program that provides access to all AR books (in the past you had to purchase tests for books). In addition to the traditional comprehension test, students can also take vocabulary and literacy skills tests on the books. These are improvements in the AR program and make it more beneficial to use. The AR program is motivating for some and for others it is not. We will spend time this summer looking at how it could best fit in our school.
Will there be cursive writing instruction?
We have not discussed cursive writing instruction. There is a lot of debate about whether or not this should be a part of daily instruction. The debate is usually about whether or not time should be set aside for it and taken away from something else. This will be on our list of summer topics to explore and discuss.
What about teaching foreign languages? Global connections?
This is a great question and is another one that we have not had the opportunity to talk about. Last year, I had the opportunity to visit the Quest Charter School in Ripon. They were using the Rosetta Stone program on the computer for their students to learn a foreign language. That could be a possible option, but it is costly. This will be another summer topic to look into.