- Phonemic Awareness and Phonics: Understanding the sounds of a language and learning to manipulate those sounds by deleting, isolating, blending, chopping, and duplicating sounds. We use phonemic awareness programs such as Michael Heggerty and Jolly Phonics. Young children need to understand what are the sounds of a language and how they come together to make words. Our phonics programs also emphasize the use of physical motions to associate with each sound. Furthermore, we emphasize a sound-spelling system, which teaches young children that one sound can have many different spellings, such as the /f/sound, which can be spelled as “f”, “ff”, “ph” and “ough.” It also teaches that one spelling such as “sc” can have different sounds.
Word Study: In addition to learning the sounds of a language, all of our students must understand that language is composed of words, that words have parts that can be assembled in different ways, and that words need to be visually memorized in order to decode text and to spell correctly. We begin by teaching sight words from various lists, and we make sure that by the end of the 2nd grade all of our students have mastered the ability to read and spell the 500 high-frequency word list. In addition, we teach the students how words can be sorted into different categories: words with an -and rime pattern make up a family of words (sand, hand, land); words with Greek roots; words with an initial /sh/ digraph sound; words with silent /b/ sounds (numb, dumb, thumb); words with initial /br/ blend sounds (brown, browse), etc.
- Vocabulary Development: We all know that the vocabulary gap increases with a student’s socioeconomic status; therefore, we push to close that lexical gap early on. We begin in the early years with vocabulary tied to the content that students are learning; for example, words related to the harvest season (pumpkins, seeds, fall). However, when they start moving toward the upper grades, we use the Marzano curriculum and its emphasis on academic vocabulary starting in the 3rd grade. The words we want our students to know are words that will prepare them for college. In addition to vocabulary acquisition, we also teach vocabulary development—strategies to attack unknown words, how to use context clues, when you know that you have mastered a word, etc. We understand that a student needs to be exposed to a large number of words many times and in many contexts in order to master their meanings.
- Spelling: We make a distinction between spelling, learning words for their orthographic representation, and vocabulary, learning words for their meaning. We make sure that spelling lists are different from vocabulary lists. Spelling helps develop visual literacy as well as lead the way toward conventional writing. Spelling lists come from the common errors found in the students’ own writing pieces. We also value spelling by holding our annual Concept School Spelling Bee contest, which makes learning to spell that much more exciting.
- Reading Fluency: Measuring how many words a student reads correctly per minute as well as what kinds of errors and self-corrections a student is making when reading is essential for understanding a student’s reading fluency. However, we also know that fluency does not necessarily lead to reading comprehension. Nonetheless, a student’s decoding ability can deter her/his academic progress in school as a whole. The integration of Guided Reading Workshops helps us to monitor a student’s needs daily. We have intervention programs in place for students to increase their reading rates through the use of one-on-one tutoring as well as individualized instruction on the computer. Paying close attention to reading abilities is essential since we know that sometimes the lack of reading fluency can lead to the misdiagnosis for special education services. We aim to have each student reading at grade level by the 2nd grade.
- Reading Comprehension: Reading for meaning and understanding what one has just read is paramount to our reading program. Understanding the overall meaning of a text, the details in a text, the author’s voice, the big theme in a text and how the meaning of the text shifts from the beginning to the end are all essential skills for our students to attain. The strategies they use include summarizing text, visualizing text and annotating text, as well as using “meta-talk” or talking aloud to make sense of the reading. We do use specific strategies, such as QAR (Question-Answer-Response); however, we are flexible in terms of choosing reading strategies that work for specific grades, classrooms, and students. Interventions are also in place for reading comprehension so that students learn how to make sense of difficult text.
- Common Core Instructional Shifts: We have begun studying the CC ELA Standards. We have mapped how the standards change across the grade clusters. We have done a gap analysis with the ISAT Standards for Reading so we know what was missing and what was there already. For example, the CC ELA standards emphasize Speaking and Listening as well as Language conventions, which was not assessed under the ISAT. We have zoomed in on the Anchor Standards and how the close study of texts is the main pedagogical ballast. We have also begun to integrate these CC instructional shifts:
- Daily Five: The Daily Five allows us to schedule our literacy period around 5 distinct “blocks,” which include building the stamina to read by oneself for a long period of time, write at length, as well as read with others. The Daily Five is not a specific curriculum; rather, it creates a structure for and a culture of literacy-based centers. It helps develop positive reading behaviors in our students. The teacher still has the freedom and choice of texts and literacy lessons.
- Collaborative Environments, i.e., social networking platforms, community websites, classroom management systems, multiplayer gaming environments, or virtual worlds
- Online Communication Tools, i.e., instant messaging, online conferencing, micro-blogging platforms, and online broadcasting
- Mobiles, graphing calculators, and laptops
- Cloud Computing, i.e., Flicker, Google, and YouTube, which are virtual servers available over the Internet
- Smart Boards
- Smart Objects, i.e., devices that use quick-response codes and are connected to larger information sources or interactive books and maps
- Personalized Web pages, blogs, and blackboard-type online communication tools through which teachers can tag, categorize, publish, and review work online
- Virtual learning
Horizon Science Academy plan to ultimately have two multi-purpose computer labs. In addition to the stationary computer labs, Horizon Science Academy will have mobile labs that teachers will be able to wheel into their classroom and utilize in their rooms. The computer labs will also be used for career and college research by high school students, for classroom teachers working with a class project or assignment, Project Lead the Way, and for students doing research, to name a few.
Gateway to Technology and Project Lead the Way programs, which Horizon Science Academy students will go through, also utilize a great deal of technology as they are project/design based and technology focused. Classes such as game design, digital electronics, robotics, Web programming, and computer-based manufacturing will give our students the opportunity to further their knowledge and skills even more in an ever-changing in world of technology.
Horizon Science Academy teachers will differentiate their instruction by content, process, and product in order to meet the needs of accelerated students. Horizon Science Academy teachers will receive training in differentiated instruction at the Summer Institute, Concept Schools’ annual conference, and professional development days. The dean of academics will monitor lesson plans and observe in the classroom to ensure that teachers differentiate instruction. High school students requiring acceleration will be enrolled in academically challenging mathematics, science, and English language arts classes. Students will have the opportunity to take AP courses and dual-credit courses.
Horizon Science Academy is dedicated to providing a diverse population of students with an outstanding education focused on science, technology, engineering, and math. The standards, which are much higher than most of the traditional public schools in Illinois, are developed to ensure student proficiency on state standards as well as a 100% graduation rate and acceptance into colleges. Horizon Science Academy will communicate such high standards to parents and students at the informational meetings during the student recruitment period. Upon acceptance, Horizon Science Academy will organize small-group orientations and communicate such standards and expectations to parents and students in more details.
Middle and elementary school grades have 40 periods a week; each period will be 45 minutes long. This will allow us to include a greater number of periods allotted to science, math, and communication arts.
At Horizon Science Academy, students will receive report cards that will show their academic performance four times a year at Horizon Science Academy. The average of all four quarters will determine a passing grade for each subject.
High school students will also have 40 periods a week, which will include a greater number of periods allotted to science, math, and communication arts. High school has a promotion policy as well to ensure that students are equipped with the necessary academic skills to be successful in college when they graduate from Horizon Science Academy. If students cannot get a passing grade in any of their courses, they need to retake the course.
High school graduation requirements exceeds a traditional public school in Illinois and includes service learning, a digital portfolio, and a capstone project. Horizon Science Academy’ minimum graduation requirement is 27 credits, which is greater than most traditional public school districts in Illinois. Only students earning a diploma will be permitted to participate in graduation activities. Horizon Science Academy students may earn additional credits through university partnerships and dual credit post-secondary options, which will allow our students to earn both high school and college credits. Horizon Science Academy will offer Advanced Placement (AP) courses to prepare its students for college as well. Our goal is that 60% of our students will be taking AP courses in their junior and senior years.
Horizon Science Academy students in grades 3-8 are provided with 90 minutes of mathematics a day. The extra time students will spend on math will make it possible for all students to take Algebra I in 8th grade in our third year in operation and going forward. Qualifying students will earn high school credit and start with Geometry in their freshman year. Students will still be required to take 4 years of math in high school, in addition to any math credits earned in 8th grade. All Horizon Science Academy students in K-grade 8 will have 45 minutes a day of science instruction. Students will develop an understanding of the process of inquiry working in teams to investigate problems.
Project Lead the Way (PLTW) will be a critical component of the educational experience of all Horizon Science Academy students. PLTW is a series of middle and high school courses that are project-centered, problem-based, and technology-integrated, preparing students to excel in high-tech fields. According to an evaluation by High Schools That Work (2005), PLTW students scored significantly higher in both mathematics and science high school assessments. The National Center for Education Statistics 2006-07 True Outcomes Report found that students who participated in PLTW were five times more likely to graduate college as science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) majors. All middle school students will participate in Gateway to Technology, the middle school component consisting of five 9-week units embedded into the science and computer curriculum in grades 6-8. All high school students will be required to take two “Project Lead the Way” classes. The two credits earned through PLTW will count toward the technology graduation requirement. Students interested in the program will have the option of taking an additional PLTW class.
Horizon Science Academy students through 8th grade will receive 90 minutes of English language arts curriculum to build the necessary foundation for success in a college preparatory curriculum. The curriculum will utilize a theme-based structure, including traditional literature and grammar as well as addressing twenty-first century illiteracies. The school year for each grade will be divided into four distinct theme-based units with literature designed to address the specific theme. Teachers will integrate a variety of media as well as connect their study to other subjects. The aim is to move beyond the academic ELA standards through a relevant and dynamic curriculum that meets the students’ academic, technological, and cultural background.
The Horizon Science Academy high school curriculum will include unique classes such as College Readiness and College Path. These classes will prepare juniors and seniors for college. College Path is designed to walk students through the college application process in a lab setting. Students will apply to colleges and for scholarships. They also will write essays and meet with college admission officers, career consultants, and college students. College guidance, starting during the freshmen year, ensures that Horizon Science Academy students are on the right track and that they stay on course until they finish high school. AP classes will be offered in calculus, statistics, biology, physics, chemistry, literature, world history, and American history. Writing is also incorporated into our high school curriculum. Horizon Science Academy students will take writing in addition to their college prep language arts curriculum. This will guarantee that Horizon Science Academy students graduate with the writing skills necessary to handle college writing, which is a key component of college success.
Electives in science and mathematics (including genetics, microbiology, environmental biology, earth science, engineering models, astronomy, organic chemistry, statistics, and trigonometry) will provide opportunities for students to excel in science and math. Horizon Science Academy will offer additional electives in order to address a wide spectrum of interests. Two factors will drive what electives are offered: student interest and staff credentials. Each year, students will be surveyed to gauge interest for the following year’s classes and thus determine the staffing needs. Below are Horizon Science Academy Elective Course Offerings:
|African-American History||Film||Personal Finance|
|African-American Literature||Game Design||Philosophy|
|Animation and Graphic Design||HTML||Robotics|
|Art History||International Studies||Sculpture|
|Database Programming||International Politics||Sociology|
|Digital Photography||Latin-American Culture||Web Programming|
- Reading Champions (on campus)
- Math Wizards (on campus)
- Reading Camp (off campus)
- Math and Science Camp (off campus)
- ELL Institute (on campus)
- Jump Start (on campus)