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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.
What constitutes high quality instruction at this school?
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 for mastery.
- Guided Practice. We expect our teachers to model for students what they want them to be able to do independently.
- Independent Practice. We expect our teachers to provide students with ample 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.
Provide a brief description of the school’s instructional practices.
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.
For Writing instruction (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.
Mathematics is taught using the “You, Y’all, We” model described in the 3rd-to 12th-Grade Section below.
Science, Social Studies, Music, and Physical Education/Health are taught by one teacher using the “I Do”, “We Do”, “You Do” lesson format described above.
Intermediate, Middle School & High School (3rd to 12th Grades):
In grades 3 through 12, 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.
Career Readiness & Civic Service Learning:
A partnership with Mercer County Community College enables eligible high school juniors and seniors to enroll in courses during the day and earn college credits at the local community college prior to high school graduation.
High school students are required to participate in a Civic Service Learning class and are required to complete a minimum of forty (40) hours of approved community service.
Seniors have the opportunity to participate in a Career-based Internship program. The main goal of this course is for scholars to increase their knowledge about a career that they have a strong interest in pursuing. The second goal is to get them to reflect on the knowledge they gain from this experience and demonstrate their skills, abilities, and learning. There is a CBI coordinator who serves as a guide and is available for discussions and assistance throughout the course.
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”.
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.