EDUCATIONAL PHILOSOPHY & KEY ELEMENTS
Since its founding, CCSP has been faithful to its mission and has built a school based on a number of central tenets outlined in our original charter. As stated in CCSP’s original charter, our philosophy is premised on the simple notion that if we can succeed in assisting children to be inspired at a young age, they are more likely to be excited about learning. We believe that all children have tremendous potential to learn, and that students learn best when they are in a caring, supportive community of learners where their academic needs, social-emotional needs, health needs and family needs are addressed. We work with our students to master The New Jersey Student Learning Standards so that they can compete for the college or career of their choice in a 21st Century, globally-competitive environment.
CCSP’s most important goal is ensuring high student achievement by providing a world-class, rigorous and engaging education to our students. It is also essential that we create and nurture a learning environment where students remain connected to their community and where the school is seen as a community asset. To achieve this, CCSP is faithful to its core design elements while consistently implementing innovations that increase student achievement.
There are four central key design elements, all of which support our overarching objective of promoting student achievement: (1) Full-Service Community School; (2) Instructional Rigor and Intensive Student Support; (3) Continuous Professional Development and Teacher Support; and (4) Data Driven Instruction.
KEY ELEMENT 1 - FULL-SERVICE COMMUNITY SCHOOL
CCSP was founded as a full-service community school, inspired by the model developed by the Children’s Aid Society (CAS). As a full-service community school, CCSP opens early, closes late, is open on weekends and during the summer, and provides an array of services and activities designed to remove barriers to learning and promote student and family success1. CCSP has a Community Schools staff of four people, consisting of a Director, an Assistant Director, the 21st Century Community Learning Center Site Coordinator, and a Parent Liaison.
CCSP programs address the key elements of a community school as defined by CAS as detailed below:
Focus on Education - CCSP delivers a rigorous curriculum that is aligned with New Jersey Student Learning Standards and includes a longer school day and school year than traditional schools. See Sections 1.2 (Curriculum) and 1.3 (Instruction) for more detail.
School, Family and Community Engagement - As a community school created by local community leaders, it is essential to our mission to engage and serve our families and the community. CCSP utilizes dozens of community partners to help enhance CCSP’s core academic goals as well as supporting its mission as a Community School. See Section 2.2. (Family & Community Engagement) for more detail.
Extended Hours and Expanded Learning Opportunities – CCSP has a longer school day (7.5 hours) and longer school year (192 student days) than traditional schools. Additionally, CCSP provides an extensive array of Expanded Learning Time (ELT) programming to better meet parents’ and students’ needs.
Strategic Partnerships – As a Full-Service Community School, CCSP has cultivated a number of strategic partnerships, enabling us to support teachers in the classroom with additional resources. Some of our strongest partnerships include:
- William Paterson University – CCSP is part of WPU’s Professional Development Network of Schoolsandparticipates inWPU’s ‘Professors in Residence’ program, through which CCSP teachers receive in-class coaching and professional development support from highly-qualified, seasoned educators (including retired teachers and principals) throughout the school year;
- New Jersey Community Development Corporation – NJCDC provides full-time AmeriCorps members who perform in-class support, mentoring, and after school tutoring.NJCDC also provides access to its wide array of programs and services for our students and families, and assist in proving resources such as the school’s playground and outdoor garden/science laboratory.
- St. Joseph’s Regional Medical Center- St. Joseph’s enhances CCSP’s Physical Education and health programming by bringing specialists in to create individualized health action plans;
- The Wharton Institute for Performing Arts and the NJ Youth Symphony Orchestra – Through these organizations, 250 CCSP students receive 6 hours-a-week of high-intensity instruction in violin, viola, and cello.
- Paterson Museum – We benefit from having this Museum just one block from our main campus, which enriches our curriculum in many ways, such as using the Museum’s Native American exhibit to enhance instruction in the 4th grade social studies program.
- Great Falls National Park – CCSP works closely with the National Park Service with regular visits by Park Rangers to the school and field trips to other sites such as the Thomas Edison National Historic Park.
Continuous Support Along the Pathway to Productive Adulthood - CCSP works with our 7th and 8th grade students and their families to support their efforts to attend the high school of their choice. (Over 20% of CCSP 8th graders were accepted into Passaic County Technical Institute, the most popular of the area schools of choice).
Wellness - CCSP supports student and family wellness in a variety of ways. Examples include: free eye exams and low-cost eye wear; dental exams; free hearing screenings; a family fitness series (Zumba, Kickboxing & Yoga); an annual health & fitness fair and a vibrant student garden that is integrated into the curriculum.
KEY ELEMENT 2 – INSTRUCTIONAL RIGOR & INTENSIVE STUDENT SUPPORT
CCSP has been intentional in building a rigorous and engaging academic program designed to meet the specific needs of our students. In doing so, we have benefitted from outside experts including the National Charter School Institute. From classroom design, to lesson plan templates, to a 10-day teacher institute prior to the beginning of the school year, CCSP has built an academic program designed to promote mastery of the standards through rigor, engagement and individualized instruction. To address the learning gaps that are often present in students entering CCSP, the school has established strong intervention programs and the training and support to deliver those programs with fidelity.
The use of data to inform how we deliver instruction is critical. One example is our most recent PARCC data showed dramatic gains in grades 4 and 5, where teaching is departmentalized by discipline areas. We concluded that more focused lesson planning, increased teacher collaboration, and the content specialization and rigor that characterizes departmentalization should be expanded, and this year it has been to the 2nd and 3rd grades.
Other specific initiatives in instructional rigor include balanced literacy, math curriculum redesign, intervention programs, and innovative scheduling, all of which are further described in Section 1.2.
KEY ELEMENT 3 – CONTINUOUS PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT & TEACHER SUPPORT
CCSP takes pride in our investments in our human capital and provides a substantial amount of professional development through a variety of methods and opportunities. These include:
Professional Development – CCSP provides over 120 hours of professional development annually to its faculty.This includes a 10-day Teacher Institute prior to the start of the school year, and ongoing PD blocks twice a month (4:00-6:00 pm one day and 1:30 to 6:00 pm the other). We also provide professional development to support the implementation of all new programs and initiatives such as our Math-In-Focus program and the Teacher’s College Readers and Writers Workshop program and we bring in trainers and consultants to provide job embedded coaching and modeling.We also benefit from our partnership with William Paterson University.
- Coaching & Teacher Support – The staffing plan for the school includes a Chief Academic Officer, 2 math coaches, 2 Literacy coaches and 2 supervisors for these content areas to ensure a rigorous and engaging instructional program fully aligned with the New Jersey Student Learning Standards—and to ensure sufficient in-class professional development and support for teachers.
- Teacher Evaluation – CCSP uses the Marshall evaluation rubric that requires several observations for each teacher to provide frequent feedback that improves student learning. The tool aligns with the administrators’ evaluation tool to ensure all efforts are geared to meet the academic goals of CCSP.
KEY ELEMENT 4 – DATA DRIVEN INSTRUCTION
A rigorous, individualized and effective educational program requires valid, relevant, real-time and actionable data. Building a culture of decision making that is dependent on data is central to CCSP’s approach. Data drives our decisions in staffing, curriculum and student placement in our various intervention and ELT programs.
- Assessment Systems – CCSP adopted Renaissance Learning’s ‘STAR’ assessment system which provides real-time, nationally-normed data that can be analyzed at the school, grade, class and individual level. The system provides standard-by-standard data with a host of resources to directly support classroom instruction.CCSP uses the STAR data to create student centers, and group students for their FLEX period to ensure targeted interventions and supports.FLEX period is an innovative part of CCSP’s schedule in which students are regrouped based on their specific academic needs and provided with targeted instruction.During FLEX classroom teachers are supplemented with Title I and Special Education teachers to provide students requiring intervention services with small group instruction. The PARCC data has also been extremely useful for analyzing data and particularly how that data relates to the standard.For example, in the 2014-15 school year our STAR data made it clear that our students could perform the basic computational skills of math, but struggled with multi-step problems and higher-order thinking.This made it clear that CCSP needed a more rigorous program.CCSP identified Math-In-Focus (a Singapore math product) and supported it with an extensive professional development program.CCSP is adding the Ed Connect system to ensure that unit assessments are aligned with the State standards.Ed Connect provides standards-aligned question banks and a variety of other tools that support classroom level decision making.This will allow for quicker identification of standards that need to be addressed and course corrections that might need to be made along the way.
- Common Planning – All teachers are provided with weekly opportunities for common planning time within their schedule.CCSP’s ­­­­professional development program and its common planning meetings are based on discussions about, and skill-building around, student data.CCSP trains its faculty on centering those conversations on data to target student needs.
- Data Walls – CCSP designed a ‘model classroom’ and expects CCSP faculty and staff to integrate all elements of the model classroom into their individual classrooms.Data walls are an element of the model classroom and teachers are held accountable for displaying their classroom data. Evidence of learning is overtly demonstrated throughout the school in classrooms, the halls and other public spaces.
- Student Ownership – For the 2016-17 school year, CCSP is asking students to track their own data.CCSP’s standard practice is to send STAR and PARCC data home with student report cards and hosts a STAR night as part of the Parent Academy to explain to parents how to read and interpret STAR data This enables parents to use that data to support their children at home.CCSP expects that students themselves understand where they need to grow in each content area.
- Intervention Programs – CCSP uses data to place students in our various intervention programs.This includes:I&RS referrals, placement in the afterschool tutoring program, placement in FLEX assignments, participation in the Saturday and Summer programs and Title I support.