General Questions: 1. We want to save our school and don’t want new management to change our traditions. Artesian does not want to change what the current school means to its community. Depending on parent/community input, we plan to keep:
The school’s name
The school’s mascot and colors
Current SCS uniforms (specific-colored polo shirts and khaki pants)
Artesian would like to keep all of the current school’s great teachers; we recognize their added value of knowing the community, students, and parents. Current teachers will have to apply and go through the same interview process as any other teacher candidate.
2. How are you different from other charter schools? Artesian is not part of a network of existing charter schools and thus doesn’t have to do things the same way they’ve always been done. We can be innovative and make changes that are best for our students quickly.
At Artesian, students are known by their teachers, and instruction is individualized to students’ needs because of:
Daily, small group Advisory classes
Daily, 1-on-2 tutoring classes (1 tutor working with 2 students)
Weekly communication with parents
Growth Plans created for each student based on her/his needs
Discipline systems that focus on keeping students in the classroom and getting to the root cause of issues through a team approach (students, parents, teachers, administration, counselors)
Artesian values community input and community ownership of the school’s success. We hope to facilitate community pride and participation for and with the school. We will be very transparent with academic results and want to be held accountable (and supported) by parents and the community to ensure our students are doing the very best they can.
Lastly, our curriculum is not simply memorizing facts and teaching to the test. We focus on critical thinking and problem solving because these are skills that will be necessary for success in life beyond middle school.
Academic Plan 1. What are your plans for the first 100 days of school in 2014? The first 2 weeks of school will be heavily focused on creating Artesian’s culture. It will be an exciting time because our 6th graders will play a role in determining what they want their school to look and feel like. Students who enter school after the first 2 weeks will be matched with 2-4 buddies who will help teach them the “Artesian way.”
During this time, we will also test students’ math, reading, and writing ability in order to work with parents/caretakers, students, and teachers in creating individualized Student Growth Plans. Growth Plans are reviewed at least every 6 weeks by teaching teams, so in the first 100 days of school, parents/caretakers will receive 2-3 updates of their student’s progress toward their goals.
2. What curricula will you use? We have identified several engaging and challenging curricular options; additionally, some strong schools in high-performing states (such as Massachusetts and New York) have committed to sharing their created curricula with Artesian. However, we first want to know and understand the specific students we will be serving so that we can choose curricula most suited to their needs. The final decision about curriculum will be made by Artesian’s principal (the instructional leader of the school) in early Spring (Feb-March) of 2015.
3. What type of academic interventions will you use? Beginning July 2014, Response to Instruction and Intervention (RTI squared) will be the only way to identify a student with a learning disability. With the implementation of RTI squared, every school will have to use a universal screener (pre-assessment) to identify specific deficit areas and then tier students. Students in tiers 2 and 3 will need to be placed on targeted interventions.
At Artesian, all interventions are driven by data—Artesian’s Associate Director of Academic Achievement monitors and helps teaching teams identify the most strategic ways to identify and help catch-up students who are behind.
Interventions will include:
In-classroom (small-group pull-outs and 1:1 sessions during independent practice)
Every 6th grade student receives 1-on-2 tutoring based on their specific growth needs as a part of their daily class schedule
4. Will you have inclusion services? Yes; Artesian is based on an inclusion model to insure that, whenever possible, all students receive baseline instruction. Special Education teachers co-teach in classes, allowing for small group pull-outs, 1-on-1 work, etc., if necessary. In-class small groups are formed based on student needs, so it should not be easy for an outsider to tell the difference between students requiring special education services from students in the general education program.
Structure & Programs 1. Will there be longer school days? Artesian’s model requires about 8 hours, which includes 5 academic classes (reading, writing, math, science, and social studies), 1-on-2 tutoring, an elective class (e.g., performing arts, visual arts, computer, foreign language), PE, lunch, and advisory. We want to discuss best times to start and end school based on this model with parents and caregivers before deciding on the school’s actual hours.
Additionally, keeping great teachers is one of our highest priorities, so in order to provide a sustainable work environment, each teacher will have approximately 2 hours of personal planning time and over an hour of team planning time built into her/his day.
2. Will you have before and/or after care services? Currently, we do not have plans for before- or after-care services besides after-school tutoring or extra-curricular activities such as sports practices. We do hope to partner with community organizations to offer after-school activities at the school for students to stay as needed.
3. Will students have to attend school on Saturday? Saturday School is not in Artesian’s plan.
4. What programs will you have and/or how will you decide what programs to keep (band, athletics, cheer, step, debate, etc.)? Elective/exploratory classes that are offered during the school day will be decided based on excellent teachers we find. If we find more than 4 excellent teachers, we will ask students which 4 options they would like to have available to them during that school year.
Extra-curricular activities will be kept based on faculty availability and willingness to sponsor each activity. We also welcome parent or community leaders to sponsor activities, pending successful interviews and background checks. Artesian would like—and has budgeted—to keep existing sports programs, especially programs that students and the community take particular pride in.
Experience What experience do you have that lets me know the school will perform better? Ms. Smith has spent the past 2.5 years traveling around the country and working alongside leadership teams at high-performing schools learning about how to improve and maintain excellent academic performance. She is hiring a leadership team that will complement one another’s strengths in order to maximize the school’s outputs. For example:
Our principal, an experienced instructional leader, will be able to focus the majority of her/his time observing and coaching teachers to improve their craft and determining how to continually improve classroom instruction at Artesian.
Our Director of Academic Interventions (DAI) will monitor academic and behavioral data to help guide teaching teams weekly in how they can best individualize instruction for each student to provide appropriate remediation, intervention, or acceleration as needed. The DAI develops Student Growth Plans for students to see where they are, where they need to be, and how they will successfully get there—academically and behaviorally.
Also, Ms. Smith and the Artesian team have chosen to implement academic models that have been proven to work time and again in similar schools around the country. She has mentors in each of these locations helping to ensure that Artesian succeeds in introducing their models to Memphis.