South City Preparatory Academy will be an academically rigorous college preparatory middle and high school. At South City Preparatory Academy, a core set of principles gathered from research and observation of other high performing urban schools are central to the school’s academic program and to meeting the mission of preparing students to succeed in college and beyond.
Starting in Middle School:
The middle school years are extremely important for developing lifelong learning, community awareness and social skills. Even as students enter middle school two or three years behind, research indicates that high performing schools can help students get on grade level by the time they leave 8 th grade. Middle grades are the last best chance to identify students in high risk of academic failure and get them back on track in time to succeed in high school and college. Research also indicates that student performance at the end of 8 th grade is a tremendous predictor of future success in college. If students are going to be prepared for success in college, then they must be prepared during their middle school years. South City Preparatory Academy will start with 100 students per grade level in 5 th and 6 th grade and will expand to 12 th grade by the seventh year of operation.
Year Round Schooling:
Studies indicate that high risk 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 Preparatory Academy will not have a summer break but instead will be designed along the academy model: six weeks of school, one week teacher in-service, and one week whole school break. 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.
Extended Learning Time:
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 Preparatory Academy is extended, running from 8:00 until 4:30. This is in tandem with an extended school year (194 days) for all students. A student who attends South City Preparatory Academy from 5 th grade to 12 th grade will receive almost three full years more learning time than students in a typical St. Louis district 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 this period.
Data Driven Decision Making:
South City Preparatory Academy is committed to using data to inform instruction. During the first week of school, students will be assessed with an age-appropriate, standardized assessment tool. South City Preparatory Academy will use the NWEA MAP for this purpose. This initial assessment will give teacher the guidance to design lessons with a clear understanding of current student mastery. The NWEA MAP will be administered four times per school year to measure student progress over the course of the year.
Interim formative assessments will be aligned to state standards and to the year round calendar and given every 6 weeks. After each six-week period, teachers will have one full week to collaboratively analyze the results of these assessments and design the lessons for the next six-week period. Specific focus will focus on developing strategies for meeting the needs of students significantly below grade level. 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.
Intense Focus on Literacy and Math:
It is not surprising that schools in which high risk students reach mastery have a relentless focus on developing literacy and math skills. In visits to high performing middle schools, it was observed that a majority dedicate nearly two hours daily to both communication arts and math. For middle school students at South City Preparatory Academy, four hours per day will be dedicated to Communication Arts and Mathematics. Communication Arts will be broken into separate reading literacy and writing communication arts classes. Math will be broken into problem solving and procedures classes. Studies show that a majority of South City Preparatory Academy’s student population will enter 5 th grade significantly below grade level in both subject areas. This added time will help reinforce skills that students lack while simultaneously preparing students for rigorous college preparatory expectations and standards when they enter high school.
Provide Structure and Order
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 Preparatory Academy to deliver on its mission. At South City Preparatory Academy, there will be a high 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 Preparatory Academy will be 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.
College Bound Culture:
Studies show that 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 21 st Century workplace. Every aspect of South City Preparatory Academy 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 like. Additionally, an extensive dual credit program will allow qualifying high school students to get high school and college credit at local colleges and universities.
Education through Service Learning:
Every grade level will engage in year-long service learning activities. During the middle school years, these 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 Preparatory Academy’s staff will work to convince students that they can reach their goals if they work hard enough, and doing so will make a real difference in their lives. South City Preparatory Academy will assume responsibility for family involvement by engaging with families frequently and in a variety of methods. Every student enrolled at South City Preparatory Academy will attend a meeting with their family and their 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. Teachers will contact families frequently and in a variety of methods to keep them updated on student academic progress. At least four times per year, 100% of South City Preparatory Academy’s families will participate in parent/teacher conferences. If a family can’t attend the conference at school, the teacher will arrange a meeting at the family’s house or a third party location.
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 Preparatory Academy will set measurable goals for improved student outcomes on standard-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 Preparatory Academy 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 performance. Teachers will be evaluated and rewarded based on individual, grade wide, and school wide student growth.