At Imagine Morningside Public Charter School, we seek to balance excellence in reading, language arts, and math with instruction in science, social studies, and the arts, and we measure our progress through student learning gains and proficiency levels.
Our educational philosophy is grounded in the belief that the content of what children learn is very important and that it is inadequate to focus primarily on teaching skills and techniques to pass tests. In order to help children thrive academically, learning must go beyond skill acquisition to the mastery of content that provides them with the ability to apply what they learn to new situations, solve problems, and create new ideas. This depth of understanding leads to a love of learning and an ability to independently develop innovative solutions to problems and create new knowledge.
As you can see, the Imagine Morningside program provides our children with the basis for future learning and guides our creation of a joy-filled learning environment.
Many schools are de-emphasizing specific and sequenced prescriptions of what students should know in favor of an increased focus on skill development and strategies to better engage students. While skill improvement and relevance are important aspects of learning, we believe specific, sequenced, and integrated road maps for how and when students should master specific information is critical for building a broad and strong academic foundation. This promises to give children access to a literate society and provides young people with the broadest range of options for their futures and professional lives.
The academic program for all students at Imagine Morningside incorporates the educational philosophy known as “differentiated instruction.” The model of differentiated instruction places the child at the center of teaching and learning, and requires teachers to tailor their lessons to students’ learning needs rather than expecting students to modify themselves to fit the curriculum. Teachers who are committed to this approach believe that who they teach shapes how they teach because who the students are shapes how they learn.
In other words, at Imagine Morningside we understand that each student comes to school with a different set of learning needs and varying degrees of academic skill development. Therefore, our teachers constantly assess and adapt the instruction per child, based on their individual needs and talents.
Differentiation does not mean teaching at a slow pace so that everyone can keep up or drawing attention to the limitations of others. Rather, differentiated instruction involves teaching with scholar variance in mind. It means allowing teachers to focus on the level of learning in the classroom rather than adopting a standardized approach to teaching that presumes all learners of a given age or grade are essentially alike.
In other words, through differentiated instruction, Imagine Morningside teachers plan varied approaches to what their scholars need to learn, how they will learn it, and how they can express what they have learned. We believe this differentiated approach to teaching — matching each scholar’s abilities with appropriate material and adapting to their needs based upon the teacher’s constant assessment of all scholars — leads to improved academic performance outcomes.
Response to Intervention
At Imagine Morningside, we utilize “Response to Intervention” (RTI) to provide early, effective assistance to children who have difficulty learning. The RTI method has been developed as an alternative to the more traditional approach of identifying learning disabilities through an ability-achievement discrepancy model, which requires children to exhibit a discrepancy between their ability, often measured by IQ testing, and their academic achievement, as measured by their grades and standardized testing.
RTI seeks to prevent academic failure through early intervention, frequent progress measurement, and increasingly intensive research-based instructional interventions for children who continue to experience difficulty in learning. Students who do not show a response to effective interventions are likely (or, more likely than students who respond) to have biologically-based learning disabilities and to be in need of special education.
Our hope is that, by implementing early intervention through RTI, we can improve the academic performance and behavior of children who have difficulty learning, and at the same time reduce the likelihood that any student is wrongly identified as having a disability.
Measuring Scholar Learning
Most schools use the percentage of scholars who are academically proficient and advanced as the primary source for their performance measurement. At Imagine Morningside, however, we place a greater emphasis on same-scholar growth, or what we term “learning gains.” By testing scholars at the start of the year, our teachers learn what scholars know and in what areas they need the most improvement. Testing scholars at year-end then shows how far each scholar advances during the school year.
Same-scholar learning gains allow us to assess how well our school helps scholars learn, compared with year-end proficiency tests that measure only what scholars know at a given point in time. Our aim is for each scholar to grow academically a year or more every year they attend Imagine Morningside. Of course, if our scholars’ tests show proficiency and advancement at grade level or higher, we celebrate that as well.
While we are very pleased with the academic achievement of our scholars, we know that many children arrive at Imagine Morningside behind grade level in math and reading. It may take more than one year for our school to help scholars catch up and overcome the shortcomings of their previous school experiences.
At Imagine Morningside, we believe that the use of assessment and other testing data is essential to effective instruction and academic performance. There are three goals for the assessment program at Imagine Morningside:
- to determine scholars’ academic strengths and areas of growth at the beginning of the year in order to establish instructional objectives;
- to monitor academic performance throughout the year and adjust instruction as needed; and
- to determine scholar progress (annual learning gains) by the end of the year.
We rely on several forms of standardized tests to achieve our assessment goals, including those used by other members of the Imagine family of schools. Standardized tests offer a uniform way to measure student proficiency in the curriculum as well as academic growth for a given year.
Additionally, we also administer interim, or “benchmark,” assessments several times per year. The purpose of these assessments is to monitor student mastery of the curriculum as it is taught over the course of the year. The data from the benchmarks inform teachers and staff about individual scholar and classroom needs so that they may provide instruction, support, or enrichment.
Creating and sustaining a high-quality school involves much more than good test scores. Although academic achievement is critical, it is only one of six measures we believe to be necessary to evaluate a high performing school. We aim for balance and wholeness as we achieve greatness in all of these areas.
Social – Emotional Growth
Imagine Morningside employs a professional school counselor to deliver a comprehensive guidance and counseling program to all scholars. The School Counseling Program is designed to promote scholar self-confidence, positive attitudes, relationship skills, and motivation for success, decision-making skills, and an emotionally healthy school-learning environment.The staff work to create partnerships with families to support growth in scholar academics and career and personal/social development.
Counseling services that are available to Imagine Morningside students and families include:
- School-wide monthly character development classroom lessons and Parent College Meetings
- Small group counseling, offering additional services to scholars with common needs or concerns
- Individual counseling, designed to help scholars better understand their concerns and problems, to better understand themselves and others, and to work toward positive educational, personal, and social development
If you have questions about the program, or think your scholar would benefit from counseling services, please contact Jeralyn Smullen at Jeralyn.Smullen@pgcps.org.
Positive Character Development
Imagine Schools places a strong emphasis on each child’s character development and measures progress in scholar behavior and overall school culture. As a result, Imagine Morningside integrates a character education curriculum, such as Core Virtues, into all areas of the school community.
The principles of character education are utilized as basic tenets for an integrated character education program. The program includes, but is not limited to, the following:
- The teacher as caregiver, model and mentor
- The classroom as a democratic community
- Activities that promote values and ethics
- Encouraging moral reflection
- Discussion of issues and answers, problems and solutions
- Conflict resolution and students as mediators
- Parent and community involvement