CACS’ belief is that the most important factors in improving student achievement and growth are: a) quality of instruction; b) effectiveness of planning and collaboration among educators throughout the school; c) personalization of instruction based on ongoing identification of individual student needs; and d) a school-wide culture that emphasizes data use and continuous professional growth. CACS will hire, develop and support effective teachers through ongoing teacher recruitment initiatives, formal and comprehensive induction for new teachers, targeted professional development and a school schedule that provides for daily professional development and collaborative planning, data analysis, curriculum development and/or lesson study.
Among the key design elements of CACS are:
- A student centered approach to teaching and learning that incorporates blended learning strategies and other practices to create a personalized learning environment for each student. At CACS, instruction will be tailored to accommodate not only students’ academic strengths and areas of challenge, but also their interests, learning styles and aspirations. This commitment to personalized learning and student-centered instruction will enable the school to identify individual student needs and deficits quickly and accurately and to respond with appropriate academic strategies and interventions.
- An academic program that emphasizes literacy and writing across all content areas. Research tells us that a focus at the elementary level on foundational reading, when expanded to include engaging learning experiences connected to informational texts, vocabulary and writing for content-specific purposes builds background knowledge and skills in each discipline. Accordingly, CACS elementary classroom teachers will focus on building the foundational literacy skills necessary for students to access learning in all disciplines. Also, to prepare students for success in the increasingly technology-driven educational and career environments of the 21st Century, CACS will focus on developing students’ digital literacy skills at all grade levels.
- An extended school year, which ensures that CACS students will have more classroom time than students in traditional NYC public schools. The extended year, along with summer reading assignments and online learning resources that can be accessed by students from home or public computers during the summer, will also combat the “summer learning loss” often experienced by students—and especially by at-risk, impoverished and minority students.
- A school-wide commitment to establishing a robust data culture in which data is used to inform academic programs and differentiate instruction. With the support of a full-time Data Coordinator and expert consultants, CACS’ teachers and instructional leaders will be trained in analysis and use of data to improve and differentiate instruction and to monitor student progress towards meeting instructional objectives. CACS will administer a comprehensive assessment program to provide teachers with a rich array of student data. Teachers and instructional staff will work individually and in school-based data teams and PLCs to analyze data to create, deliver, reflect on and improve lessons designed to address individual student needs.
- A school-wide culture of professional collaboration and growth supported by ongoing professional development, extensive use of professional learning communities (PLCs) and an extended-day school schedule for teachers that includes daily 90 minute periods for collaborative planning, professional development and peer review. Ongoing and measurable professional growth is also supported by CACS’ teacher evaluation system that uses multiple measures to identify areas of strength and challenge in each teacher’s professional practice and to align the school’s professional development initiatives to support each teacher in attaining personal professional growth objectives.
- A commitment to serving a student population that is demographically representative of the community. CACS has established a 20%-to-25% recruitment target for students with disabilities (SWDs), which will exceed the average SWD percentage of CSD 27. CACS will target its marketing and outreach efforts to feeder pre-schools that enroll large numbers of SWDs and leverage the experience and relationships of Founding Team members who have worked extensively with pre-schools enrolling large percentages of SWDs. In addition, CACS is committed to enrolling English language learners (ELLs) at percentages that are comparable to or greater than those of CSD 27 and will tailor its community and family outreach initiatives to ensure that ELL families are recruited to enroll in the school. The founders of CACS understand that personalized and blended learning environments have been effective in helping SWDs, ELLs and other special populations succeed in school, and they will emphasize this in its outreach and recruitment efforts for all students, including SWDs and ELLs.
- A commitment to supporting the development of effective thinking, learning and study skills in all students through the integration of the research-based “Habits of Mind” across the school curriculum. With online training delivered by Habits of Mind co-creator Dr. Bena Kalick and direct support from other experts, CACS will use Habits of Mind to support instruction and help students develop the skills, attitudes and dispositions necessary for success.
- A school culture and climate that is cooperative, safe, healthy, equitable and supportive, in which all adults in the school model the behavior and attitudes expected of students and all students, teachers and administrators contribute to building and maintaining a positive school climate. CACS will maintain a culture in which students work collaboratively with teachers and peers and are thoroughly supported by the school’s teachers and administrators.