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Best Practice Competition – Vote Today!

Published: August 18, 2014

The first Best Practice Mini-Contract Competition for High-Quality Charter Schools (HQCS) is now underway! Three of the state’s high quality charter schools applied and are in the running to receive $2,000-4,000 to create replicable materials that will be used to make their identified “best practices” available to all public schools in Minnesota. All applicants have successfully made it through the application screening and MDE review process, and have now moved on to the third phase of the competition – Social Media Voting. This is where you get involved!

Below you will find information on best practices from three charter schools. Read through each one and then follow this link to MDE’s Facebook page to “Like” your favorite! Your vote could help these schools receive funds to better support their students.

Voting is open until midnight on September 5, 2014. So, vote now and spread the word!

Face to Face Academy: Wilderness and Outdoor Program

Face to Face Academy’s mission is to graduate the students most at risk of dropping out of high school. The Academy gives every student the opportunity to reach his or her greatest potential with small class sizes, a safe and nurturing environment, active staff involvement, and strong core academics.

One of the joys of living in the great state of Minnesota is access to the wonders of nature. Those fortunate to experience this beauty can attest to the transformative power of the outdoors. To increase exposure to nature for students suffering a nature deficit, the Academy formed the Wilderness and Outdoor Program.

Today, students participate in multiple trips a year. Trips last anywhere from three to seven days and include canoeing down the Namekogan River, hiking the Porcupine Mountains, and camping in the Boundary Waters. Day activities include wilderness survival and canoe paddling skills, downhill and cross-country skiing, rock-climbing, and off-road biking.

The students who are regular participants in the Wilderness and Outdoor Program show greater academic gains in credit accumulation and standardized test scores in math and reading. Their attendance dramatically improves. Most importantly, these students are much more likely to graduate.

The Academy will apply the “Best Practice” funding toward creating a Wilderness and Outdoor Program informational kit. The kit will highlight the overall benefits of implementation, provide compelling research, demonstrate the program in action through a professional-quality video, offer quick tips to jumpstart the process, break down costs and funding options, and include curriculum to maximize student academic achievement and life skills acquisition. The informational kit will include a video (both in DVD format and online), a colorful brochure, and curriculum linked to state standards.

Paideia Academy: Daily 5 Model for Literacy

Paideia Academy is a K-8 charter school that challenges and inspires learners by engaging each student in a rigorous, content-rich education incorporating classical studies, languages, music, and the arts while nurturing positive character development.

Paideia Academy wants to share its amazing work with the entire state of Minnesota! A best practice in place at Paideia Academy is the use of the Daily 5 model to support literacy instruction across content areas. The Daily 5 model includes the following components to support students’ literacy independence:

1. Read to Self

2. Read to Someone

3. Listen to Reading

4. Word Work

5. Work on Writing

Paideia has seen how effective the Daily 5 model is in supporting reading proficiency, independence, confidence, and engagement in their Title I programs and classrooms this year.

With this award, they hope to expand on the work they did in 2013-2014 when they began developing Daily 5-aligned units for science and social studies. The goals of this project are to:

1. Improve students’ literacy, science, and social studies knowledge and skills

2. Support teachers in viewing science and social studies through the lens of the literacy skills required to access the content.

3. Differentiate activities to support the active engagement of all learners in science and social studies.

Paideia’s experienced staff will collaborate in this effort to develop each unit, film portions of its implementation, gather feedback from the teachers who implement the units, and revise the units based on what they learn from the initial implementation. They will make the units, videos, and teacher guides available to all teachers if they receive this award!

Twin Cities Academy High School: Extension Courses for Math and Reading

Twin Cities Academy High School (TCAHS) serves over 200 students in grades 9-12. The school is located on the east side of St. Paul and serves a highly diverse population of learners. Students enter the school with reading and math levels that range from the 2nd percentile to the 99th percentile based on nationally normed tests such as the EXPLORE or NWEA MAP test. 45.1 percent of TCAHS students are eligible for free or reduced lunch, and 15 percent of students qualify for Special Education services. In order to maintain high levels of rigor in the general English and math courses, TCAHS has developed support courses for students who need remediation in these core content areas.

Students who enter TCAHS with reading or math scores that are at least two grade levels below the national standards are placed in supplemental courses. These courses parallel their regular math or reading course, and are designed to both support the grade-level work they are experiencing in the mainstream course, along with filling in skills gaps. These “extension” courses are offered for students who need remediation in reading for 9-10th grade, and in math for 9-11th grade. The courses are specifically designed to prepare students to pass career and college readiness tests and to become proficient on the MCA test.

If selected for an award, TCAHS will provide paper and electronic versions of the course syllabi and the selection criteria they use to determine eligibility for these courses. TCAHS may also develop instructional videos consult with other schools that want to start implementing them!

Currently, twenty-four charter schools in Minnesota are identified as “High-Quality” and were eligible to enter the competition. To learn what it means to be a “High Quality” charter school, read more on the MDE website.