Through a rigorous, standards-based, and culturally-responsive Aspire-wide academic program, we support all students in developing the skills and mindset they need to succeed in college and in creating opportunities for themselves, their families, and our communities.
Since 1998, we have built a culture around College for Certain. Beginning in kindergarten, students are inspired to attend college. Classrooms are named after universities, and students know which year they will one day graduate from college. Teachers and principals proudly share their college experiences, challenges, and accomplishments. Our schools are intentionally kept small in order to create a strong community where each student is known personally, and they provide roughly 10-15% more learning time for students than traditional public schools settings.
In 2017, Aspire embarked upon a new organization-wide strategic plan called AspireForward, aimed at ensuring that Aspire students are truly prepared for success in college and in career. One major component of the AspireForward plan is the move to align on an Aspire-wide, Common Core instructional approach across all 36 schools in order to facilitate stronger teacher training, more opportunities for collaboration, more consistency of the student experience, and ultimately, stronger academic outcomes across the organization.
Spotlight on specific programs at Aspire:
Aspire’s Math Vision: All Aspire scholars have the right and ability to become confident, independent mathematical thinkers and problem solvers. It is our collective responsibility to provide a program of math instruction that will prepare students for college and career, and empower them with the knowledge and skills needed to use math to tackle problems that matter to them in their lives and communities.
Aspire’s Social Emotional Learning
Vision: Aspire is committed to supporting our students’ social and emotional development to be caring and productive citizens. We engage in culturally responsive and equitable practices in our communities of students, families, and teammates to cultivate the following lifelong skills in each Aspire scholar and educator: Managing emotions and behaviors, feeling and expressing empathy and compassion for others, making responsible decisions, and setting and achieving positive goals
Authentic experiences: In the early elementary grades at Aspire schools, students learn literacy skills through authentic reading and writing experiences, including shared reading, guided reading, independent reading, shared writing, interactive writing, writing workshops and independent writing. In the older elementary grades at Aspire schools, students focus on “reading to learn,” through reciprocal teaching, close reading, literature circles, and the use of both non-fiction books and classical literature. Students also learn by applying the scientific method to hands-on experiments and by interacting with others on community issues.
Online learning and Early College High School: Students in grades 9-12 have the opportunity to augment their school site curricula with online high school classes. In addition, our high school graduation requirements include that every student takes and passes multiple community college and/or 4-year college courses in order to earn college credits, get college exposure and practice, explore potential majors and careers, and build confidence and context for post-secondary studies.
Expanded Learning (ExL): Expanded Learning (ExL) is Aspire’s after school program, available for grades TK-9. ExL programs support college readiness through academic and enrichment programming that meets the unique needs of our scholars, sparks interest in new skills/careers/passions, and engages families as partners. ExL educators and directors from the community are developed, trained, and empowered to implement research-based strategies, terminate inequitable practices, and follow pathways to leadership.
College-Ready Metrics: As part of our AspireForward plan, we have raised the bar for what it means to be truly college-ready. Aspire students will be considered college-ready when they meet each of the following benchmarks:
- ACT English score of 22 or higher and ACT Math score of 23 or higher
- Level 3 on SBAC in English Language Arts and Level 3 on SBAC in Math
- Pass any college course or AP course or pass an AP exam
- Participation in Aspire’s Social Emotional Learning program.