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A strong college-bound culture, one that ensures high school is not viewed as the end-point of education, is essential for success in the 21st Century workplace. Every aspect of South City Prep’s culture will emphasize attending and succeeding in college. Reminders of this strong college culture will be evident throughout the school. With banners in the classrooms and halls, college class names, and college school visits every year; students will realize that college is an expected goal and that success in college is attainable with proper work ethic. In the high school years, students will participate in month-long internships where they not only shadow successful college students, but also learn what the college experience looks and feels like. Additionally, an extensive dual credit program will allow qualifying high school students to get college credit through local colleges and universities while finishing their high school diploma.
To ensure our students have the academic foundation they need to work towards success in college, South City Prep will have a laser-like focus on building math and literacy skills during the middle school years. South City Prep students will receive a minimum of 90 minutes of daily instruction in mathematics, as well as at least 90 minutes of balanced literacy instruction and practice. Our social studies and science classes will have a heavy emphasis on nonfiction literacy skills so our students build the capacity to consume, process, and evaluate the barrage of information that surrounds them as they navigate the world.
Studies indicate that under resourced students show the same academic gains as more affluent students during the school year. It is during the summer break when students spend more time at home and in their community that the achievement gap is accelerated. South City Prep will not have a traditional summer break, but instead utilize the academy model: six weeks of school, one week teacher in-service, and one week all-school break, year round. This model will allow teachers to analyze data, collaboratively lesson plan, and develop their craft. This model will benefit students by eliminating the effects of the summer learning gap, as well as give teachers the reflection and preparation time they need to fully meet the needs of their students. It takes time, effort and practice to meet the challenge of high academic standards.
Additionally, recent studies suggest that there is a direct link between extended learning time and student achievement. Armed with this evidence and the examples of other high performing urban schools, the school day at South City Prep is extended, running from 8:00 until 4:30. This is in tandem with an extended school year (192 days) for all students. A student who attends South City Prep from 5th grade to 12th grade will receive almost three full years of additional learning time than students in a typical St. Louis Public school. In addition, the school will provide small group and one-on-one tutoring for students who need extra help and attention in order to master skills. Students in need of academic remediation, disciplinary consequences or individual tutoring will be required to stay during the College Prep period after the end of the school day to ensure their needs are addressed.
Effective learning cannot occur in an atmosphere of chaos and disorder. Creating an environment of order and structure, in which teachers can focus on teaching and students can focus on learning, is essential to the ability of South City Prep to deliver on its mission. At South City Prep, there will be a rigorous code of conduct that is clear, detailed, and consistent throughout the school. The South City Preparatory Academy adheres to the “Broken Windows” theory of school discipline, believing that if a big deal is made about the small issues, then many big problems can be avoided. Students at South City Prep are expected to wear uniforms, adhere to strict behavior requirements during the school day, and actively participate in classroom activities. Various positive and negative reinforcements will be used to support these high behavioral expectations.
South City Prep believes in preparing all students to be agents for positive change in their community, so every grade level will engage in year-long service learning activities. Our students will identify needs and issues in their community that they want to positively impact through service learning. During the middle school years, service-learning activities will be most often conducted as an entire class or grade level and organized by the staff of South City Preparatory Academy. High school community activities will be more intense and more individualized than those of middle school students. Freshman will engage in activities in small groups and gradually design and implement a service learning activity that is part of the graduation requirements at South City Preparatory Academy.
Highly effective schools partner with student families in collaborating towards extraordinary student achievement. With the help of each student’s family, South City Prep’s staff will work to convince students that they can reach their goals if they work hard enough, and doing so will make a tangible difference in their lives. South City Prep will assume responsibility for family involvement by engaging with families frequently using a variety of methods. South City Prep will participate in the Teacher Home Visit Program, which will provide training and facilitate at least two home visits by teachers and South City Prep staff.
Every student enrolled at South City Prep will attend a meeting with their family and teacher before the school year begins. This meeting will help outline the high expectations for all entities responsible for that child’s education; including family, student, teacher and school. Advisory teachers will contact families regularly and in a variety of methods to keep them updated on student academic progress. South City Prep will also hold several family events, including dinners, literacy nights, student performances, and festivals, to foster and celebrate strong relationships between school and families.
South City Prep is committed to using data to inform instruction. Before school starts, students will be assessed with an age-appropriate, standardized assessment tool. This initial assessment will give teachers the information to design lessons with a clear understanding of current student mastery. Interim formative assessments will be aligned to state standards and the year round calendar, and will be administered every six weeks. After each six-week period, teachers will have one week to collaboratively analyze the results of these assessments and design the lessons for the next six-week period. Subsequent professional development will focus on designing and implementing strategies for meeting the needs of all students whether significantly below grade-level or advanced. The significant amount of data generated by these assessments will not find itself in a binder in the school office. Rather, each teacher will use this data to generate action plans that are connected to lesson plans. The format of these lesson plans will be uniform throughout the school and will allow teachers to design targeted tutoring sessions and differentiated small groups.
Schools that produce outstanding academic outcomes do so in large part because they expect outstanding outcomes of both staff and students. The faculty of South City Prep will set measurable goals for improved student outcomes on standards-based tests. Improved student outcomes will be a goal for every student, regardless of proficiency level, for every grade and in all core subject areas. By 8th grade, it is expected that a majority of students will meet or exceed state and federal accountability targets as outlined in the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). All adults at South City Prep will be held accountable and take responsibility for these student outcomes. The Head of School and Director of Curriculum and Instruction’s annual evaluations will be partially based on student outcomes, academic growth, and performances. Teachers will be evaluated and rewarded based on individual, grade-wide, and school wide student growth.
South City Prep also has high standards for school culture that revolve around consistency and clear expectations. South City Prep has a school-wide behavior code of conduct that is consistently, firmly, and fairly enforced by all staff members. These clear expectations for students allow them to focus on the extensive academic work they engage in daily.