CLA emphasizes that all students deserve to be fully challenged and motivated to succeed and believes that self-esteem derives from true achievement.
CLA continues to select curricula and provide an educational program that is aligned with Colorado Academic Standards which include:
- A more focused set of core ideas;
- 21st century skills – such as critical thinking and collaboration;
- Elaborate a progression of learning of the core ideas;
- Work backward from what we want high school graduates to know and be able to do;
- Ensure that all graduates are ready to enter higher education or the work force without remediation;
- Supports best instructional practices.
CLA focuses on academic rigor by offering a challenging, content-rich curriculum. At CLA, the school day runs longer than typical schools, CLA’s school year is 181 days long, compared to the traditional 167-day school year and runs from 8:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m. The total number of hours of instruction during the school year is currently 1,267 hours, which is higher than the local school district average of 1,044 hours. A longer school year and additional hours of instruction provide more time for students to acquire the academic knowledge and skills to prepare them for higher learning. The extra time also allows the staff to provide the remediation required for students who need to “catch up” when they first arrive at CLA. The school believes that it provides students with the opportunity to be nurtured in an environment that is academically rigorous, where students are supported and encouraged toward a future that includes a college degree. Students also learn active citizenship and service learning.
CLA has utilized performance-based grouping from its inception. This concept has allowed the school to appropriately place students in academic environments comprised of smaller groups, more targeted instructional time, opportunity to revisit and master academic content fundamentals, then progress to a higher academic grouping, or integrate back into a their grade level classroom. In the early years of the school this meant that there were numerous groups in every available education space. Over time, the majority of students are now on or above grade level in the majority of academic content areas.
Instructional staff at CLA are observed in the classroom on a regular basis. The terminology used regarding instruction is the “meticulously accurate delivery” of prescribed school curriculum. The school requires a high a level of accountability regarding the fidelity of curricula and its delivery to students. Deviation from the curricula without administrative approval can be a terminable offence at the school. The school’s instructional methods are systems based and instructors are responsible through instructional coaching to develop specific competencies and skill sets for our complex instructional environment.
Reading Street is designed to help teachers build readers through engaging literature, scientifically research-based instruction, and an extensive resource of teaching tools. The program prioritizes skill instruction at each grade level to ensure mastery of the standards. Reading Street is composed of outstanding hands-on and digital components that enhance student achievement. The program takes over-arching themes and questions and develops those ideas throughout the areas of reading and language arts. Those same concepts are tied to social studies and science. Those concepts have been aligned to the Core Knowledge Sequence by grade level and allow for students to have their learning reinforced through cross-curricular delivery. This is especially important for English Language Learners as they learn new vocabulary and are able to practice and apply it throughout all subjects. Reading Street has a strong emphasis on strategies that support English Language Learners. These include: Identification and communication of content and language objectives; Frontloading of lessons; Providing comprehensible input through visual representations, experiential learning, aural input, video, modeling, summarizing, graphic representations, and hands-on activities; Enabling language production through reading, writing, speaking, listening, and collaboration with others on focused lesson content; Assessing content and language understanding.
The Riggs Method
The Riggs Method incorporates the phonics-based spelling with rules system dating from the Webster-Oxford standardization of English spelling, but also provides realistic phonemic/graphemic correspondences from contemporary dictionaries. It uses roots, prefixes, suffixes, homophones and homographs, antonyms, synonyms and graphic organizers to provide for a high-expectation, skills-based, complete language arts method designed to accompany any vocabulary-rich literature of the user’s choice.
Instruction begins at a 4 -year-old’s listening and/or spoken comprehensible vocabulary levels. Because phonics instruction is first, fast, complete and multi-sensory (the latter to address all neurologically based “learning styles”). Beginners very quickly spell, write, and then read what they can already listen to and/or say with understanding. Students find this fast-paced, common sense, independence-establishing experience challenging, exhilarating and fun! Remedial students of all ages love this program because it doesn’t look “babyish.” The program includes:
• “Explicit” Phonics with dictated Initial Letter Formation
• The Alphabetic Principle
• Phonemic & Graphemic Awareness
• Correct Spelling w/47 Rules
• Fluent Oral and Silent Reading
• Oral and Print Comprehension
• Pronunciation & Speech
• Creative & Organizational Composition
• Analytical & Inferential Thinking
• Auditory/Visual/Verbal/Motor Cognitive Development in: Attention/Association/Memory
“If America is to maintain our high standard of living, we must continue to innovate. We are competing with nations many times our size. We don’t have a single brain to waste. Math and science are the engines of innovation. With these engines we can lead the world. We must demystify math and science so that all students feel the joy that follows understanding.” Dr. Michael Brown, Nobel Prize Laureate
Community Leadership Academy’s math program is aligned with Colorado Academic Standards by grade level. Including 1) Number Sense, Properties, and Operations 2) Patterns, Functions, and Algebraic Structures, 3) Data Analysis, Statistics, and Probability 4) Shape, Dimension, and Geometric Relationships
Daily math anticipatory sets include individualized 100 math fact sheets which are timed to five minutes. Lessons begin with a mental math activity for incremental review, followed by a four-step lesson. At the end of a lesson, students complete a daily math quiz or exit ticket to inform the instructor of the student’s mastery of the concept/skill. Homework is assigned daily.
Teachers scaffold instruction, “I do it, we do it, you do it” as a model which included demonstration, prompt and practice. Lessons provide opportunity for students to practice core concepts on their own. Students develop critical thinking skills through encouragement to draw conclusions, summarize, and analyze lesson concepts and responses.
The school focuses on developing a positive relationship between the teacher and learner. This includes helping students make connections between prior and new levels of understanding and perceptions, reinforcing content through participation in hands-on, real-life applications learning activities. Instructors have high expectations and use positive body language, humor, animated verbal and nonverbal behaviors, close proximity and personalized experiences to connect concepts to student learning.
Students who are performing below grade level are provided extensive individualized interventions including one-on-one class pullout/push-in, Saturday School, and after-school tutoring. Students who are performing above grade level are placed in performance-based math groups.
Community Leadership Academy provides students with the highly effective writing curriculum, Power Writing. This curriculum teaches students a specific pattern and formula of developing paragraphs, which is then applied to structure essays. Students as early as Kindergarten master a simple numerical structure which provides the basis for all forms of writing: expository, persuasive, narrative and descriptive.
To ensure mastery of the skills and knowledge for students to become proficient writers, CLA has developed beginning, middle and end-of-year benchmark assessments for students in all grade levels. These benchmarks build upon each grade level. Kindergarten students graduate writing fully constructed paragraphs. When students reach 4th grade, they are proficient in developing 5-paragraph essays.
Three times a year CLA administers a standardized blind writing prompt to students. These prompts are then graded by teachers utilizing a CLA developed grade level rubric or the Colorado Department of Education scoring rubric for writing, depending on the genre of the prompt. These graded prompts are further reviewed by a writing consultant who reads and scores every single student’s essay. Not only is the consultant assessing student performance, but verifying rigor of scoring as well as inter-rater reliability. The weeks following the benchmark assessment, the consultant, administration and grade level teams meet weekly to develop instructional and student goals which drive the design of daily lesson plans. Students are then guided through strategic lessons during their daily 30-60min writing blocks. Weekly assessments ensure mastery to reach quarterly grade-level expectations.
There is additional writing instruction during the Language Arts portion of Reading Street grades PK-5 and during the RIGGS instruction PK-2.
Core Knowledge® Sequence
The Core Knowledge Sequence is a detailed outline of specific content to be taught in the key academic areas of Literature, Social Studies and Science. It provides a solid, sequential, coherent foundation of learning. It represents key knowledge that all children should learn in American schools. Many students are exposed to topics, information, and insight that they have never learned about before. The Core Knowledge Sequence is distinguished by its specificity. That specificity provides a solid foundation on which to build skill instruction. As the sequence builds year by year, it helps to prevent repetitions and gaps in instruction that result from vague curricular guidelines. The alignment of the Core Knowledge Sequence to CLA’s other curriculum and Colorado Academic standards has been an ongoing focus for staff.
Physical Education and Health are supported with the SPARK curriculum. The SPARK program fosters environmental and behavioral change by providing a coordinated package of highly active, standard-aligned curriculum, on-site teacher training, extensive follow-up support, and content-matched equipment.
“The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education.” Martin Luther King, Jr.