Our Components of Education
- At MAS, our instruction is driven by one primary goal—outstanding student achievement, and this can only become a reality through intensive, day-to-day monitoring of student progress data. At MAS, teachers assess student learning informally and/or formally on a daily basis and modify their instructional plan accordingly. In each classroom you will find data that tracks individual student progress and classroom progress toward the learning standards and holds us accountable, in part through awareness and transparency.
- How is our approach different in regard to using student data? What makes us different is that while we hold high standards for our students, we, meaning the adults, ultimately take full responsibility for the achievement of our students, and daily monitoring of student progress data is one way we maintain responsibility for our students’ outcomes.
- We have designed a rigorous, standards-based curriculum that is directly aligned to both the Common Core State standards and to the New Mexico State standards. In addition, our curriculum has been strategically designed to close any existing achievement gaps in elementary and middle school, so that students are prepared to handle the demands of our high school’s college preparatory curriculum, making college a reality for all of our students.
- How is this evident to an observer? Every class has a measurable, standards-aligned daily objective. This is visibly posted and any observer can see the alignment between the written objective and what is actually being taught. In addition, when your child comes home from school and you ask, “What did you learn today?” students will be able to respond with a standards driven response instead of the typical response of, “I don’t remember,” or worse yet, “Nothing!” The daily objective drives the lesson in each classroom, and teachers use daily assessment measures (informal and/or formal) to determine student understanding and adjust the next day’s lesson accordingly.
- MAS also uses formative assessments. These are short-cycle assessments designed by teachers and administered to all students on a regular basis. The predominant use of the assessments are to inform instruction and make instructional changes based on student performance. The point is to understand where each individual student is in terms of learning the identified standards and to support each individual student in reaching proficiency. The multiple assessments provide information along the way regarding student learning and are intended to allow the student multiple opportunities to improve along the way. The final goal is to have all students reach proficiency.
- How are formative assessments different from other assessments? From the eyes of a student, assessments are frequently used as a “punishment” by providing low grades for failure to learn the material, and then moving the students on to the next unit of study. Our approach is to provide multiple opportunities to improve performance, and ultimately master the learning standards. Our goal is to ensure proficiency by tracking student progress on a daily basis and adjusting instruction accordingly. Grades are not used as a punishment, but instead students are expected to learn the material, and it is the teacher’s job to ensure that this happens.
- MAS is committed to preparing students for college and the competitive world, and mountains of research support that an emphasis on writing is imperative to the overall success of students. As a result, MAS places a heavy emphasis on writing, particularly non-fiction writing in all content areas, and all in content areas teachers are trained in the writing process and content specific writing strategies. In addition, MAS students are assigned two 90 minute reading/writing instructional periods each day that are dedicated to formally and explicitly teaching students reading and writing, particularly non-fiction writing.
- How is MAS’ approach to teaching writing different from most traditional schools? The primary difference in our approach is found in the amount of time dedicated to explicitly teaching reading and writing. If we want to prepare students for the rigors of college, students need ample time engaged in high quality learning with high quality instructors. Therefore, our program has been designed to offer significantly more instruction in reading and writing than traditional schools. Most schools offer an average of 60 minutes a day of reading and writing; MAS offers two daily 90 minute blocks of reading and writing instruction every day. This is 180 minutes of daily instruction in reading and writing which is three times the amount of instruction offered by the traditional school! Additionally, MAS explicitly teaches non-literacy teachers like science and social studies teachers, how to embed reading and writing instruction into their lessons to ensure we are maximizing the opportunities for student learning of reading and writing.
- Instructional staff at MAS are trained in collaborative scoring of student work so that scoring is objective rather than subjective. Teachers, students, and parents need to clearly understand what is being assessed and how it is being assessed, and additionally, instructional staff also need to be aligned on how to assess. Collaborative scoring of student work is essential in order to ensure that teachers are holding students to the same high expectations. This also helps to ensure that grades are meaningful and actually measure student proficiency.
- What exactly does this mean for my student? Research conducted by the former Leadership and Learning Center showed that the difference in grade-point averages for those students attending high-achieving middle schools was one-tenth of a point higher than the GPA of students attending very low-achieving middle schools. In other words, grades alone do not always indicate if a student is adequately prepared. Collaborative scoring provides a means to support teachers so that they are holding students to the same expectations so that rigor can be defined in the same way throughout the entire school. Student performance is not contingent on how a teacher grades, but instead actual objective proficiency measures.
- MAS embraces a no excuses, whatever it takes attitude to ensure our students succeed. We have high expectations of our staff and students and we strongly believe that high expectations begin with the adults. The correlation between staff expectations and student achievement has been known for more than 50 years, and the research states that staff expectations of students play a significant role in determining how well and how much students learn. Providing students education in an environment that maintains high expectations, and expecting students to fulfill these expectations is one of the key features of MAS’ program. High expectations pertain to every facet of the school, including but not limited to, academic achievement, attendance, and behavioral and character expectations.
- What are examples of high expectations at MAS? While there are a variety of ways that MAS incorporates high expectations in our learning environment, the following is intended to provide a “feel” for our school culture and to demonstrate some of the ways we support students in the attainment of high academic achievement through consistent schoolwide routines/procedures and high expectations. The routines/procedures highlighted below directly support the delivery of our school curriculum, and while they may not appear “curricular,” they provide considerable support for the delivery of our curriculum and are an integral part of our school culture and therefore warrant mention.
The binders are organized in this uniform and consistent manner and teachers explicitly teach students how to use their binders and how to keep them organized. Organizational skills are a critical success principle that support students in attaining academic success. Most students, particularly as they transition from elementary school to middle school, lack the organizational demands of secondary school. We believe this is primarily because these skills have not been explicitly taught, and organizational demands are not the same in an elementary school where students typically have one teacher throughout the day. To support students, MAS explicitly teaches students organizational skills that will support them in being successful in school and beyond, and the use of our uniform binder system is just an example of how we maintain high expectations of our students by explicitly teaching organizational skills.
- Bell-to-Bell Instruction – All teachers begin their classes with a standards-based “Do Now” activity that will help students to connect the previous day’s content to the current content being taught. This activity also serves as an indicator that class has begun and allows students to ease themselves into the period’s work. All staff are expected to begin each class in the same way in order to increase on-task time in classrooms. Wong, reporting on research from the Southwest Educational Development Laboratory, explained that between 3 to 17 minutes are wasted at the beginning of each class period each school year. This is JUST time at the beginning of the class period from when students enter the classroom and instruction actually begins. It is reported that actual wasted time for the entire class period ranges on average from 9 percent to 32 percent of the total class time. Assuming “minimal” loss of instructional minutes, if ten minutes were wasted per class period in a six hour school day for an 180 school-day year, this equates to one entire month of school wasted each academic year. One of the ways that MAS realizes high expectations is by demanding that all of our teachers are highly effective teachers and value and use every instructional minute afforded to them.
- Uniform Binder System – Another uniform procedure used at MAS is the use of our binder system at the middle and high school level. Each student has an individual student binder in each of their core content area classes. The binders are uniformly organized by content. For example, all math classes would have the following sections:
- Math Review
- College Field Trips – MAS also communicates high expectations to our students by taking on college visits each academic year. Our goal is to take each class of students on at least two college field trips each school year from grades 6-12 to expose our students to college campuses. We recognize many of our students will be first generation college students, and we do not believe that telling students that we are a college preparatory program, or telling them that we expect them to go to college is enough. They need to “experience” college by physically visiting the campus, seeing the dining hall, visiting college classrooms, meeting college students and faculty, visiting the financial aid office, and seeing college dormitories, just to highlight a few things we believe they need to experience to begin to see college as a part of their future. By providing this opportunity to students and creating the opportunity for students to physically visit college campuses, we plant an important seed for our students in helping them to see themselves as a future college student and a future college graduate.
- MAS’ school culture can be described as positive, supportive, safe, and effective. The use of Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) gives MAS staff the framework to create a culture that articulates, teaches, and reinforces the expectations of the school. PBIS emphasizes a school-wide system of support that includes proactive strategies for defining, teaching, and supporting appropriate student behaviors to create a positive school environment. It provides a continuum of positive behavioral support for all students within the school and is implemented in areas including the classroom and non-classroom settings such as hallways, the cafeteria, and assemblies.
- Why did MAS select PBIS as the approach to handling student discipline? In many schools, discipline focuses mainly on reacting to specific student misbehavior by implementing punishment-based strategies; this includes, but is not limited to, reprimands, loss of privileges, office referrals, suspensions, and expulsions. The implementation of punishment, especially when it is used inconsistently and in the absence of other positive strategies is ineffective. In fact, research shows that punishment practices, when used alone, promote more antisocial behavior, impair child-adult relationships and attachment to school, and as a result contribute to student absenteeism and higher drop-out rates, and weaken academic outcomes by these students. Introducing, modeling, and reinforcing positive social behavior is an important part of a student’s educational experience. Teaching behavioral expectations and rewarding students for following them is a much more positive approach than waiting for misbehavior to occur before responding. The purpose of school-wide PBIS at MAS is to establish a climate in which appropriate behavior is the norm, and as a result academic achievement is fostered.
- MAS strives to provide an inclusive educational setting for our students with disabilities and English language learners. Students with disabilities and English language learners benefit socially and academically in an inclusive classroom, which incorporates appropriate adaptations to the curriculum, taking in to account students’ Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) and also adapting the curriculum to be responsive to the culturally diverse student population MAS serves.
- Why has MAS opted to utilize an inclusive approach to education? Special needs students in regular classes fare better academically and socially than comparable students in non-inclusive settings. High expectations for such children ensure their access to the general education curriculum to the maximum extent possible, and strengthens the role of parents, and ensures that families have meaningful opportunities to participate in the education of their children.
- At MAS, we recognize that teachers are the key to student achievement and we invest heavily in professional development to ensure our teachers are continually improving in their effectiveness to ensure outstanding student achievement results. Research has consistently demonstrated that programs alone do not ensure student achievement; it is highly effective teachers who ensure outstanding student achievement. Robert Marzano completed a research study in which he evaluated school and teacher effectiveness and impact on learning. Marzano’s research study concluded the following:
|School and Teacher Effectiveness Impact
on Learning Entering School at the 50th Percentile
|Type of School and Type of Teacher||Percentile After Two Years|
|Ineffective school and Ineffective Teacher||3rd|
|Effective School and Ineffective Teacher||37th|
|Average School and Average Teacher||50th|
|Ineffective School and Effective Teacher||63rd|
|Effective School and Average Teacher||78th|
|Effective School and Effective Teacher||96th|
- How does MAS use these research findings to impact student learning outcomes? As is evidenced by the research findings above, an effective teacher can have a profound impact on student performance and MAS has developed its professional development around these understandings. MAS commits to two full weeks of professional development before the start of each school year for all returning teachers and three full weeks of professional development for teachers new to our school! In addition, we have made the research-based decision to front-load our schedule and provide approximately an hour of professional development and collaboration for our staff each day that school is in session. This professional development takes place for approximately one hour every day that school is in session for students prior to their arrival each morning which equates to approximately 182 additional hours of professional development for all instructional staff EACH school year.
- Parental involvement is critical to student academic achievement. With that said, MAS recognizes that parental involvement does not always mean being physically present at the school because of other obligations owned by the parents of our students. With this in mind, we maintain active communication and encourage participation in feasible ways that support the varying needs of our parent, and ultimately support student achievement and the attainment of the mission of our school.
- In what ways does MAS work to involve parents and the community?
- Communication - MAS maintains regular communication with parents via email blasts, telephone blasts, newsletters, before school, during school, and/or after-school meetings, personalized staff phone calls, early and consistent notice of academic and behavioral concerns, and an open-door policy.
- MAS' Annual Meet & Greet - MAS hosts an annual Meet & Greet event each school year prior to the start of the school year where we welcome new families to MAS and welcome returning families back. We also share highlights from the previous school year and announce new and exciting developments. This is also an evening that students get to meet their teachers for the upcoming school year, collect their school uniforms, sign up for sports and clubs, plus much more!
- Parent Conferences - School-wide parent teacher conferences are held two times per year, once in the fall and once in the spring. Additionally, staff are available and expected to meet with parents outside of the regularly scheduled parent teacher conference dates at a parent’s request or as need dictates.
- Throughout a student’s career at MAS Charter School, they are consistently taught about success principles, principles to support students in getting from where they are to where they want to be. There are many ways that we teach success principles to students, but two curriculum resources we use include the Choose Love curriculum by Scarlett Lewis and a book titled, The Success Principles for Teens, by Jack Canfield and Kent Healy. Regular lessons are taught to students on success principles because we strongly believe that educating a child goes far beyond just teaching core academics. Students must be educated in principles of success to accelerate their development and allow the greatest opportunity for them to discover their passion so that they can give back and serve. MAS is so committed to ensuring our students know, understand, apply, and use success principles that at the high school level, we require a a one credit, mandatory graduation required course titled “The Success Principles for High School Students.”
- Why did MAS include this course as a part of the academic program? As previously mentioned, MAS strongly believes that academics alone do not adequately provide the preparation students need to experience success in all areas of life. Therefore, in order to fulfill our mission and adequately prepare MAS students for college and the competitive world, we believe that it is imperative that students are explicitly taught principles of success.