Aspire Public Schools aims to provide all students with access to opportunities for success in all their future endeavors—in higher education, work, and citizenship. We believe that through personalized learning experiences, students will master basic skills, develop productive life skills, and acquire the thinking skills needed for the rigorous work of the real world. Although Aspire has purchased some of its curriculum from others, some elements of the education program have been developed in-house, based on both research and best-practices.
- Instructional Guidelines: This section describes the role that Aspire’s Instructional Guidelines play in ensuring a consistently high quality education program across all Aspire schools, and provides some examples.
- Advisory: This section describes how Aspire uses Advisories in grades 6 and up to build personal relationships between each student and an adult mentor.
- Interdisciplinary units: This section gives an example of an interdisciplinary unit that Aspire uses to help develop critical thinking skills.
Aspire’s Instructional Guidelines provide specific direction to teachers about the pedagogical practices that all Aspire teachers use regularly. These guidelines are equally applicable to California or out-of-state charter school settings. They set the targeted frequency for different teaching methods, and describe how each method should be implemented for maximum learning. Aspire is pleased to offer these guidelines for use in charter schools in any state that permits the operation of charter schools. Far from a “script,” the instructional guidelines require highly skilled teachers who have the creativity and professional skills to address each student’s individual needs. In combination with clear, explicit standards, the instructional guidelines ensure that all students receive a high quality educational program. Reflecting its status as a leader in the national charter school movement, Aspire’s educational methods as expressed in these guidelines are currently in use by charter schools throughout the country.
Example: Guided Reading
Guided reading is a literacy development strategy that teachers use many times each week.
Guided Reading is a teacher driven practice that allows reading instruction to be personalized. Learners have the opportunity to develop skills and strategies at their appropriate reading level. Learners are engaged in discussion about skills and strategies, comprehension and the enjoyment of reading.
Guided Reading is small group instruction, usually 3-6 learners, where each learner reads the same text. The homogeneous group demonstrates similar reading behaviors and instructional needs. At this point you are able to explicitly teach strategies in the reading process. Learners are introduced to a text. Learners read it independently, silently or in a low voice, although you might have learners read orally and talk with them individually about the book. You select teaching points based on the reader’s needs and often assign oral or written response or extension activities. You might also engage the learners in a few minutes of spelling or word work. Simultaneous to this small group teacher driven instruction, the remainder of the class is independently involved in either independent reading, text circles or word work. Time permitting and needs based, the teacher is able to meet with more than one guided reading group during the 90 minute block.
- Guided Reading, Good First Teaching, Pinnell & Fountas
- Guiding Readers and Writers, grades 3-6, Pinnell & Fountas
- Classrooms That Work They Can all Read and Write, Cunningham and Arllington
- Book of Guided Reading Lesson plans
- Organized Guided Reading Table with Word Work supplies
- Assessment Book with Running Records, DRA's, Conversion Chart
- Strategies of a Good Reader chart or resource
- Expository and Fictional Text
- Habits Rubric
Mental Math is one of three types of Daily Challenge which Aspire teachers use daily.
Mental math is a way to take advantage of transition times and easily add more math to the school day. Students problem solve without pencil or paper in a whole class setting. They follow-up by explaining their thinking. It is an opportunity for children to exchange points of view with their peers, to clarify, validate and justify their mathematical thinking.
The teacher begins by giving the class a word problem. The teacher waits while students begin to solve the problem in their heads. Students raise their hands with an idea for the solution when they think they have figured it out. When most of the students have their hands raised, the teacher calls on students to tell what they think the answer might be and record their answers on the chalkboard without comment. The teacher then asks the students to explain their thinking while she/he encodes their thinking by writing it on the chalkboard and asks questions to clarify student’s thinking and to give examples for the other students. Some problems may be easier and done primarily for review.
None required – use problems from the text or make them up based on standards/basic skills (e.g. What is the square root of 144 minus the cube root of 9?).
At Aspire, secondary students are assigned an Advisor beginning in grade 6, and stays with him/her through graduation. The advisor, an adult at the school, meets with his/her 15 advisees as a group several times each week. The Advisory provides a safe place for students to learn key life and workplace skills, to learn about themselves, to consciously design and plan for their future, and to handle issues in their lives that could interfere with learning.
The primary focus areas for advisory in grades 6-9 are:
- Building relationships in the coaching group
- Communication skills
- Reducing negative judgment toward self and others
- Taking personal responsibility
- Problem solving and decision making
- Organizational and study skills
- Building a cycle of success in setting and achieving goals
Additional skills include:
- Full range of interpersonal/social skills
- Conflict resolution and anger/mood management
- Time management
- Financial literacy
- Public speaking
- Resiliency/ stress management
- Self esteem
- Leadership/ personal power
- Self-coaching skills
- Virtues such as integrity and respect