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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.
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.
Regardless of which school a student attends, there are shared instructional and academic expectations across the FA campuses:
- Rigorous, purposeful, and measurable objectives
What we do matters. So much so, that every lesson objective is expected to relate to the skills that students need to be most challenged. We want our students to know how their content relates to their future success, and our teachers are encouraged to find ways for students to track their own growth over the course of a school year.
- Guided practice
Once students learn new skills, they are guided by their teacher in practice and through modeling. In this way, the teacher facilitates the students’ progress toward mastery.
- Independent practice
Each lesson comprises a majority of independent practice time - the time that students are able to practice and apply the skills they’ve learned on their own. This time is crucial for teachers to also identify student misunderstandings and reteach any concept that students have not mastered.
- Assessments that align to grade-level standards
We design our units with the end in mind, and that includes crafting assessments that directly connect to the standards outlined by the Common Core.
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.