Academics

We aim to educate the whole child. And what’s more, we cherish the children who are here so they learn to love learning.

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Approach to Education

Listed here are our seven key design components.

Component #1: A Focus on Urban Adolescents.  As we grow, we learn about, test, modify, deploy and are constantly improving upon a series of strategies and techniques designed to build. We regularly use instructional methods, procedures and practices in our classrooms that have proven successful in other high-performing urban schools.

Component #2: High and Clearly Articulated Expectations. We use standardized lesson planning structures, classroom procedures, a visible blackboard configuration, student organization systems and a student planner. All are designed to effectively secure clear communications to students and parents on a regular basis about what students are supposed to be learning

Component #3: Rewards and Consequences. We recognize positive academic and social behaviors and consistently and systematically provide consequences for conduct that detracts from learning or proves inconsistent with our core values.

Component #4: More Time on Task. We currently operate an academic year and day that extends well beyond that of our district peers. Our students receive greater than 19% more instructional time than students in the Trenton Public Schools.

Component #5: Building Community. Our school community meets regularly to focus on character development.  Depending on grade level, this is accomplished via Community Circle and Advising. During this time, advisors, teachers, group leaders and students discuss and present Foundation Academies’ core values. Our students are actively engaged in the community and conduct several community service projects.

Component #6: Results Focus. We regularly track data to measure and assess our performance. Each month, we publish and distribute to all staff more than 100 pages of Monthly Performance Metrics (MPMs), detailing various academic and conduct measures of students, staff and parents.

Component #7: Values Focus. We have continuously sought to instill in our students that becoming better people is as important as other measures of success. We have pursued academic excellence, secured a strong reputation with our parents and in the broader community and have been efficient stewards of the public’s financial resources, all while simultaneously and unapologetically focusing our students and staff on our core values of caring, respect, responsibility and honesty.

Instruction and Curriculum Development

All classrooms at Foundation Academy, regardless of grade level or subject area, have the following instructional expectations:

- Rigorous, Purposeful and Measurable Objectives. We believe that great lessons start with clear and high expectations.

- Guided Practice. We expect our teachers to model for students what they want students to be able to do independently.

- Independent Practice. We expect our teachers to provide students with the opportunity to practice skills that align to the objective and standards.

- Assessment that is Aligned to the Objective. We expect our teachers to have evidence that students accomplished the objective (or goal) for the lesson.

Instructional expectations differ somewhat in order to ensure that instruction is age- appropriate and conducive to the subject area. We strategically change our lesson format to promote critical thinking as students rise through the grade levels. Instructional expectation differences can be summarized as follows:

Primary School (Kindergarten to 2nd Grade) -- In the primary school grades, all classrooms are co-taught. Most instruction follows an “I Do” (direct instruction), “We Do” (guided practice), “You Do” (independent practice) lesson format.

During English Language Arts, co-teaching is a dynamic process that varies based on the ELA component. “Parallel teaching” is utilized by the co-teachers during Guided Reading (Kindergarten to 2nd Grade), 2nd Grade Writing, and Phonics (Kindergarten and 1st Grade) or Shared Reading (2nd Grade). During these parts of the lesson, teachers divide the students in half and teach the same concept at the same time. During Shared Reading and Read Aloud (Kindergarten to 2nd Grade), one teacher leads the instruction and the other teacher supports by helping individual students.

In Writing (Kindergarten and 1st Grade), “alternative teaching” is implemented by the co-teachers. In this model, one teacher manages and provides instruction to the majority of the class, while the other teacher works with a smaller group of students to help struggling students with skills or provide an extra challenge for students that have mastered a concept.  Science, Social Studies, Music, and Physical Education/Health are taught by one teacher using the lesson format described above.

For Mathematics instruction, “alternative teaching” is used and uses the “You, Y’all, We” model ofteaching described in the 3rd-to 8th-Grade Section below.

Intermediate & Middle School (3rd to 8th Grades). In grades 3 through 8, we have incorporated the “You, Y’all, We” model of teaching to ensure that lessons are student-centered. This model of teaching taps into what students already understand and then builds upon it. Rather than starting each lesson by introducing the main idea to be learned that day, students are assigned a single “problem of the day” or “question of the day” designed to let them work toward it — “You” is first on their own, then “Y’all” in peer groups and finally “We” as a whole class. The result is a process that replaces answer-getting with sense-making.

During the “You” portion of the lesson, teachers circulate to observe and record students’ prior knowledge on the skill and plan questioning. During the “Y’all” portion of the lesson, the teacher poses planned questions to individual groups of students that are discussing. During the “We” portion of the lesson, the teacher questions to ascertain the thought process students used to make sense of the problem or question. At this time, teachers target misunderstandings through questioning.

High School (9th to 12th Grades). In order to prepare students for college level courses, high school instructional expectations include four instructional models, outlined below. These models are designed to help students learn content and sharpen their critical thinking skills and were developed by Robert Marzano and his colleagues:

 

  • Integrative Model. In the Integrative Model, students develop a deep understanding of organizedbodies of knowledge while developing critical thinking skills. The model is designed to teach combinations of concepts, generalizations, principles, rules, facts and the relationships between them.  This is achieved through the use of graphic organizers which may be generated by either the teacher or student. This model is used in all content areas and high school grade levels.
  • Problem-Based Model. The Problem-Based Model is designed to teach problem-solving skills and content and to develop self-directed learning. The model uses a problem or a question as a focal point for student-led investigation and inquiry. Problem-based learning is a teaching model that includes problem solving, inquiry, project-based learning, and case-based learning. This model fosters conceptual learning and is most commonly used in the Math and College Prep classes.
  • Concept-Development Model. The Concept-Development Model builds on students' prior knowledge by refining and extending concept information so that students can understand increasingly complex and abstract ideas. Students list, group, and regroup items related to a subject, verbalizing common attributes and revealing thought patterns. Students label the groups, draw inferences, and make generalizations from the specific data available to them. Finally, by writing a one-sentence summary about each of the groupings, students demonstrate understanding of multiple relationships. This model is seen in all content areas and high school grade levels.
  • Direct-Instruction Model. With emphasis on active teaching and high levels of student involvement,  the Direct-Instruction Model focuses on both concepts and skills. In this model, the teacher structures the topic and explains it to students. The teacher then provides students with opportunities to practice and gives them feedback along the way. Control of learning gradually shifts from teacher to learners. This model is more commonly implemented in the 11th and 12th grades in preparation for college.

Tracking Academic Progress

Success at FACS is defined by its students’ progress towards achieving their goals. In addition to academic goals, FACS values character education, as well as a commitment to continuous improvement.  These goals are measured through a variety of internally and externally designed assessments that measure student mastery and growth.

To facilitate its students’ academic growth, leadership and teachers collect data through frequent assessments, analyze this data, and use it to identify gaps and opportunities.  For example, internally developed benchmark assessments are administered at all grade levels to determine student mastery of the material taught in the previous six to eight weeks. The results of these assessments impact teachers’ instructional methods, pacing and the re-introduction of material.  These assessments test all standards and objectives taught as of the point in the year these benchmark assessments are given.

In addition, external assessments are used to determine students’ progress against national standards.  The primary testing tools include the Strategic Teaching and Evaluation of Progress Literacy Assessment (“STEP”) and Fountas & Pinnell Benchmark Assessment System (“F&P”) , the state-mandated New Jersey Assessment of Skills and Knowledge (“NJ ASK”) in Science for grades 4 and 8, and the state-mandated Biology Competency Test (“BCT”) at the high school level.  Students in grades 3 to 11 take the state-mandated Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (“PARCC”) in English Language Arts and in grades 3 through the Algebra II course in mathematics. This assessment is used in New Jersey to determine student achievement in reading, writing, and mathematics as specified in the New Jersey Student Learning Standards (“NJSLS”) .  See “Academic Performance”.

Technology

FACS invests in the critical technology initiatives that bring access to cutting-edge technology and tools for FACS’s students, teachers and schools.  These initiatives include developing technology-literate students in preparation for college and life, supporting effective teaching through the deployment of instructional technology, and using effective technological tools to create personalized learning platforms and feedback systems for students, teachers and parents.  

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