ECS: A K-8 Community
Since EndeavorCharter School opened in 2008, it has been a mammoth, yet rewarding task tocreate, nurture, and grow a new program. One fact we have realized is that Endeavor is a unified K-8 entity thathas three distinct stages of independence. We are working toward creating more continuity in our grade levelpolicies. We realize that, while theexpectations for grade 8 and for grade 1 will not be the same, it is helpfulfor there to be grade level “clusters” where policies are similar if not thesame. Such similarities make thetransition to a new grade easier for our students and their families. There are many advantages to thisstreamlining, such as decreasing the time devoted at the beginning of each yearto explanation of policies and procedures. This organization also supportsresearch on child development (from such experts as Piaget) in which a gradualincrease in independence is viewed as best supporting a child’s growth andability to be successful. We originally followedthe typical grade level groupings of K-2, 3-5, and 6-8. However, as we dug deeper, we have determinedthat the school functions a bit differently: the most similarities are amonggrades K-3, grades 4-6, and grades 7-8.
In grades K-3,students remain in predominantly self-contained classes: in grades K and 1, they are completelyself-contained; in grade 2, students change classes for math only; in grade 3,students change classes for math and reading, but remain with their homeroomgroups for science, social studies, and writing. These years will offer asmooth transition from self-contained, one teacher, classes with littlehomework to class changes among several teachers and the beginnings of homeworkroutines. In addition, each grade has itsown in-school community service focus. As a lower grades cluster, these grades focus on collecting pop tops forthe Ronald McDonald House. While allstudents in these grades will focus on this service topic, their approach willvary by grade. Our youngest studentsmight make welcome cards for the Ronald McDonald House staff to deliver to newfamilies. In subsequent grades,students in this cluster will take on the responsibility for collecting thetabs from other classes, counting the tabs, and compiling the data about ourcollections. All three grades willcontribute to one collective service, thus furthering the sense ofcommunity.
In grades 4, 5,and 6, students work with all three teachers on their grade level each day. Starting in the 2011-2012 school year, oneteacher at each of these grades will provide a double block of mathinstruction, another will teach classes in science and social studies; thethird teacher will teach classes in writing and reading. Students will be assessed in these fiveseparate courses. Fourth grade willclearly be a transitional year. During theseyears, expectations for independence, academic rigor, and good decision makingwill increase. Homework will be assignedmore frequently. Students in thesegrades are also subject to detention for consistently failing to meet suchexpectations. As an additional step in the transition process, during fourthquarter of the sixth grade year, students will select two “pre-elective”courses rather than take the three traditional fine arts courses. This choice will prepare them for theelectives available in the seventh and eighth grades. These intermediate grades focus on theJuvenile Diabetes Foundation “Coins for a Cure” as the community serviceproject for these years. Students might beginthis focus by collecting and compiling data about the types of Diabetes andDiabetic nutrition in fourth grade; in fifth grade they might progress to studythe effects of Diabetes on the body; and by sixth grade they might researchinnovations in treating diabetes as part of a non-fiction research unit ofstudy. All these grades will worktogether to organize and manage the school-wide coin collection.
We realize that at the end of the fifth grademany students are excited about moving on to what they envision to be thetypical middle school. However, atEndeavor, we do not really have a traditional middle school. In the sixth grade, the daily schedule is notsignificantly different. There are noelectives. In our current building, with our current number of staff andstudents, the sixth grade will be operationally similar to the fourth and fifthgrades. One of the highlights of these years is the sixth grade trip to SpaceCamp in Huntsville, Alabama. This is thefarthest trip from Endeavor at any grade level, and it marks a significantmilestone for our students. Anothersixth grade milestone is the introduction of dances with the seventh and eighthgrade students.
In grades 7 and8, big differences are easily seen from sixth grade. Students follow an A day-B day schedule. In addition to the previous five courses,Spanish is also a core course. Studentsattend three classes each day, so a student might attend Spanish, literature,and math on all A days and attend science, composition, and social studies onall B days. Students in grades 7 and 8 participatein a self-selected elective each quarter, as a step in preparing them for themany course choices they will have in high school and college. Previous elective choices have includedmusical theatre, technology, physical fitness, 3D art, chorus, skateboardscience, literary magazine, and scholastic empowerment. These students are also eligible to play oncompetitive sports teams through Endeavor Pride Boosters, following our no cutpolicy. The Endeavor Pride is proud to offerteams in boys’ and girls’ soccer, boys’ and girls’ basketball, boys’ and girls’cross country, boys’ and girls’ tennis, and boys’ baseball. Students in thesegrades are eligible to serve detention for rule infraction. They manage our school’s recycling programand serve the NC Food Bank, through two food drives and volunteering at theirsite, as their community service focus. These service opportunities preparethem to be future leaders in the wider community around us.
As our studentsgrow and mature, they are able to handle and excel in different schedules. We are thrilled to see them manage theirmaterials and their time as they move through Endeavor taking these gradual stepstoward the independence and self-sufficiency they will need to excel in highschool. We feel confident that thegradual increase in expectations from kindergarten to eighth grade is animportant aspect of our responsibility to prepare our students the challenge oflife outside our walls.
Prepared for 4-18-11 Board meetingpresentation