Excel Academy A Jefferson County K-8 Charter School

Program Overview

EXCEL ACADEMY PROGRAM OVERVIEW

Copyright © 2016 Excel Academy Charter School All rights reserved. No part of the contents of this document may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means without the expressed permission of Excel Academy Charter School.

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EXCEL ACADEMY PROGRAM OVERVIEW

TABLE OF CONTENTS INTRODUCTION

1

EXCEL ACADEMY MISSION STATEMENT ..........................................................................................................1 ELEMENTS OF EXCEL ACADEMY ...........................................................................................................................1 SCHOOL GOVERNANCE ..............................................................................................................................................2 SCHOOL ADMINISTRATION......................................................................................................................................3 STAFF LISTING .................................................................................................................................................................3

ACADEMIC PROGRAM-CURRICULUM

5

RIGOROUS ACADEMICS IN KINDERGARTEN THROUGH 8TH GRADE .................................................5 ACADEMIC PROGRAM .................................................................................................................................................5 MATH PROGRAM ............................................................................................................................................................7 Saxon Math ................................................................................................................................................7 Math Exemplars ........................................................................... Error! Bookmark not defined. READING PROGRAM .....................................................................................................................................................8 Balanced Literacy Approach ............................................................................................................8 Leveled Guided Reading ....................................................................................................................8 Fundations ....................................................................................... Error! Bookmark not defined. Words Their Way ......................................................................... Error! Bookmark not defined. WRITING PROGRAM ......................................................................................................................................................9 Lucy Caulkins ....................................................................................................................................... 11 Writer’s Workshop....................................................................... Error! Bookmark not defined. 6 + 1 Trait Writing ...................................................................... Error! Bookmark not defined. Zaner-Bloser Handwriting Program 9 K-5 SPECIALS AND MIDDLE SCHOOL ELECTIVES ..................................................................................... 10 EMPHASIS ON FIELD STUDY ................................................................................................................................. 11 UNIT PERFORMANCE OBJECTIVES .................................................................................................................... 12

ACADEMIC PROGRAM-METHODOLOGY

12

ACCOMMODATION AND INDIVIDUALIZATION ......................................................................................... 12 DIFFERENTIATED INSTRUCTION ........................................................................................................................ 13 LARGE AND SMALL GROUP INSTRUCTION .................................................................................................. 13 PROJECT-BASED/HANDS-ON LEARNING APPROACH ............................................................................. 14 TARGETING THE NEEDS OF THE DIVERSE LEARNER ............................................................................. 14 © Excel Academy 2016  iii

EXCEL ACADEMY PROGRAM OVERVIEW GIFTED AND TALENTED FOCUS FOR ALL STUDENTS ........................................................................... 15 ASSESSMENT DRIVEN INSTRUCTION .............................................................................................................. 16 STUDENT PORTFOLIOS ............................................................................................................................................ 16 ENRICHMENT................................................................................................................................................................. 16 HOMEWORKING ..........................................................................................................................21 GRADING SCALE ....................................................................................................................................................... 182

CLASSROOM ENVIRONMENTS

19

MULTIAGE CLASSES ................................................................................................................................................... 19 SMALLER CLASS SIZES ............................................................................................................................................. 21

SCHOOL INFORMATION

21

SCHOOL HOURS ........................................................................................................................................................... 21 DISCIPLINE PHILOSOPHY AND PROCEDURES ............................................................................................ 21 Four School Rules ............................................................................................................................... 22 Core Beliefs Which Guide Enforcement of School Rules and Expectations ..... 22 Our Core Beliefs ................................................................................................................................... 22 Discipline Procedures ....................................................................................................................... 23 Environment ........................................................................................................................................... 23 LOVE AND LOGIC ........................................................................................................................................................ 24 WHAT DO YOU STAND FOR? AND BULLY-PROOFING YOUR SCHOOL .......................................... 24 EXTRACURRICULAR (BONUS) LEARNING ...................................................................................................... 24 PARENTAL INVOLVEMENT..................................................................................................................................... 25 PARENT TEACHER ORGANIZATION (PTO) ................................................................................................. 259

STRENGTHS/ACHIEVEMENTS

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SCHOOL STRENGTHS ................................................................................................................................................ 26

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INTRODUCTION EXCEL ACADEMY MISSION STATEMENT Excel Academy is a collaborative partnership of parents, students and educators accountable for authentic learning. We promote excellence through a rigorous, integrated, and enriched core curriculum for self-directed learners. Instruction is respectful of learning styles and is delivered using evidence-based methods and gifted and talented teaching strategies in a multiaged, smaller class setting.

ELEMENTS OF EXCEL ACADEMY Excel Academy is authorized under the Charter Schools Act (C.R.S. 22-30.5 et seq.), a law passed in 1993 by the State Legislature. A public charter school operates via a contract, or charter, with the local Board of Education. The charter stipulates authority and responsibilities given to the charter school’s governing board. Charter schools operate with autonomy while being held accountable for results. Periodically, typically during a renewal period, charter schools undergo an external evaluation. Additionally, charter schools are ultimately responsible to their consumers—the parents and students who choose to attend. Excel Academy’s charter was developed on the foundational idea that children can master a rigorous curriculum and become increasingly self-directed learners when mentored in an environment that delivers instruction in a variety of modalities. These modalities honor a child’s learning style, while promoting growth in other styles, and are best accommodated and developed through gifted and talented teaching strategies. Our evidence-based learning environment was designed by drawing upon current best practices. Consequently, we are a community of learners where integrity of character, value for education, and respect for self and others is paramount. Our learning environment delivers the Core Knowledge curriculum through a rich variety of strategies and experiences. Curriculum is process-centered and based on the concept that knowledge is interrelated. Smaller class size and differentiated instruction create an ideal environment for learners all along the learning continuum, but we have found that Gifted and Talented students and advanced learners thrive. Attention is given to “learning how to learn,” which helps develop successful life-long learners. Numerous field studies and enrichment activities augment the comprehensive curriculum. Students, staff, and parents work as collaborative partners in creating challenging and successful learning opportunities to ensure that each child achieves his or her highest potential.

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EXCEL ACADEMY PROGRAM OVERVIEW Since its inception in 1995 as a Kindergarten through 6th Grade school with 126 students in a leased commercial property, Excel Academy has grown to a Kindergarten through 8th Grade school with an enrollment of over 500. Excel Academy is now located south of Standley Lake in a 44,000 square foot building. This beautiful facility has 20 fully equipped classrooms, library, gymnasium, lunchroom, playground, stage, music room, and an art studio. This document will lay out the components that have made us a successful charter school as well as the unique features that set us apart from other schools.

SCHOOL GOVERNANCE The school is governed by a Board of Directors (Board) elected at the annual meeting of the membership for a three-year term. Board members have staggered terms so that every year approximately two Board seats are up for election. Parents of students attending Excel Academy are members of the non-profit corporation, also known as Excel Academy. Seven parents serve on the Board and the Executive Director serves as an ex-officio (non-voting) member of the Board. The overall tasks of the Board are to make policy decisions that uphold, interpret, and clarify the school philosophy and vision, approve curriculum and textbooks, maintain relations and communication with the District, and to take appropriate action to comply with applicable laws or district policies. On behalf of the school, the Board contracts for goods and services, prepares the operating budget, selects, terminates, and evaluates the Executive Director, determines employee compensation, determines the educational program, adopts the school improvement plan, procures insurance, purchases and leases equipment and supplies, and accepts and expends gifts, donations, and grants. Implementation of the policies and procedures, as well as daily operations, are the responsibility of school personnel. The Board meets twice a month to discuss school operations and to hear reports from the Executive Director, various board members and committee chairpersons. During these meetings, the Board examines operations, establishes new policies, and reviews and changes existing policies as needed. Requests, concerns and information items are offered from parents, students and teachers during the public comment portion of the meeting. Excel Academy Board Members: Alex Dorotik – President Corinne McMurray - Vice President Leslie Ryan – Secretary Kirstin Kraig- Treasurer Michael Thomas Torry Stanton Shannon Fitzgerald Lisa Gjellum, Executive Director

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SCHOOL ADMINISTRATION Executive Director: Lisa Gjellum joins Excel Academy with over 20 years of teaching in grades K-6. Mrs. Gjellum’s last seven years of teaching were at Peak to Peak Charter School where she was a founding teacher. Immediately after receiving her Administration license Mrs. Gjellum accepted a position as Assistant Principal at Landmark Academy and completed her tenure there after four years. The next school journey for Mrs. Gjellum was Principal at Carbon Valley Academy in Frederick and contracting as a School Review Panelist for CDE the past four years. Mrs. Gjellum is thrilled to bring her expertise to Excel Academy and share her passion with charter schools Assistant Director: Starr Svaldi is a fellow with Catapult Leadership, an innovative executive level leadership development program for experienced educators who are eager to create innovative, transformational change. Starr has been the Teacher Librarian and technology leader at Excel since 2008. Previously, Starr was the director of Literacy Outreach in Glenwood Springs and Manager of Gordon Cooper Branch Library in Carbondale Colorado. She received a B.A. in English from Catholic University of America in Washington DC and received her teacher’s certification from Metro State University.

STAFF LISTING Executive Director Assistant Director Secretary Secretary Business Manager Clinic Aide Kindergarten Teacher Kindergarten Teacher 1st grade Teacher 1st grade Teacher 2/3 Lab Teacher 2/3 Lab Teacher 2/3 Lab Teacher 2/3 Lab Teacher 2/3 Lab Teacher 4/5 Lab Teacher 4/5 Lab Teacher 4/5 Lab Teacher

Lisa Gjellum Starr Svaldi Roseann Dashkowitz Julie Smith Carrie Toennis Brenda Richards Becky Willis Amanda Zerr Carol Maugh Tomi Van der Veer Janice Adams Michelle Coffey Janice DeAndrea Amy Namba Barb Ham Sarah Fell Cori Ham Kelsey Byers

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EXCEL ACADEMY PROGRAM OVERVIEW 4/5 Lab Teacher 4/5 Lab Teacher 6th Grade History/ Math Teacher 6th Grade Science/Math Teacher 7th/8th Grade English Teacher 7th/8th Grade History Teacher 7th/8th Grade Math Teacher 7th/8th Grade Math Teacher/Interventionist 7th/8th Grade Science Teacher Art Teacher Music Teacher Librarian PE Teacher Spanish Teacher Technology Coordinator Paraprofessional (Kindergarten) Paraprofessional (1st Grade) Paraprofessional (2/3) Paraprofessional (4/5) Paraprofessional (4/5) Paraprofessional (6th grade) Paraprofessional (7/8) Paraprofessional (Library) Special Education Teacher Special Education Teacher Special Education Teacher Reading Specialist School Social Worker GT/RtI Interventionist OT/PT Therapist Speech Therapist Special Education Paraprofessional ESL Tutor Recess/Copy Room/Detention Supervisor Cafeteria Manager Custodian Custodian

Danielle Kaschub Diana Tomko Michelle Lynch Christine Hares Carrie Herring Marisa Vernec William Cherry Dwight Koch Heather Haberman Debbi Humrich Lori Boyd Andrea Klemme Kathy Schaefer Emily Dooling Kathy Periman-Towslee Judy Eberwein Lexi Hollenbach Nanci Mills Charlie O’Kane Shelley Smith Donna Anderson Mickie Leyva Marie Sefcik Rebecca Medina Wendy Moore Kelly Sanders Ruth McEwen Jami Bamat Tracy Puckett Leslie Kuhl Nancy Melichar-Hodgkins Mary Anne MacDonald Roberto Willy Shannon Coombs Sandy Hinojosa Curtis Clark Vince Yanker

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ACADEMIC PROGRAM-CURRICULUM RIGOROUS ACADEMICS IN KINDERGARTEN THROUGH 8TH GRADE Excel Academy offers a rigorous academic program delivered in both traditional and non-traditional ways. The curriculum is focused on basic academic skills and core content in reading, writing, math, social studies, science and literature. Excel Academy seeks to make all students high achievers by building on the virtues of traditional American education and by incorporating modern technology, research evidence on how students learn best, the wisdom and experience of teachers, and involved parents. The core principle at Excel Academy is that all students can and will reach high academic standards. Mastery of subject matter is our overall goal, regardless of the child’s background, learning style, or pace. Because students learn at different rates and in different ways, teaching strategies are varied according to each student’s needs. Students progress through the curriculum in ways that best suit their individual strengths, while enabling the development of additional strengths. Students are empowered to be responsible for their own learning and individual progress toward mastery and given time to recognize and implement what needs to be improved. Staff is supported in continued professional growth through staff development, individual study, and regular evaluation.

CORE KNOWLEDGE CURRICULUM Excel Academy uses the Core Knowledge curriculum as the base for literature, history and geography (American and world), science, visual arts, and music. Core Knowledge (www.coreknowledge.org) is a research-based program that was developed by Dr. E. D. Hirsch, Jr. and is based on a large body of research in cognitive psychology, as well as a careful examination of several of the world's fairest and most effective school systems. Dr. Hirsch has argued that, for the sake of academic excellence, greater fairness and higher literacy, early schooling should provide a solid, specific and shared core curriculum in order to help children establish strong foundations of knowledge. The specific content is laid out by grade level in the Core Knowledge Sequence, making it easy for staff and parents to see what is taught and what grade level it is taught in. Excel Academy teachers also map out a yearly plan for when the content is taught, which also enables cross-curricular connections to be made. © Excel Academy 2016  5

EXCEL ACADEMY PROGRAM OVERVIEW In second through fifth Grade, as well as seventh and eighth Grades, content is looped over a two year period, ensuring that by the time a student finishes both years in a lab, they will learn the content from both grade levels. Core Knowledge lays out a complete program that provides students with a broad-based education, free of significant gaps. It clearly defines the content knowledge and skills that each student must be taught at each grade level and creates high levels of academic expectations. Students progress as they build on knowledge from year to year. In addition, Core Knowledge not only eliminates some of the gaps and repetition characterized in some standard curriculums, but it also aids in delivering cultural literacy in a systematic manner while leaving room for creativity. For more detailed information, please read the overview of the Core Knowledge Scope and Sequence available on the Core Knowledge web site. The Core Knowledge curriculum prepares students for a lifetime of learning in a manner that can be described as solid, sequenced, specific and shared: Solid — grade by grade comprehensive outline including history, language arts, science, math, visual arts, music, and more for Kindergarten through 8th Grade Sequenced — builds upon prior knowledge, preventing repetition and gaps as well as ensuring a deep and broad comprehension of subject matter Specific — allows teachers to count on prior knowledge and ensures that every child is fully prepared to move on to the next grade Shared — prepares students to enter the world culturally literate with a common body of knowledge Important aspects of the Core Knowledge curriculum: It's comprehensive—Core Knowledge thoroughly covers our common body of knowledge in a very specific and sequenced way. The lessons build on one another, grade by grade, allowing for broad and deep knowledge. It's integrated—Core Knowledge is structured so that lessons in core subject areas being taught concurrently are related, whenever possible. For example, when the Renaissance period is being studied in history, students are reading related books in language arts, and studying the paintings and music from the period as well. It eliminates repetition—Repetitions in curriculum can cause boredom in children and that boredom can turn off learning in young children. Because Core Knowledge is so specific and comprehensive, repetitions are eliminated. It eliminates gaps—Likewise, without a highly specific curriculum, gaps in learning often happen. For example, students may learn about rainforests three times and never be exposed to the Native Americans, depending on what path of teachers, etc., they followed. By having a grade by grade, specific curriculum, Core Knowledge ensures that every topic is covered. © Excel Academy 2016  6

EXCEL ACADEMY PROGRAM OVERVIEW It's research-based—The Core Knowledge curriculum is research-based with proven results. For a more detailed look at the research and results, please read the Overview of Research on Core Knowledge on the Core Knowledge website. The Core Knowledge Foundation has been in existence since 1986 and has been used in thousands of schools across the country.

MATH PROGRAM Saxon Math Excel Academy uses Saxon Math as its primary math program. Saxon Math is unique because the entire program is based on introducing a topic to a student and then allowing them to build upon that concept as they learn new ones. Topics are never dropped but rather the complexity is increased and they are practiced every day, providing the time required for students to become competent with math concepts. This incremental approach to math differs from most traditional programs, which are "chapter-based." In these traditional texts, students are presented with and expected to learn an entire mathematical concept in one day. The homework for that day consists of twenty or thirty problems, all of which deal with that concept. The topic is then only reviewed prior to a test, if at all. Saxon textbooks, however, divide concepts into smaller, more easily grasped pieces called increments. A new increment is presented each day and students work only a few problems involving the new material. The remaining homework consists of practice problems involving concepts previously introduced. Thus, every assignment (and every test) is a cumulative review of all material covered up to that point. Saxon Math includes the following components: 

The curriculum is taught in small, easy to grasp, increments that build on one another.



The methodology includes continuous increments of explicit instruction, guided practice, and independent practice.



Frequent, cumulative assessment allows teachers to monitor progress as well as retention of skills, providing early identification of problems.



It implements the concept of “learning by doing” through frequent problem-solving and hands-on learning to demonstrate concepts presented.

Compass Learning Compass Learning school solutions enhance our ability to provide timely, standards-aligned instruction to accelerate students toward game changing academic growth. The curriculum syncs with our scope and sequence and offers rigorous and engaging math instruction for all students so that they can achieve record academic results. Teachers will use real-time data from NWEA MAP testing to differentiate instruction. Compass digital accounts provide © Excel Academy 2016  7

EXCEL ACADEMY PROGRAM OVERVIEW practice in class and at home for students working above, at, or below grade level. This instruction will pinpoint and close skill and concept gaps and moves students forward academically.

READING PROGRAM An effective language arts program is the cornerstone of every student’s education. Without the basic skills of reading, writing, and communicating, students cannot fully participate in the educational process. Excel Academy utilizes a Balanced Literacy approach to ensure that students receive appropriate instruction. Our school believes in a continuous assessment model where teachers utilize assessment to inform and drive their instruction. Assessments are on-going and help to form a body of evidence to demonstrate students’ skill development. Skills and thinking are promoted through sharing quality texts for a wide variety of genres. Guided practice before, during, and after reading and writing will direct students through tasks utilizing small group instruction, mini or focused lessons, conferences with the teacher, and student discussion groups. When observing classrooms at Excel Academy, one will note frequent and on-going activities to practice new and learned skills, including written responses that are at an appropriate development level. Teachers offer consistent opportunities for students to read self-selected texts while the teacher offers guidance and feedback as the student develops advanced reading skills. The five elements of a good reading program are reinforced through a variety of modes and allow for the direct instruction and practice of skills. Comprehension, Phonological Awareness, Phonics, Fluency, and Vocabulary Development become the focus for instruction through the programs and curriculum that are introduced.

Reading Street Leveled Guided Reading At Excel Academy, a teacher-led instructional approach is used to guide a small group of students who have similar needs. The focus is targeted reading instruction. The teacher selects the text and guides the student in the development of effective reading strategies for both comprehension and word decoding. During the guided reading lesson, each student actively reads his/her copy of the text. Guided reading is organized around texts at the students’ instructional levels to meet the specific developmental needs of the small group. Guided reading enables teachers to observe, monitor, and coach students as they read. Teachers reinforce, talk about, or model the reading strategies that students need. Reading instruction takes place as the students are reading the text. Groupings are based on student need and are dynamic, flexible, and temporary. © Excel Academy 2016  8

EXCEL ACADEMY PROGRAM OVERVIEW As students move through the reading continuum, they are introduced to literature discussion groups. Discussion groups are teacher-led in the early grades when teachers introduce them or when teachers want to periodically join the group. At the intermediate level, discussion groups are typically student-led. Group members are responsible for coming to the discussion group prepared to contribute ideas. The text may be read to, with, or by the students. Literature discussion groups facilitate students’ thinking about and response to a text, furthering their understanding of the human experience, and the writer’s craft. Groups can be formed either heterogeneously or homogeneously, are organized around a common piece of text, and are based on student interest.  Extensive practice provides students with multiple opportunities for skills development.  Assessments are used to monitor students throughout the program.

WRITING PROGRAM Lucy Caulkins Units of Study for Teaching Writing Units of Study for Teaching Writing, by Lucy Calkins, is the used school-wide in teaching writing.The Writer's Workshop format includes story planning (prewriting), drafting, revision, editing, and publishing. Direct instruction through mini-lessons is an integral part of the process. Mini lessons not only focus on grammar and other conventions but target each of the 6 + 1 Traits of Writing. The goals of Writer’s Workshop are to challenge the students to expand their ideas in the revision process, not simply 'correct' writing, to help students become aware of writing for different audiences, create focus within a topic, and try to see the piece of writing from a distance. Revision strategies are well developed so students may use them comfortably in middle and high school. Students’ skills will still vary and progress at different rates, but students who are familiar with Writer's Workshop will have a regular opportunity to practice independent writing. They will benefit from seeing the power of their words to express thoughts and from the repeated activities of writing for a specific purpose.

Zaner-Bloser Handwriting Program At Excel Academy, the Zaner-Bloser handwriting program is used for our explicit handwriting instruction in second through fifth grade. It is proven that better handwriting skills lead to better literacy skills and that developmentally appropriate handwriting instruction delivered in a consistent, ongoing manner is a proven critical component of overall literacy development. This program guides students through a step-by-step process of letter formation to increase legibility through regular self-evaluation and develop fluency and automaticity. © Excel Academy 2016  9

EXCEL ACADEMY PROGRAM OVERVIEW Shape, size, spacing, and slant of letters are the basis of the instructional system.

K-5 SPECIALS AND MIDDLE SCHOOL ELECTIVES Art, Music, Spanish, Technology, Library and Physical Education will be offered to all Kindergarten through 5th Grade students throughout the year on a fiveday rotation. K/1 students will go to the Library and Computers during a separate scheduled time on a weekly basis. Middle School students will have two blocks of electives as a part of their schedule Monday-Thursday. Sixth grade students will take four required classes (PE, Art, Music, and Information Literacy) during the first block. The Middle School electives that are available include: Advanced Art, Sculpting, Drawing, Flag Football/Lacrosse, Dance, Net Sports, Fitness Aerobics, Soccer/Disc Sports, Spring Musical, Concert Band, Choir, Spanish, Website Structure and Design, Debate, World Cultures, Creative Writing, Yearbook, Introduction to Psychology, Investigative Science, Environmental Studies, Coding and Robotics. Middle School students will also participate in Enrichment classes each Friday. These are classes offered around student interests and include field study, investigations, and deeper learning in specific areas. Each Enrichment class lasts for one semester and also culminates in a Share Fair. The classes vary each semester, but the following are some examples of previous classes: Photography, Woodshop, Yoga, Art and Nature, Sewing, Cooking, Escape Rooms, Origami, Geocaching and Tech team.

TECHNOLOGY The use of technology as a learning tool is essential to our program. Students are exposed to a variety of technical tools at all ages. There are Smart Boards in every classroom, laptop and Chromebook carts for classroom check-out, classroom desktop computers and iPads centers in the primary grades. Projects are designed to use the technology as a tool for presentation and research. Kindergarten through 5th Grade classrooms have a designated technology time once a week when students learn how to use the technology to research and extend their learning of content. Students are also introduced to Cloud Computing, Online Learning and Flipped Classrooms.

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EMPHASIS ON FIELD STUDY At Excel Academy, field studies are a cornerstone of our program. We encourage and support student learning experiences in the most appropriate setting possible and utilize the most appropriate talent and materials available. It is a priority of our program to locate a wide variety of materials within and outside the school. Field study is an integral part of the program and we use field studies as often as possible to enrich the learning experience. Most labs go on field studies to tie into units of study at least once per session; some labs participate in field studies as often as once a month. Excel Academy uses an “extended school” of businesses, parks, recreation centers, and museums to enrich classroom instruction and bring the real world closer to students. Parents, artists, local businesses, and community and political leaders are used to provide reality-linked learning for students. In the 4/5 Lab, extended field studies lengthen to at least three nights away at Outdoor Lab and four nights away during the Crow Canyon Archeological Center trip to Mesa Verde. In 6th Grade, the Dana Point trip to California extends to almost a week away. Similar to 6th Grade, the 7th and 8th Grade field studies to Washington D.C. and Keystone Science School last for almost a week. All extended studies have a required element of reflection and documentation, which creates wonderful memories that students will always remember! The table below outlines some of the trips that are taken during a student’s time at Excel Academy. K/1 Lab

Butterfly Pavilion, Denver Museum of Nature & Science, Denver Zoo, Pumpkin Patch, Arvada Center plays

2/3 Lab

Denver Zoo, Denver Museum of Nature and Science,Majestic View Nature Center, National Renewable Energy Lab, Plains Conservation Center, Arvada Center Theater, Butterfly Pavilion, Denver Natural History Museum, Wings Over the Rockies

4/5 Lab

Extended trip to Outdoor Lab and Crow Canyon Archeological Center in Mesa Verde—alternating each year, Colorado Young Ameritowne, Colorado History Museum, Colorado School of Mines, Denver Botanic Gardens, Pioneer Museum

6th Grade

Optional Extended Field Study to Dana Point, CA, Challenger Learning Center, United States Geological Survey, Denver Mint, State Capital, Denver Museum of Nature and Science IMAX and Planetarium, Colorado Rockies Science Day and Baseball Game.

7th/8th Grade

International Towne, Optional Extended Field Study to Washington DC and Keystone Science School—alternating each year, Buell Theater, Denver Museum of Science and Nature, Shakespeare Festival, Colorado Mountaineering Association, Misel Museum, Denver Art Museum

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EXCEL ACADEMY PROGRAM OVERVIEW Guest speakers and professionals in fields of study also serve as opportunities to extend learning. These experiences allow teachers to bring field experiences to the classroom. Some of these experiences include: author and illustrator visits, Arvada Fire Department, geologists, hydro chemists, City Council members, meteorologists, dental hygienists, Denver Zoo, University of Colorado Physics team, actors/actresses, coaches, veterinarians, video game designers, and the Arvada Police Department. Middle school students participating in optional extended field studies have the opportunity to run their own Student Businesses to raise money for their trip. In the Entrepeuners Club students become their own boss. This is modeled for 4th and 5th graders at the Colorado Young Ameritowne.

UNIT PERFORMANCE OBJECTIVES Units of study are designed to get the student involved in the “big picture,” and like a museum exhibition, to then lead them to make conclusions about themes (unifying concepts). The big picture gives the student scaffolding on which to hang, and therefore remember, the content details. Through a variety of experiences, the student gains sufficient knowledge and skills to demonstrate mastery of unit performance objectives (cumulative activities) that embody the major themes of the unit. These objectives are foundational in establishing a rich framework of knowledge, understanding, and skills most relevant to disciplines of study. They are also designed to encourage interaction of skills in a variety of settings, times, and circumstances. Each unit performance objective is designed to take the student beyond knowledge, comprehension and application, (the lower levels of Bloom’s Cognitive Taxonomy) and expect the student to work at the upper Bloom’s levels of analysis, synthesis, and evaluation. Units of study are designed to promote students’ expertise as practitioners in a discipline and to guide student thinking.

ACADEMIC PROGRAMMETHODOLOGY ACCOMMODATION AND INDIVIDUALIZATION Excel Academy’s community recognizes that students have different abilities, skills, learning styles, and interests. We also recognize that to be successful in today’s world, students will need to demonstrate skills in many areas. Individualization occurs in our classrooms through differentiated instruction, compacting, enrichment, acceleration, and accommodation for learning diffierences. All students receive exposure and instruction across a wide © Excel Academy 2016  12

EXCEL ACADEMY PROGRAM OVERVIEW variety of curricula and students are encouraged in individual interests through enrichment opportunities.

DIFFERENTIATED INSTRUCTION Although essential curricular goals can be similar for all students, the methodologies used in a classroom must be varied or differentiated in order to meet the needs of all students since they learn at different rates and in different ways. At Excel Academy, differentiated instruction is used in all classrooms to ensure that the needs of all students are met. Differentiating instruction means creating multiple paths so that students of different abilities, interest, or learning needs experience equally appropriate ways to absorb, use, develop, and present concepts as a part of the daily learning process. It allows students to take greater responsibility and ownership for their own learning, and provides opportunities for peer teaching and cooperative learning. Students progress through the curriculum in ways that best suit their individual strengths, while enabling the development of additional strengths. Students are empowered to be responsible for their learning and individual progress toward mastery and given time to recognize and implement what needs to be changed. A variety of instructional methods are used to meet students’ needs. Outcomes for projects and learning are variable based on the entry points of learners. Entry points for student learning are established through preassessment and the goals of the projects for students are differentiated so that learning can be obtained by all. Students help develop the expectations of learning based on their personal goals for learning.

LARGE AND SMALL GROUP INSTRUCTION A balance of large group direct instruction and small group focused attention is the ultimate goal of classroom teachers at Excel Academy. The idea of teaching a lesson and then breaking up into small groups has been successful in meeting the diverse needs of our learners. Excel Academy’s approach of differentiation is helpful in determining the level of commitment that students demonstrate and provides opportunities for students to develop according to their strengths. Flexible grouping is an essential piece to ensure that students’ needs are addressed along the continuum of learning. Students are taught to be advocates for themselves and teachers make certain that the curriculum is adaptable for all learners.

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MOVEMENT IN THE CLASSROOM The research of using movement in the classroom is significant and it is our belief that movement in the classroom is linked directly with student achievement. Our staff has been trained on using movement to increase cognitive processing, attention, motivation and memory. Movement breaks are planned in our daily schedule and include dancing, bean bag games, Brain Gym, circuit training and aerobic/stretching activities. The use of music is also paired with many of these activities to reengage students.

PROJECT-BASED/HANDS-ON LEARNING APPROACH Brain research shows that students learn in a variety of ways. Excel Academy founders used this research when designing the hands-on approach to curriculum that is still used today. It is this approach that connects the curriculum to learning. Students become the problem-solvers and delve into units of study that are both realistic and based on the common body of knowledge expected of American citizens. Our students are given the opportunity to interact with curriculum and to be active learners rather than passive receivers of facts. Teaching through project-based learning provides students with opportunities to show mastery of research skills and content. Students practice the “skills of the trades” and develop presentation skills starting in Kindergarten. This practice allows for students to become “professionals” in interest areas that are driven by the rich content selections that Excel Academy provides. Students also become confident in their skills of presenting materials to groups. Some examples of projects that Excel Academy students will create are: Object of the Future, Day of the Notables biography presentations, Water Bottle Rocket Challenge, magnetism experiments, edible geography maps, habitat dioramas, Egg Drop Challenge, edible cell models, Science Fair projects, constellation original myths, disease survey and research project, community worker projects, rock collections, and mousetrap cars. Some examples of hands-on learning experiences that students will participate in include: Roman Day, Science Fair, Music Programs throughout the year, Field Day, Renaissance Fair, Pi Day, Spring Musical, Romanopoly, eye and brain dissections, Ellis Island immigration simulation, Plymouth colony simulation, Viking Day, Colonial Day, mummy making, metamorphosis study with butterfly larvae, and Shakespeare plays.

TARGETING THE NEEDS OF THE DIVERSE LEARNER Excel Academy was founded to meet the needs of diverse learners. Our founding members believed strongly in meeting learners where they were on the continuum of learning and designing instruction to benefit each learner’s © Excel Academy 2016  14

EXCEL ACADEMY PROGRAM OVERVIEW growth on that continuum. We train our teachers in multi-sensory reading practices, learning styles, and differentiated instruction. We have a strong Special Education team that consults regularly with general education teachers about strategies and accommodations that help all students become successful. They can also provide help with additional testing for students in areas of concern as well as resources for students experiencing difficulties such as slant boards, stability custions, and pencil grips. If the interventions prove to be unsuccessful, further interventions at the classroom level may occur or the team may recommend a referral for Special Education testing. If a student is tested and qualifies for Special Education services, their needs are met by our in-house Special Education team as well as our outside service providers. Gifts and talents of students are also recognized and used to enhance student learning. Compacting lessons for students allows them to explore content more in-depth and develop individual interests. This also allows the strengths of students to become the focus and development of less proficient skills becomes innate because students are driven to learn about their interests. Pretesting, individual contracts, and menus are used to target instruction for learners along the continuum. Excel Academy recognizes that all students have strengths and wants them to develop passions that make learning exciting.

GIFTED AND TALENTED FOCUS FOR ALL STUDENTS High learning expectations are the goal for all students at Excel Academy. Founded on the principle that all students have strengths and talents, we believe that gifted and talented teaching strategies are effective with all learners. Excel Academy teachers develop units with performance objectives, pre-tests, differentiated lessons, and in-depth studies. Providing specialized instruction allows teachers to meet the needs of the students through a structured program. Accommodations for students focus on strengths rather than deficits and develop around student success. Excel Academy strives to meet the academic, social, creative, and artistic needs of learners by providing opportunities to develop critical thinking, creative problem-solving, and leadership skills. Students who are identified as Gifted and Talented using the Jefferson County definition are placed on Advanced Learning Plans (ALP). This provides the opportunity for students to learn about their strengths in a formalized process. All students are given this type of education at Excel Academy; however the formalized ALP is implemented to ensure that after students leave Excel Academy, their academic needs are met. We use the “talent pool” approach to identify Gifted and Talented students, which focuses on observable actions and

© Excel Academy 2016  15

EXCEL ACADEMY PROGRAM OVERVIEW accomplishmentsin addition to than IQ and CoGAT scores. This allows us to meet the needs of our gifted learners without official identification.

ASSESSMENT DRIVEN INSTRUCTION At Excel Academy, assessments are a curriculum-based measurement and are continual and meaningful. Assessment is the cornerstone to good instruction. Excel Academy participates in all state-mandated CMAS testing as well as the Jefferson County School District’s assessments that are relevant to the practices at Excel Academy. The current literacy assessments that are used at Excel Academy include: NWEA MAP (Measures of Academic Progress), DIBELS (a reading fluency tool), BEAR (a group assessment on basic reading skills), and running records. The above assessments, as well as informal assessments, allow teachers to get a more global idea of each student’s range of skill development in literacy. We also use many formal and informal assessments in all other subject areas. Some examples of these assessments include: selfevaluations, speeches, presentations, projects, and written tests. Pre-testing is also used to assess and allow teachers to differentiate instruction. Focusing on students’ prior knowledge and reteaching content only when students have not reached competency, allows for teachers to focus on growth and develop interests beyond the basic grade level expectations.

ENRICHMENT Enrichment is used to enhance and strengthen learning for students who have reached educational goals. Using the Schoolwide Enrichment Model, students are taught higher-level thinking skills and presentation design. Students are given opportunities to develop passions and interests. Focusing on the passions and interests of students provides an engaging atmosphere and allows for the development of strengths and solving real world problems. Students can become experts in areas they find meaningful. There are two different models of enrichment at Excel Academy. The first enrichment model allows students to stay with a theme, subject or skill and develop depth in content. Activities “round out” the basic curriculum subjects with a wider context, relates learning to new areas and/or provides pupils with experiences outside the “regular ‘curriculum. This type of enrichment is used as students need challenge or to augment the learning for groups of students. The second type of enrichment is used in our Middle School. Every Friday, our middle school staff and specialist teach an enrichment class that is determined through student surveys. These classes are designed to allow the students to develop new knowledge in areas of passion or explore new content.

© Excel Academy 2016  16

EXCEL ACADEMY PROGRAM OVERVIEW

MASTERY LEARNING At Excel Academy, all students are allowed to develop along the learning continuum in the various subjects. Although mastery is expected for all our students, the learning continuum is different for the diverse needs of the learner. In the beginning stages of learning, a student (of any age) needs a great deal of support. However, as that student moves along the continuum, he/she becomes increasingly independent until able to perform autonomously. At the Mastery Level, a student has reached the expected standard with 90%+ independence. When students, teachers, and parents use “mastery” expectations, the learning continuum is seen as a process that eventually leads to an attainable outcome. Students are afforded many routes to attain mastery of the standards. Successive units build upon previous units and include opportunities to continue to develop along the learning continuum. The Unit Performance Objectives allow a student to perform on his current level while the support tasks continue to increase knowledge and skills to support ever-higher achievement. Students are taught to take responsibility for their learning and be resourceful in their studies. Fall and Spring conferences are formal opportunities for parents, students, and teachers to communicate expectations, suggest projects, and establish goals for individual growth and achievement. The student becomes central to learning as learning styles are integrated into the curriculum and students are given the opportunity to demonstrate their learning through a variety of activities. Teachers connect experiences to learners and starting in Kindergarten, students are taught to advocate for themselves. We have found that rich activities with high standards and mastery expectations restore the excitement and enthusiasm for being a life-long learner. Session Reports document a student’s progress toward this goal. Session Reports are given out twice a year, once at the end of Session II and again at the end of the year.

Grading Scale A (grades 2-8)

90%

1 (grades K/1) B (grades 2-8)

80%

2 (grades K/1)

Student is able to accomplish the task autonomously. Student has “mastered” the content. Student is able to accomplish the task with support. The student is working toward mastery, but needs some support.

© Excel Academy 2016  17

EXCEL ACADEMY PROGRAM OVERVIEW 70% C (grades 2-8) 3 (grades K/1) 60% D (grades 2-8) 4 (grades K/1) F (grades 2-8) 5 (grades K/1)

59%-lower

Student needs individualized support and guidance. The concept is relatively new and/or difficult for the student. More practice and skills development are needed to move toward mastery. Student has just been introduced to the concept. The concept is brand new and/or very difficult for the student. Much more practice is needed in order to move toward mastery. Student did not attempt to complete the task or did not complete the task sufficiently.

HOMEWORK Homework is a fundamental part of the Excel Academy program. Homework, as a vehicle for meaningful, extended learning, fosters good study habits and is vital for optimal development. It prepares students for high school and college and for entry into the working world upon graduation. It also helps develop a strong work ethic and personal organizational skills. Homework’s immediate educational purpose is: 

to reinforce skills and concepts learned in class;



to develop study skills and habits;



to practice skills and knowledge accomplished in the classroom;



to inform parents of what is being taught in the classroom.

in ways that

are

not

readily

We also hope that each child reads, or is read to, on a consistent basis, preferably every day. As cited in A Nation at Risk, “the single most important factor for determining whether children will go to college is being read to as a child.” Going to college is not necessarily a goal for everyone, but becoming a life-long learner should be if one hopes to remain competitive throughout one’s lifetime. We believe that becoming a competent reader is critical to being a good student and the first step to being able to explore the world. When parents read to their children, it encourages the child’s growth and strengthens family ties. If parents make sure their child is reading at home, they are directly contributing to their education. By reading in front of their children, parents also model good habits and reinforce expectations. The expected homework time allotment for each grade is as follows: Kindergarten

10 minutes plus reading time

Grade 1

10-20 minutes plus reading time

© Excel Academy 2016  18

EXCEL ACADEMY PROGRAM OVERVIEW Grade 2

20 minutes plus reading time

Grade 3

30 minutes plus reading time

Grade 4

40 minutes plus reading time

Grade 5

50 minutes plus reading time

Grade 6

60 minutes plus reading time

Grade 7

70-80 minutes plus reading time

Grade 8

70-80 minutes plus reading time

The designated times serve as guidelines and may vary depending on the work assigned on a given day, the schedule, the student’s organizational skills and study habits, and the nature of the assignments. The teacher determines homework assignments. Students are expected to learn how to use their time effectively to complete the required work at each grade level. Parents are expected to support their children in this endeavor.

CLASSROOM ENVIRONMENTS Excel Academy’s classrooms are set up to meet both student and teacher needs and provide for optimal learning. Classrooms in both the Primary and Intermediate Labs have tables while the Upper and Middle School Labs have desks. The styles of the community of learners is diverse, therefore individual classroom settings are also diverse. Students may also have individual needs met by the use of assistive devices such as cushions, headphones to block noise, study desks, or foot rests. Classroom structure allows for students to work in a variety of ways which may include sitting on the floor, standing, working alone, or in small groups around a table. Optimal learning is the goal of the classroom setting.

MULTIAGE CLASSES Multiage educational practices are grounded in a philosophy that holds that every child can learn and has the right to do so at their own pace and that learning is a continuum rather than a series of steps. Excel Academy purposefully structures classrooms to include a span of ages and to take advantage of the resulting diversity. Students naturally become more accepting of one another's differences. This nurturing atmosphere reduces competition and pressure on students to fit an arbitrary norm. Teachers support each individual child as to their own complex set of needs rather than trying to lead a group of students to complete an age-based task. Smaller classes and multiaged groupings at Excel Academy support a respectful, familial environment and the development of leadership skills. Students seek peers that are intellectually stimulating and have similar learning © Excel Academy 2016  19

EXCEL ACADEMY PROGRAM OVERVIEW styles. The multiaged classrooms allow all students to practice and master skills that are developmentally appropriate. Students spend two years with the same teacher which provides more time for the teacher to apply what he/she learns about a student’s learning style and pace. Students have the opportunity to model for younger classmates and develop leadership skills. Our classrooms are divided into four different learning labs:  The Primary Lab consists of two Kindergarten and two 1st Grade classrooms. Basic skills are taught using a combination of many different methodologies. Reading, writing, and language arts are given a dedicated three hour block of instructional time. Reading is taught through the use of rich literature and phonics. The students also “travel the world” through classroom units of study and explore the different continents. The development of social and academic study habits begins in this lab. We have found that laying a foundation of these habits allows students to transition into other learning environments with ease.  The Intermediate Lab is made up of five multiage 2nd and 3rd Grade classrooms. Students continue their study of reading, language arts, American history, world history, geography, and science. This lab is also the transition into state-wide testing and therefore basic skill development is emphasized along with project-based learning and passion areas.  The Upper Lab houses five multiage classrooms made up of 4th and 5th Grade students. These students enjoy reading many classic novels, writing wonderful stories, developing elaborate projects, and research reports. Students continue studies in American history, world history, geography, and science. Each year, students from this lab participate in field experiences that involve topics that they study. For their extended field studies, students alternate between an archeological dig and learned firsthand of the earliest inhabitants of Colorado at Crow Canyon Archeological Center in Mesa Verde and and outdoor experience at Camp ID-RA-HA-JE..  The Middle School Lab is made up of 6th, 7th, and 8th Grade students. Our 6th Grade consists of two classrooms with a language arts/science teacher and a social studies/math teacher. The 7th and 8th Grades have five teachers. The teachers each specialize in a subject area, including literature, writing, arts, math, science, and history. Students in this lab build on skills previously taught and extend them in preparation for high school. In addition, students are involved in exciting optional extended field study adventures. Sixth graders travel to Dana Point, California to study Oceanography while the seventh and eighth grade years alternate trips to Washington D. C. with a history emphasis and Keystone Science School for the 6th Graders. Students enjoy in-depth studies throughout their middle school experience. Middle school students may also choose to participate in sports offered by the school. Social opportunities are offered to meet the unique Middle School students’ need to interact with © Excel Academy 2016  20

EXCEL ACADEMY PROGRAM OVERVIEW peers and discover who they are. These social opportunities include dances.

SMALLER CLASS SIZES Excel Academy’s standard class size is 25/26 students per elementary classroom and 27-30 in the middle school classroom, which supports a variety of student-centered programs.

SCHOOL INFORMATION SCHOOL HOURS The class day runs from 8:20 a.m. to 3:20 p.m. each school day unless it is a half-day schedule, in which case school is dismissed at 11:30 a.m. There is a 20-minute lunch period and 25-minute recess period during each full day.

DISCIPLINE PHILOSOPHY AND PROCEDURES The purpose of discipline is inherent in the word itself. Discipline derives from disciple, meaning “learner” or “student”. It is not the intention of the school discipline plan to simply punish a student for wrongdoing, but to instruct, train, and educate that student so that he or she will make a better choice at the next opportunity. Excel Academy students are expected to act appropriately at all times in the classroom and lunchroom, in the hallways and bathrooms, during recess, on field studies, and at any school function. Students are expected to act appropriately with and follow directions from all staff members of the school, parents who are responsible for students during school hours and on field studies, and guest teachers. Students should be well-behaved and respect themselves, others, and property. Inappropriate behavior is behavior that interferes with the teaching and learning process. It is Excel Academy’s philosophy that teachers have the right to teach and students have the right to learn. No student will be allowed to disrupt the education of other students. It is also Excel Academy’s belief that discipline is an opportunity for students to learn skills and behaviors necessary for social interaction and to develop character and responsibility. It should be noted that as a Jefferson County school, we follow the Jefferson County Public Schools Student Conduct Code. The Jefferson County Public Schools Student Conduct Code is available to parents on the Jefferson County School District website or on the Excel Academy website. The Conduct Code details state law concerning student conduct. © Excel Academy 2016  21

EXCEL ACADEMY PROGRAM OVERVIEW Since the classroom teacher is the one who works closest with the students, he or she carries the bulk of the discipline responsibility. It is important that the teacher works closely with the parents in these matters and communications are open and honest. A teacher may feel the need to invite an administrator into a discipline issue. However, serious discipline incidents (e.g. fighting, bullying, and threats) require an administrator to be part of the process. Appropriate behavior should follow our Four School Rules.

Four School Rules 1. Keep all communications honoring to one another and oneself. 2. Keep your hands and feet to yourselves. 3. Respect and obey all supervising adults. 4. Be a good caretaker of all things.

Core Beliefs Which Guide Enforcement of School Rules and Expectations Each student is a unique individual with their own personal, social, and educational needs. As a result, every disciplinary situation becomes unique in nature. Consequences for misbehavior provide the best learning value when matched to each student in each situation. The odds for children learning from their mistakes increase dramatically when they see a reasonable connection between their behavior and the resulting consequences. The Excel Academy staff dedicates itself to following a set of core beliefs which provides a guide for dealing with student discipline. These core beliefs guide our attempts to individualize disciplinary procedures and to help students see reasonable connections between their behavior and the resulting consequences.

Our Core Beliefs 1. We believe that the adult’s emphasis should be placed on guiding students to solve the problems they create and to shape and adopt new behaviors, instead of punishing students for misdeeds. 2. We believe that every attempt should be made to maintain the dignity of both students and adults, not only during a disciplinary action, but at all times. 3. We believe that misbehavior should be handled with natural or logical consequences, so that students have the opportunity to see a reasonable connection between their actions and the consequences that follow. 4. We believe that students and adults should show respect for each other through words and actions.

© Excel Academy 2016  22

EXCEL ACADEMY PROGRAM OVERVIEW

Discipline Procedures 1. LEVEL 1: Classroom intervention: When appropriate, a supervising adult uses strategies such as redirection, recovery, and verbal discussion to interrupt disruptive or unacceptable behavior. 2. LEVEL 2: Move to level two after repeated minor to moderate impulsive misbehavior and after receiving three level one disciplinary action forms. (A planned or deliberate action based on a clear decision on the part of the student). 3. LEVEL 3: Severe impulsive and intentional misbehaviors that are not severe enough to be considered criminal; or chronic minor to moderate misbehavior that is not successfully modified by a Behavior Plan 4. Suspension: The Executive Director or Assistant Directors have the authority and option to suspend a student from school. Suspensions may occur based on grounds outlined in the Jefferson County Public Schools Student Conduct Code or at the Directors’ discretion. 5. Expulsion: Expulsion may occur based on grounds outlined in the Jefferson County Public Schools Student Conduct Code.

Environment It is the policy of Excel Academy to maintain an environment for its students which is free from alcohol, drugs, and any form of harassment. Any student caught partaking in these activities will face administrative action, and perhaps district or legal involvement, ranging from suspension or expulsion to legal/criminal charges against the student. In these cases, the school resource officer or other officers of the jurisdiction may question students, and parental notification will take place consistent with the Jefferson County School District guidelines. Students and parents are encouraged to carefully read the Jefferson County Public Schools Student Conduct Code is available to parents on the Jefferson County School District website or on the Excel Academy website. The administration of Excel Academy is bound to follow these procedures and directives. Complaints of any kind of harassment will be handled without delay in a manner that considers the interests of both the complainant and respondant. Reporting: Any student witnessing or suffering harassment shall immediately report the matter to his or her teacher. If a student feels like the complaint was not resolved, he or she may then report the matter to an administrator. The teacher or administrator receiving the complaint will initiate the investigation process. Retaliation is prohibited for reports of harassment made in good faith.

© Excel Academy 2016  23

EXCEL ACADEMY PROGRAM OVERVIEW

LOVE AND LOGIC At Excel Academy, we use the Love and Logic philosophy to guide our discipline philosophy. Our entire staff is trained in Love and Logic and it is used schoolwide. Love and Logic provides practical tools and techniques that help adults achieve respectful, healthy relationships with children. It also helps children learn the best lessons when they're given a task and allowed to make their own choices (and fail) when the cost of failure is still small. Children's failures are coupled with love and empathy from their teachers. Love and Logic does the following: 

uses humor, hope, and empathy to build up the adult/child relationship;



emphasizes respect and dignity for both children and adults; provides real limits in a loving way; teaches consequences and healthy decision-making.

 

WHAT DO YOU STAND FOR? AND BULLYPROOFING YOUR SCHOOL What Do You Stand For? is a character education program used at Excel Academy. It teaches character traits to students in a fun and exciting way. The following traits are taught: Respect, Responsibilty, Integrity, and Leadership. The character traits are developed through stories and activities. We also use the Bully-Proofing Your School program. Bully-Proofing Your School emphasizes developing a safe, respectful, and inclusive environment where teachers can teach and students can learn. It helps students learn how to create a positive climate in which students support one another, distinguish “bullying” from “disagreements,” use appropriate strategies in conflict, and avoid power struggles during discipline.

EXTRACURRICULAR (BONUS) LEARNING There are a number of activities that take place at Excel Academy before and after school. Students have an opportunity to join Problem Solvers, Show Choir, Band, Let’s Plan Music, Power Brain, Debate Club, Art Club, and Student Council and outside groups such as Chess, Cheerleading and Dance, Mad Science, and Sticky Fingers. Girl Scout troops and a Boy Scout pack also have been started. Beginning in 6th grade, students have volleyball, soccer, and basketball available to them. These opportunities provide students with enriching experiences outside of the school day that only enhance what they learn during school hours. © Excel Academy 2016  24

EXCEL ACADEMY PROGRAM OVERVIEW We also give families the option of having before- and after-school care. This service is provided for an extra fee through Kids’ Adventures and is located at Excel Academy.

PARENTAL INVOLVEMENT A basic tenet of Excel Academy’s philosophy is parental involvement in the school. Everyone has something to offer that will benefit their child’s education and a school is stronger when everyone contributes. Parent involvement sends a clear message to the children about the importance of their education. Parents are involved at Excel Academy in several areas including service on the Board of Directors. It is the Board’s responsibility to ensure that the mission and programs of Excel Academy are implemented. The Board also develops policies that serve as the framework around which the school’s mission is implemented. Parents can serve on all standing committees related to the Board of Directors. Part of the purpose of these groups is to research topics/issues and make recommendations to the Board. Parents are also involved through their agreement to volunteer 80 hours per school year (per two-parent family) to the operation of the school. These volunteer hours may be spent assisting the teacher in the classroom, serving as a guest speaker for a particular unit, working on a school committee, assisting with recess, helping in the office, working on the facility or any number of other projects that directly benefit the school operation. Parent involvement in this manner assists Excel Academy in keeping costs down and therefore allows a lower student/teacher ratio.

PARENT TEACHER ORGANIZATION (PTO) The Excel Academy Parent Teacher Organization (PTO) serves a critical function and role within the school. Teachers are encouraged to participate at any level within the PTO. The PTO is a parent support organization that works as a communication liaison between volunteers, the school staff and the School Board of Directors. The PTO is governed according to its by-laws which have been approved by the Excel Academy School Board of Directors. Meetings are open to the entire school community. Please see the PTO website for a list of meeting dates. The PTO provides support to enhance student learning experiences, assists with the organization and implementation of school programs, projects and events, and works in partnership with the Executive Director and the School Board of Directors.

© Excel Academy 2016  25

EXCEL ACADEMY PROGRAM OVERVIEW

STRENGTHS/ACHIEVEMENTS SCHOOL STRENGTHS 

Staff Commitment and Devotion to Students – At Excel Academy, we wholeheartedly believe that students and their needs are at the center of our focus. Excel Academy staff spends many hours on their own seeking additional training to enhance their teaching and meet the needs of the diverse population that is attracted to our program. Teachers in Kindergarten through 8th Grade take students on extended field studies, ranging from day trips to overnights to week-long trips. Our staff’s commitment to the school is a source of pride in our community and students feel that our staff believes in them and they benefit from our commitment.



Rigorous and Balanced Curriculum – The Core Knowledge curriculum continues to be an asset that draws students to our school. The content outlined is both rich and interesting to students and provides springboards into passions for learners. Core Knowledge provides an outline of “what” is taught across the school; therefore, teachers can focus energy on differentiated instruction for learners to enrich and remediate. Teachers use projects, contracts, and a variety of strategies to scaffold learning for students. In 2006 we became an Official Core Knowledge School as well as a Core Knowledge Visitation Site. In addition to meeting the requirements to be an Official Core Knowledge school, we were personally visited by Core Knowledge Foundation representatives. We are designated as a model school for interested parties to visit and see Core Knowledge in action.



Commitment to Professional Development – Professional growth and cohesive programming is emphasized at Excel Academy. At the start of each year, staff is trained in areas that are goals for the upcoming school year. New staff members attend additional staff development at the school at the beginning of the year to help them better understand the philosophy and culture of our school as well as the academic programs we use. Teachers are also provided with administrative leave to attend conferences or workshops that will help them meet their personal or professional goals. Staff set goals with the administration at the beginning of the year and these goals are part of the staff evaluations. Input from staff into what training and programming we need continues to be a part of our yearly plan.



Rich and Exciting Field Studies – Field studies have become a tradition and an integral part of the program at Excel Academy. Students get excited about and look forward to field studies each year. We have developed the practice of going out and experiencing learning through interaction in the

© Excel Academy 2016  26

EXCEL ACADEMY PROGRAM OVERVIEW community whenever possible. We want students to be producers of knowledge and believe that, by taking students on field studies, we elicit practice through real life experiences. 

Parental Involvement – When visiting Excel Academy, one notices almost instantly that parents are an integral part of our program. Parents can be seen all around the school working in many different areas. Parents facilitate activities, perform secretarial tasks, plan events which add depth to the learning experience, and free teachers to focus on instruction. Parents are a valuable resource and are able to bring in their talents to share with students and enrich our curriculum.



Strong Affective Programming and Proactive Discipline Practices – Our approach to children is holistic—learner, acceptance, friendship, valuation, and individuation. We believe that each child and adult in our community is unique and therefore we treat every situation as unique, rather than as “one size fits all.” We proactively teach students positive character traits and social skills to help students succeed in behaving appropriately instead of penalizing them when they don’t exhibit the traits or skills that they might not have previously learned. Love and Logic, Bullyproofing Your School, What Do You Stand For, and the Peace Committee are just a few of the programs and strategies that address the affective needs of our school. Our approach to discipline is proactive. Recovery chair, behavior contracts, chill cards, sensory diet activities, and private cues between student and teacher are a few of the ways we try to interrupt misbehavior and redirect students. It is also Excel Academy’s belief that discipline is an opportunity for students to further develop skills and behaviors necessary for social interaction and to develop character and responsibility.





Students Involved in the Community – Excel Academy has a student population that is involved in many extracurricular or community activities outside of school. Some of the opportunities that students are involved in include Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, Westernaires, playing on various athletic teams, attending Arvada Arts Center workshops, participating in dance troupes, and volunteering through church and community groups. Strong Sense of Community – We have developed and cultivated many community outreach events, which not only build our community within, but reach out to the neighboring communities. Some of these events include: Math Night, Literacy Night, Science Night, Harvest Festival, Pasteries with Parents, Laps for Learning, and Winter Craft Workshop.

© Excel Academy 2016  27

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