Our Community School
The challenge: How to develop students into active, empowered members of community
Our Community School (OCS) was created in response to the activism and demand of parents and local community to have a charter school in their area to meet the needs of their children. Seeking to instill the same values of activism and community into the students at the school, OCS was created to build a community within a community and create a space where children love to learn.
The solution: Deliver rigorous curriculum combined with whole child education
Teachers at OCS are constantly updating and improving on the curriculum to ensure that students are learning through multiple modalities. They utilize project-based learning to guarantee that students have real-world connections and experiences to accompany the lessons learned in classes. Various types of art and music are incorporated into lesson plans to make learning fun. Building these activities into the rigorous curriculum and pairing them with quality practices and whole child education methodologies empowers students to reach their potential.
The curriculum at OCS is designed to continually build upon prior lessons. Often, upon the completion of a lesson, students will participate in an activity to apply the lesson to a real world situation. In other cases, field trips may supplement lessons learned in the classroom. Students are given the opportunity to share what they learned with the whole school. Student-run assemblies showcase the work of different grades and different classrooms. Through the production of these assemblies, students are taught valuable leadership skills that help them take an active role in their educational experience.
At Our Community School, teachers work together with one another, as well as with other members of the school community to tailor curriculum to meet the needs of all students. At the school level, teachers engage in collective program improvement cycles to identify and address student needs. Teachers observe one another's classroom and provide peer-to-peer feedback. As part of professional development, teachers collect student achievement data, analyze it and apply research-based strategies to improve the quality and delivery of instruction.
The results: All students achieve high academic outcomes
The Our Community School story demonstrates how a whole school community can come together in a charter school and make decisions to accelerate student learning. Our Community School achieved success by implementing the following strategies:
- Combining rigorous academics with whole child education methodologies to produce high academic outcomes.
- Creating a shared vision with school staff, parents and students and communicate the vision regularly.
- Using flexibility afforded to charter schools to engage the whole school community on curriculum and school activities that accelerates student progress.
In two years, OCS surpassed the 800 mark on the API with a jump to an API growth score of 833 in 2008. OCS has worked to close the achievement gap at their school with Latino students (44% of population), who scored 823 on the API, and socioeconomically disadvantaged students came in with a score of 810.
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