Artesian's educational model is centered on three key areas to ensure that each of its students leave equipped with the skills necessary for rigorous college-preparatory high schools, post-secondary education, and life beyond. They are based on Artesian’s founders’ experiences in urban education, turn-around environments, and research from the turn-around movement:
1. Build a strong foundation in literacy and math Since most Artesian students will arrive at the school several years behind grade level, we believe that strong, effective remediation focused on core skills and fundamental building blocks is essential to quickly close gaps in knowledge and skills. Artesian’s content-expert teachers work with their students to catch them up on basic skills that they haven’t yet mastered, at which point instruction and thinking can occur at higher levels. Even homework is designed to practice critical thinking skills and is modeled after process-oriented activities such as the PARCC Constructed Response Assessment.
2. Focus on the individual student The whole child must be served to ensure that every student will be academically, socially, and emotionally prepared for college, career, and life success. With a low student-to-adult ratio, students are able to develop relationships with adults in the building, and teachers know well the explicit needs of every child. Intentionally grouping teachers to be solely responsible for specific students’ learning means that Teaching Teams are able to effectively tailor lesson plans to meet the unique needs of each individual.
Each student at Artesian has a personal Growth Plan that focuses on her/his academic needs and character/behavioral goals. Academic goals and growth are determined through diagnostic tests, regular benchmark tests, and interim assessments, while character goals are first determined through a diagnostic test and then aligned to Artesian’s values. Behavioral goals stem from the school’s Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS) goals. The school uses PBIS as its behavior management system because it allows middle schoolers to live out Artesian’s values and become independent and responsible life decision makers. PBIS also ties in with the Collaborative Problem Solving approach, developed by Dr. Ross Greene and described in his book Lost at School , which is an important team-based management strategy for students with behavior problems at Artesian.
A Support Team of adults is assigned to each cohort of sixth-grade students and provides tailored instruction and attention to the social-emotional needs of those students. This cross-functional group meets daily and consists of 4 general education teachers, 1 special education teacher, 6 Academic Coaches who focus on math tutoring, and 1 Character Coach who is a counselor/dean of students. The Character Coach acts as a facilitator between the Support Team, students, and parents, which provides an effective structure for Collaborative Problem Solving. The Support Team structure provides Artesian’s middle schoolers with a consistent set of adults with whom to interact on a daily basis during an unstable stage of their lives. The Support Team provides “a psychological home within the school that helps reduce the stress of isolation and anonymity” during adolescence.
One strategy Artesian employs to fill academic gaps is daily tutoring in math led by an Academic Coach. The Academic Coach works seven daily sessions with two students at a time, and the tutor/student matches stay consistent throughout the year. This daily tutoring model is adopted from the nationally replicated and proven model, Match Tutor Corps.
Lastly, students at Artesian participate in a small, same-gender Advisory class which allows customization to their needs and development. This class is a daily time to reinforce and practice Artesian’s values in a safe space, emphasize PBIS components, and instill study skills. For the sake of consistency, the Advisor is the main contact with her/his students’ parents and is her/his students’ main representative at Support Team meetings in regard to Growth Plans.
3. Use data to make informed decisions Instructional, cultural, and school-wide decisions are based on data collected daily, weekly, and throughout the year. For example, individual teachers are able to fluidly create small groups for re-teach, intervention, or remediation each day in class based on looking at Exit Ticket data. PBIS curriculum in Advisory is based on grade-level behavior data that week, and professional development may focus on a skill to improve the quality of teaching based on recent school-wide academic data.
Standards-driven assessments are used to measure student progress. Teachers use a combination of benchmark testing, national norm-referenced testing, state assessments, and internal assessments to provide a thorough measurement of student mastery. Assessment results at the beginning of the academic year provide a baseline for teachers, while daily, weekly, and interim assessments provide quantifiable data to measure student progress and provide regular feedback, allowing teachers to quickly adjust instruction plans to student needs.