Student Life Overview
EDUCATIONAL PHILOSOPHY AND PROGRAM
LVCS Mission Statement
LVCS educates Transitional Kindergarten through Grade Eight students by fostering the development of each child’s analytical ability, social skills, and creativity.
LVCS Vision Statement
We will maintain a nurturing, yet challenging educational environment that permits, motivates, and encourages children to reach their full potential in learning, creativity, and citizenship. Dedicated, innovative educators will work together with school families to maintain a community committed to high achievement and to fostering cognitive, analytical, creative and enthusiastic life-long learners.
The Livermore Valley Charter School (LVCS) will educate students from Livermore and the greater Tri-Valley area, whose families are seeking a rigorous standards-based education in a comprehensive Transitional K-8 school environment with numerous enrichment opportunities.
Targeted Student Populations
Identify the proposed charter school’s target student population, including, at a minimum, grade levels, approximate numbers of students, and specific educational interests, backgrounds, or challenges.
LVCS educates students entering Transitional Kindergarten through Eighth Grade. LVCS is a tuition free, non-sectarian public school of choice. We do not discriminate on the basis of the characteristics listed in Education Code Section 220 (actual or perceived disability, gender, gender identity, gender expression, nationality, race or ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, or any other characteristic that is contained in the definition of hate crimes set forth in Section 422.55 of the Penal Code or association with an individual who has any of the aforementioned characteristics).
LVCS believes, and research demonstrates, a child’s success in school dramatically increases when parents or family members are involved at school in the education of their child. LVCS seeks to create a school environment that invites family participation and involvement. At LVCS we work as a community united in a common purpose.
An Educated Person in the 21st Century
Educated students in the 21st century should:
- Understand their own learning style, including how to capitalize on strengths, and overcome weakness.
- Work cooperatively with others from diverse backgrounds, identify and solve problems, and be able to resolve conflicts in a constructive manner.
- Adapt to change and able to lead others through transition.
- Explore and appreciate their creative potential.
- Support their community and use the power of the individual to improve the world around them.
- Be imbued with a love of learning, a profound curiosity, an uninhibited sense of questioning and examination, and a powerful sense of self-direction.
How Learning Best Occurs
LVCS recognizes that children learn best when immersed in a culture of education that both challenges and nurtures their development as individuals. Teachers, parents, and the community members must work together to create a culture unified by the high value placed on education. Thus, within the educational culture provided by teachers, parents, and the community, LVCS believes students learn best when:
- They are an integral part of a strong educational value system that encompasses their home, their school, and their community.
- They have developmentally appropriate challenges to grow both intellectually and emotionally.
- They have opportunities to develop multiple dimensions of intelligence and competencies.
- They are intrinsically motivated by the process of learning as facilitated by a constructive educational environment and flexible curriculum adaptive to student needs.
- They are respected for and encouraged to develop their individual learning styles.
- They are active participants in the educational program through hands-on lessons, an integrated curriculum, and thematic and project-based learning.
- They are encouraged to extend their core learning in reading and language arts, mathematics, science, and social science through enrichment activities in the visual and performing arts, world languages, technology, and physical education.
- They are engaged in collaborative and cooperative learning encounters with their peers under the guidance of knowledgeable adults.
- They are engaged in the mastery of facts and in the application of their accumulated factual knowledge to real life situations.
- They have opportunities to demonstrate personal competence and integrity as contributing members of the community.
- They are equipped to develop an understanding of and respect for individual and cultural differences as well as an ability to deal with those differences in a responsible and mature manner.
- They appreciate the interdependence among peoples, which reinforces their ability to empathize with and demonstrate compassion toward others.
Curriculum and Content
Curriculum at LVCS shall continue to prepare students to be successful participants in the integrated world beyond the classroom. LVCS curriculum creates learning situations in which students delve deeply into their assignments to understand and master material.
Students are taught to explore each topic, assess its complexity and be accountable for demonstrating proficiency in their learning.
LVCS goals emphasize:
- An understanding of logic and roles of evidence along with inference as a basis for approaching the whole panoply of other learning goals. In support of this approach, LVCS educators focus on academic skills to problem-solving through McTighe’s theory of strategic backward design.
- Development of strong oral communication skills. Our students make oral presentations to classes, teachers, parents, and members of the community. We believe the ability to present and defend ideas orally is critical for success in higher education and professional life.
- Integration of traditional core classes to reflect a multidisciplinary approach. LVCS exposes students to the connections among and between the traditional academic disciplines. Teachers work together as teams to plan and implement this approach.
- Study skills and approaches to academic tasks that will help students perform successfully at the secondary level. Students continually practice and revise their work to ensure skill and knowledge mastery.
- Instruction on meta-cognition—how learning works, how we learn as individuals, and how learning styles vary—so that students better understand themselves and others as they move through the educational program at LVCS.
Educational Program Design & Diverse Pedagogy
To better achieve its mission and vision, the Livermore Valley Charter School is structured to help students make a smooth transition from elementary to middle to high school with a comprehensive K-8 school. The nurturing learning environment and educational program design reflect current research and LVCS beliefs about how learning best occurs.
LVCS focuses on the education of the whole child through a core curriculum of English Language Arts, Mathematics, Science, and History-Social Science including a complementary curriculum of Visual and Performing Arts, Physical Education, World Language, Technology and Character Education.
LVCS adheres to the Common Core State Standards and Curricular Frameworks. In subjects where the State of California has not adopted standards the Charter School follows applicable national standards. Additionally, the Charter School reviews vertical alignment to ensure the standards unfold and spiral, so that standards mastery becomes attainable for all students.
To meet the Common Core State instructional standards, the LVCS teachers utilize Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe’s theory of Strategic Design, the practice of setting end goals before choosing instructional methods and forms of assessment [Understanding by Design (1999, 2005)], to ensure that all LVCS students receive a rigorous academic experience. Curriculum planning utilizes a number of important researched based strategies proven to foster student achievement. In particular, LVCS teachers use Howard Gardner’s Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences (1991) to inform the pedagogy needed to help students master the standards. Benjamin Bloom’s Taxonomy of Educational Objectives (1956, 1984) provides teachers with the theoretical basis to prioritize and cluster standards in order to present academic material in a way that fosters higher order thinking. The research of Robert Marzano’s Classroom Instruction that Works (2004) on instructional strategies, Elizabeth Cohen’s Designing Group Work: Strategies for the Heterogeneous Classroom (1994) cooperative learning interaction models, and Jerome Bruner’s The Process of Education (1960, 1995) spiral curriculum tenets are also incorporated into curriculum planning to help ensure that students participate in a rigorous curriculum that gives them the tools to achieve the standards and school wide learning results.
The LVCS learning community fosters a productive, safe, and enriching environment in which children of different backgrounds, abilities and needs work together successfully. Teachers use dynamic, flexible groupings to meet the needs of their students; these groupings encompass such factors as skills, ability, age, gender and interest. Since children have different strengths and styles of learning, LVCS educators develop instructional programs incorporating the theory of multiple intelligences to build on each student’s strengths and to address diverse learning styles.
Productive citizens of the 21st century must be able to work cooperatively as part of a team to accomplish a task. Cooperative learning techniques teach students to work collaboratively with others and allow them to develop their social and communication skills. Students learn to share their knowledge and skills and acknowledge and respect the ideas and skills of others.
Through the development of pacing plans and benchmark expectations teachers integrate multiple curricular areas. Strategic Design unifies the staff with clear direction on how to develop and implement standards based instruction, while simultaneously allowing for the flexibility in curricular resources utilized to meet students’ instructional needs. As a part of annual instructional planning grade level and departmental teams re-evaluate their curricular tools and instruction to ensure rigor, relevance, and alignment to the standards.
LVCS teachers are empowered to select the best curricular tools for their cluster of standards. A variety of text books and other curricular tools inspires students to be dynamic, flexible learners who can adapt to different textual perspectives and experiences. For LVCS teachers, the focus is not the tools or mass market curricular package, but our ability to choose the specific curricular pieces that meet the learning needs of the current student population. Teacher collaboration at LVCS further provides students greater access to the curriculum through the constant reflection on and revision of units of study.
Project-based learning is utilized to teach and to reinforce basic skills. Children learn by doing and the hands-on learning approach provides students an opportunity to take learned skills and to apply them to meaningful projects. These projects provide students an opportunity to develop and demonstrate critical thinking skills, problem solving skills and cooperative learning.
Curriculum is also made accessible through differentiation and modification. Besides differentiation in the regular core classrooms the school offers students alternative programs that include advanced courses, remediation classes, as well as resource classes that help maximize learning based on student needs. Curriculum is further adapted to meet the needs of second language learners and/or those students requiring additional modifications based on special needs.
Highlighting LVCS’s rigorous, broad-based school planning process is the collaboration of teachers and administrators on a daily basis. All teachers at LVCS have collaboration time built into their daily schedules, allowing them to meet with their subject/grade level teams to articulate, plan instruction, and identify and address student needs. Through these collaborations, teachers are able to ensure that all students in their grade level are receiving the best academic experience possible. Minutes are taken at all collaboration meetings, and then sent to the administration for review and comments. This frequent interaction between teachers and the school administration ensures that all staff members at LVCS remain synchronized in the implementation of the school wide goals and academic standards.
Scope and Sequence: The LVCS faculty and staff are designing their grade level scope and sequence based on the newly adopted California Common Core Standards.
Community of Learners
LVCS serves students who are seeking a small, nurturing learning community that focuses on high academic expectations and numerous enrichment opportunities. LVCS strives to create vibrant, balanced classrooms that serve the needs of all children. Creating balanced classrooms to focus on meeting student needs is our top priority. It is important that students learn to work and socialize in environments of diversity.
Looping is the practice of advancing a teacher from one grade level to the next along with his or her class. At the end of a “loop,” two years, the teacher begins the cycle again with a new group of students. Teachers and students in the LVCS looping classes, 1st – 2nd and 3rd – 4th, need not start from scratch every fall. Most teachers find that students remain on task far longer at the end of the first year; accordingly, teachers estimate that they gain a month of learning time at the start of the second year.
Spending two years with a class enables teachers to accumulate more in depth knowledge of students' personalities, learning styles, strengths, and weaknesses. This longer contact reduces time spent on diagnosis and facilitates more effective instruction. It also helps LVCS teachers build better relationships with students and parents or guardians. (Looping: Supporting Student Learning through Long-Term Relationships, 1997, Laboratory at Brown University)
Students possess a wide range of learning skills. LVCS believes that a school should be a dynamic learning community embodying the best practices of teaching and learning in a manner that supports individuals to actively discover their own potential, recognize their own value and worth, and practice responsibility to the community.
Technology is a powerful tool when used to enhance student learning. At LVCS teachers strive to incorporate technology into a multitude of learning tasks, encouraging students to learn efficiently, and preparing them to be part of a technological workforce. At points throughout the day, students may perform tasks such as research on the web, work on a written report or video, participate in an online discussion, view a web-cast, create a weblog or website, run a simulation, create a design, or learn and/or write an application. In addition, students will use computers to engage in self-paced instructional programs that complement classroom instruction.
LVCS school site is a traditional school campus. Students are immersed in various classroom settings to facilitate interactive and independent exploration including the core classrooms, music rooms, art rooms, foreign language labs, science labs, reading lab, research gardens, the library, and on a multitude of field trips and other outside learning experiences.
Serving Academically Low-Achieving Students
LVCS maintains a culture of high expectations for all students. For those whose achievement potential is not being realized, administrators and teachers work to ensure that no individual student falls behind. The structure of the LVCS curriculum and the instructional strategies outlined here are designed to maximize the learning opportunities for low-achieving students. Low-achieving students are thoroughly integrated into the entire student body and they participate fully in all aspects of the curriculum at the Charter School.
Understanding the importance of providing specialized supports that meet the learning needs of every student, LVCS uses a variety of methods to identify students’ strengths and weaknesses, including those of low achieving students. Students may be deemed “low achieving ” if they are displaying any of the following characteristics:
- Student does not demonstrate standards mastery in instructional activities
- STAR test results are below proficient
- Initial diagnostic assessments indicate skills in Math or ELA are below grade level
- Student struggles with language acquisition
- Fine and/or gross motor skills are delayed in comparison with peer group
- Student has poor attendance
- Student is not responding to academic interventions
- Student is displaying behavioral concerns
Initial student safety-net meetings are followed by student success team meeting(s) to address student intervention needs within the collaborative model of student-teacher-parent-school. Such meetings are a time when parents and students participate with staff in designing goals based on the student’s learning styles and educational objectives.
Progress monitoring and goal achievement are followed using the Response to Intervention (“RTI”) model. This model, outlined in the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) is now part of a general education initiative delineated by the National Association of State Directors of Special Education, calls for accountability of educational results. The RTI process uses a systematic problem-solving approach to assist students with concerns that are interfering with personal achievement in comparison to their peer group, as indicated on benchmark or standardized tests. Within this problem solving approach parents/guardians of low-achieving students are contacted and consulted in the development of strategies to meet the specific needs of the individual child. The RTI process clarifies problems and concerns, develops strategies, organizes resources, provides a system for school accountability, and serves to assist the student, parents, and teachers.
RTI accountability includes use of research-based interventions, continuous progress monitoring on interventions used, and the reflection on gathered student data to determine low-performing student successes. Students showing sufficient growth in the targeted area of need as defined by the RTI plan are gradually exited from RTI. Monitoring and continual data analysis also reveals when a need for additional higher-level intensive interventions are required to move the low-performing toward standards attainment. If a student has progressed through all tiers of the RTI process, and has not made sufficient growth in the targeted area of need, the RTI team will reconvene and reevaluate the data. When appropriate, the team will recommend a referral for Special Education evaluation or schedule a Section 504 assessment to further ensure that the academically low achieving student receives support.
Interventions to support the low achieving student begin in the core classroom with varied instructional approaches, including re-teaching in a small group and/or flexible grouping environment. Working in flexible groups helps all students realize that everyone has unique skills and abilities that are needed to solve problems. By working closely with students at all ability levels, low-achieving students gain new knowledge and learn new strategies for acquiring information and solving problems. This awareness raises low-achieving students’ self-esteem and perceptions of their own competence, and increases their positive attitudes toward school, learning, and success.
Students requiring further support to achieve standards mastery are referred to specialized intervention programs that may include, but are not limited to the LVCS Reading Specialist, the LVCS Math Specialist, Team Read, ELA Support, or Math Support.
Serving Academically High-Achieving Students
LVCS is committed to providing opportunities for students who demonstrate an ability to achieve beyond the standards in order to realize their academic potential. Students who are intellectually gifted demonstrate and may be identified through many characteristics, including, but not limited to: a precocious ability to think abstractly, an extreme need for constant mental stimulation, an ability to learn and process complex information very rapidly, and a need to explore subjects in depth.
Students who demonstrate these characteristics have unique academic needs that LVCS teachers meet by designing lessons that push these students deeper into the standard in ways that require higher order thinking. High achieving students are thoroughly integrated into the entire student body at the Charter School and participate fully in all aspects of the curriculum. The teachers design effectively differentiated curriculum to engage high achieving students in the following ways:
- Opportunities for intensive focus and exploration in a non-pressurized environment where students can test, experiment, and innovate without having to generate a final product prematurely.
- Opportunities to interact and work closely with other high achieving students to share ideas, benefit from other’s knowledge, and collaborate on subjects of mutual interest.
- Lesson content that connects to real conditions, situations, or issues in the world.
- Encouragement of independent thinking and positive risk hands-on activities, experimentation, and creativity in all subjects.
Differentiating the core curriculum is the process of providing extended learning opportunities so that identified students are appropriately challenged, even when their interests, abilities and experiences vary widely in a single classroom. Teachers strive to provide additional challenges to students through four methods: acceleration, complexity, depth and novelty. Differentiation allows for a “stretch” of the curriculum so that students who have already mastered the material at grade level continue to progress and so that students who have a particular interest in an area can pursue it in greater depth or in a personalized way.
Flexible academic groupings within the classroom, specialist classes, and after-school enrichment opportunities serve the high achieving student population. LVCS faculty, community members, and volunteers provide a qualitatively differentiated curriculum that stresses higher order thinking, concept learning, and cross-curricular study as outlined in both the State academic content standards and the State standards for Gifted and Talented Students.
Instruction is differentiated by cluster groupings within regular classrooms, access to advanced classes such as algebra and pre-algebra, geometry and algebra II, independent work in a regular classroom, before and after school enrichment classes, pull-out programs during the regular school day.
In the reading program, for example, students participate in guided reading groups (clusters) that challenge them to stretch their reading ability. LVCS teachers have participated in an extensive series of reading and writing training classes so that student instruction can match the student’s level of expertise. Writing provides similar opportunities for meeting students’ individual needs. Classroom examples would include Writer’s Workshop and individual teacher conferences with the students about their progress.
 Gardner, Intelligences Reframed.