Focus Questions

SAR Section 1 - Focus Questions

1.1. What is the process for establishing and building understanding of and commitment to the vision statement among stakeholders?

The vision of the school is “to create a trusting environment, challenging students to fulfill their academic and personal potential.” The process for establishing and building understanding of and commitment to the vision statement among stakeholders is by sharing accomplishments of the students and school via:

  • Charter Board Meetings
  • School Web Site
  • Local Newspaper Articles
  • Parent Meetings
  • Graduation

1.2. What is the school’s process for developing a profile and systematically maintaining and using information that describes the school, its students, and their performance?

As Spencer Rogers wrote, “There is one thing that students of all socio-economic status, cultures, ethnicities, abilities, and genders have in common. They are all human learners with the same core emotional needs. These essential emotional needs drive all student behavior and motivation to learn. When students’ emotional needs are not met, they are unable to focus on learning and unwilling to monitor their behavior so that it is appropriate for the learning environment.” Teachers who choose to teach at Alee Academy do so because they enjoy working with potential dropouts. The small school, small class environment, and engaging curriculum promote relationship building between teachers and students to meet the basic emotional needs of these students and to maintain their interest in graduating from high school.

Since its charter in 1999, Alee Academy has opened its doors to those students who were given up on and labeled as troublemakers. These students though have flourished within the small class setting, which offers more individualized instruction. We have seen the students grow, mature, succeed in their high school career and then become successful contributors to society.

During the first year, sixty-four at-risk and dropout students attended Alee Academy. The staff was small with three teachers, one instructor, one administrator and an office assistant. Even though the school was small, the student produced some exemplary academic results. In the area of testing, the first High School Competency Test (HSCT) was offered in October of 1999, none of the students tested passed the communication portion while two of five students tested passed the math portion. In February of 2000, five of six students tested passed the communication and four of five students tested passed the math. And finally in March of 2000, four of five students tested passed both the communication and math portions of the HSCT.

The FCAT was offered in 2000, twelve students of which only one successfully passed the reading and math portions of the test. The average score for each portion was 222 for reading and 240 for math (at the time a passing score was 300). Even though these scores were not the passing scores, it did establish a baseline from which the staff and students could go to work on improving.

Other exemplary results realized were in the student 91.3% retention, the average daily attendance was 90.4%, and the overall satisfaction level reported was: students 85.9%, parents 91.4%, teachers 84.8%, and employers 93.7%.

The students’ math skill level as tested with the Stanford Diagnostic Math Test during the 1999-2000 school year improved from a 5.6 grade level to a 6.7 grade level or an improvement of 1.1 grade levels by year-end. The students’ reading skill level as tested with the Stanford Diagnostic Reading Test during the 1999-2000 school year improved from a 5.8 grade level to a 7.2 grade level or an improvement of 1.4 grade levels by year-end.

Additionally thirty-two students improved their GPA, fifty-eight students improved their attendance, and twelve students received the President Award for Educational Excellence; five for Outstanding Academic Achievement and seven for Outstanding Educational Improvement. But by far, the greatest academic achievements in all the first year was that nine of the eleven students who were eligible for graduation successfully returned to their zone school and walked with their classmates.

Clint Van Nagel, Ph.D., professor at the University of North Florida performed an Assessment and Evaluation of Alee Academy during its first year of operation. Dr. Van Nagel found that “The staff at Alee Academy had an extremely successful year in spite of the fact that it was the first year for the school to be in operation school. Both formative and summative evaluations of students, parents, employers and staff support this conclusion.” He further stated, “the dedication of the staff, sincerity, and willingness to go the extra mile and support each other are commendable.” Dr. Van Nagel believed this to be the real reason for the success of Alee Academy.

In the second year of operation Alee Academy again attained exemplary results. During the 2000-2001 school year, ninety-eight at-risk and dropout students attended Alee Academy. In August 2000, Alee Academy was approached by then Superintendent Jerry Smith and asked to provide an alternative education setting for Department of Juvenile Justice aftercare, adjudicated, and students placed in-lieu of expulsion. Thus, the ACER Aftercare program was implemented and opened its doors to thirty-eight students.

The small staff of six from the first year grew to fifteen. The staff consisted of six teachers, one instructor, two teacher assistants, two bus drivers, a transition coordinator, a system administrator, an administrator and an office assistant. The student teacher ratio remained at 15:1 assuring students the opportunity to produced exemplary academic results. During the 2000-2001 school year, the HSCT was offered three times and once during summer school. A total of 61 students were tested. Twenty-seven of the fifty-five students who took the communications test successfully passed. Twenty-eight of the fifty-one students who took the math test successfully passed. This is a pass rate of 51.8% for the HSCT.

Nineteen students also took the FCAT. Five of the fourteen students successfully passed the FCAT reading test and six of nineteen successfully passed the FCAT math test. The average score for FCAT reading was 252, an increase of 30 points from the baseline score of the previous year. Likewise, the average score for the FCAT math was 272, an increase of 32 points from the baseline scores of the previous year. 36% of students met the minimum standard for reading and 37% of the students met the minimum standard for math. Based on the student population of each program as well as the reading and math skill levels of many of the students when they enroll, these are certainly exemplary results.

Furthermore, in the 2000-2001 school year the student retention rate of the two programs again far exceeded expectations with 91.4% of the students remaining enrolled in school at year-end. The average daily attendance for the two programs was 89.9%. Again, satisfaction surveys were distributed to the students, their parents, the teachers and the employers of the students. The overall satisfaction level reported in the second year of operation by each group was: students 84.02%, parents 90.52%, teachers 86.01%, and employers 94.8%.

The students’ math skill level as tested with the Stanford Diagnostic Math Test during the 2000-2001 school year improved from a 5.1 grade level to a 6.8 grade level or an improvement of 1.7 grade levels by year-end. The students’ reading skill level as tested with the Stanford Diagnostic Reading Test during the 2000-2001 school year improved from a 5.7 grade level to a 7.7 grade level or an improvement of 1.95 grade levels by year-end.

Other exemplary student achievements were thirty-two students improved their GPA, sixty-two students improved their attendance, and sixteen students received the President Award for Educational Excellence; four for Outstanding Academic Achievement and twelve for Outstanding Educational Improvement. Again, of all the academic achievements realized, we are the proudest of the fact that the twenty-five students who were eligible for graduation successfully returned to their zone school and walked with their classmates.

Clint Van Nagel, Ph.D., professor at the University of North Florida performed an Assessment and Evaluation in the second year of operation for Alee Academy. Dr. Van Nagel found that “Alee Academy met its 2000-2001 goals. This is highly commendable for an alternative program in its second year of operation.” He pointed out that the Alee Academy staff is a highly dedicated and conscientious staff, but noted an area of concern as the effects of an increase in student enrollment within the current facility. Citing educational psychology research, Dr. Van Nagel stated, “A larger facility will soon be needed in order to accommodate the student growth of the program. If student numbers and programs increase without additional personnel and building space, the program is inviting student conflict and aggression.” He concluded his assessment and evaluation by encouraging the staff to celebrate their school achievements and accomplishments.

Alee Academy is recognized as an asset to Lake County Schools. The ability of the staff to work with at-risk students has noticeably contributed to the reduction in the high school dropout rate. In its short three-year history Alee Academy has acquired numerous assets. These would include but are not limited to furniture, fixtures, equipment, computer hardware, computer software, wood working equipment, leasehold improvements, and motor vehicles. According the financial audit at the end of the 2000-2001 school year, the approximate value of these general fixed assets was $501,229.00. During the 2001-2002 school year, Alee Academy acquired 31.5 acres of property inside the Eustis City limits valued at more than $300,000.00.

In 2001-2002 Alee Academy was recognized as one of three recipients of the annual Crystal Star of Excellence Awards in Dropout Recovery, Intervention and Prevention presented by the National Dropout Prevention Network. The award was presented during the 14th Annual National Dropout Prevention Network Conference awards breakfast in San Diego, Calif. Alee Academy was chosen by the NDPN based on clear evidence of strong leadership in furthering the mission of the network and its outstanding contribution to effective dropout prevention strategies, research, and development. Alee Academy has demonstrated the use of a variety of strategies shown to be effective in working with youth in at-risk situations. Strategies include direct teacher instruction, one-on-one tutoring, computer-assisted learning, field trips, individualized instruction, collaborative learning and work site training. Graduation rates and test scores have increased each year that Alee Academy has been in existence.

The South Side Eatery, a small sandwich shop located next door to Alee Academy closed in 2002 and remained vacant for some time. The staff saw this as an opportunity to expand the vocational training for the students. Alee Academy purchased the food service equipment and leased the space for one year to see if the students could make it work. The South Side Eatery “owned and operated by the students of Alee Academy” is now in its fourth year of operation.

The sandwich shop has been successful in affording students an opportunity to learn new skills, earn their food service certificate, work with the public and provide an alternative lunch menu to the school. Regular customers from within the community visit the sandwich shop daily. In the four years of operation, the restaurant has always received outstanding marks from the food service inspectors. This is a direct reflection of the effort by the staff to provide new ways for the students to be successful.

In 2002, Alee Academy began working on construction plans for a new facility to be located on the 31.5 acres recently purchased. Alee Academy worked with Parrish Builders and Swilley, Curtis, Mundy, Hunnicutt, Associates Architects, Inc. on designing the facility. Capital Resource was enlisted to develop a financial feasibility plan for the construction project. Application was made to acquire a loan guarantee for Rural Development through the United States Department of Agriculture. Mercantile Bank became the financial lending institution as long as Alee Academy received a ten-year contract and the loan guarantee.

In the third and last year of the first charter contract, Alee Academy requested a renewal of its current contract. The Lake County School Board granted the request by Alee Academy for the contract renewal in a unanimous vote. The school board awarded a ten-year charter contract with Lake County Schools beginning July 1, 2002 and ending June 30, 2012.

With the new contract in hand, Alee Academy completed the design/planning stages and received financial backing. On November 5, 2003 the Ground Breaking Ceremony was held at the new site and construction began on the same day. Even though there were some minor delays during the construction of the new school, the project was completed ahead of schedule and under budget.

Alee Academy retained the lease on the original site in Umatilla. This site functions as a ninth grade center, thus providing an extra year for the student to mature and attain a strong foundation for their high school career. The new facility opened its doors to the tenth, eleventh, and twelfth grade students. Even with having the two sites available for student enrollment in the 2004-2005 school year, the enrollment request far exceeded the student capacity in the charter contract.

By reaching beyond the traditional school environment to provide services to younger children in the community, the students of Alee Academy are reaping benefits. A Read-n-Serve program was designed and implemented in concert with local elementary schools. Through diagnostic testing, Alee Academy identifies students with low reading skills who will be part of the Read-n-Serve program. These students then travel to the elementary schools and read with students from kindergarten to fifth grade. The Read-n-Serve program has been identified as a successful training tool in improving student reading skills in both the elementary and high school students. Furthermore, the daily interactions between the students have also increased their self-confidence and social skills.

Additionally, many unique programs have been established at Alee Academy to engage students in learning. These programs are based on strong partnerships with the community and a variety of agencies. Alee Academy continues to provide community support through various service learning projects. These include but are not limited to:

  • Mobile Eco Lab in the Ocala National Forest.
  • Water Quality Testing in the lakes within the Ocala National Forest.
  • Lake Clean-Up (IBINI TERA).
  • Recycling Farm H20 with the University of Florida.
  • Various environmental studies on the wetlands and pond on the school property as well as nearby lakes. These have included plant dissections, water quality, freshwater inverts, submerged vegetation, water recycling, water filtration of cubicula, lake and waterway cleanups, large mouth bass surveys, and aquaponics, and a large mouth bass survey in the Ocala National Forest.
  • Trout Lake Nature Center support.
  • Woodworking, which included park bench, construction of handicap picnic tables and the construction of handicap ramps.
  • Monofilament Retrieval Project in collaboration with St. Johns Water Management and the US Forestry Service.
  • An aeration system of the Getford pond.
  • The Southside Eatery, a sub shop, which is managed by the students.
  • A weather station outside the science classroom.
  • A windmill to provide aeration of the retention pond.
  • A partnership with St. Johns Water Management, City of Leesburg, Leesburg Regional, Medical Center, and the Lake County Water Authority for the restoration of the Bourlay House, a 1930s era cracker house located at the Bourlay Historical Nature Park on Lake Harris.

New service projects that are in the planning and implementation

stages include but are not limited to:

  • Developing an Eco System in the Retention Pond to support the raising of catfish.
  • Aquaponics System to Raise Vegetables for the South Side Eatery.
  • Construction of Green Houses to Raise Vegetable for the South Side Eatery.

During the first three years, students successfully completed the program at Alee Academy returned to their zone high schools for graduation. A transition began in the fourth year of operation as Lake County Schools requested that Alee Academy begin offering a high school diploma and holding its own graduation ceremony.

Alee Academy has flourished in its short history. Growing from a small staff of six with sixty-four students to a staff of twenty-six, serving two hundred ninety-six students. Working with each at-risk student as an individual assuring them they can be successful and recognizing each success no matter how small has proven to work. Had it not been for a second chance, two hundred forty students would not have graduated high school. As can be seen in the chart below, Alee Academy is meeting the needs of the at-risk student. In this the 2007-2008 school year, there are seventy-two students who have been identified as candidates for high school graduation.

There is great need to in Lake County to provide services for at-risk students. In an effort to get ahead of the curve and possibly address the needs of at-risk youth at an early age, Alee Academy is working with the Boys and Girls Club to provide an appropriate facility for an after school program.

Alee students have become responsible citizens in our communities. Of the students who have graduated from Alee since 2000, and only three of these students have been incarcerated. Some of the areas where these graduates are include:

  • Armed Forces
    • Marine Corps
    • Navy
    • Air Force
    • Army
  • Post-Secondary Schools
    • Lake Technical School
    • Lake Sumter Community College
    • Daytona Beach Community College
    • Tallahassee Community College
    • University of Central Florida
    • University of Tampa
    • Grambling State University in Louisiana
  • Places of Employment
    • Construction
    • Landscaping
    • Plumbing
    • Department of Health
    • Attorney Offices
    • Real Estate companies
    • Department stores
    • Restaurants
  • Types of Careers
    • Certified Nursing Assistants
    • Behavior Therapists
    • Office Manager
    • Secretaries
    • Massage Therapist
    • Store Managers
    • System Administrators
    • Grounds Keepers

In 2005, Alee Academy was graded for the first time as a part of Florida A+ program and was determined to be a failing school. The school has made changes to the philosophy and curriculum to meet the requirements of the Assistance Plus Program in an effort to improve the School Grade. However, the very nature of the student population served by this school makes the challenge of meeting traditional-based criteria in one year is very challenging. When all students are considered to be struggling learners (most read at the 5th grade level when they enroll in Alee), more than one year is necessary to improve the level of reading proficiency from the 5th grade level to the 9th or 10th grade level that is necessary to pass the FCAT test. Several students even told the principal after the FCAT testing that they hoped they did well enough to help the school grades. The students and teachers want to succeed in this endeavor, yet they have been stressed trying to improve the School Grade so the school will not be closed after this year. According to Robert Marzano, students will put forth effort when students clearly understand the learning outcome and how it will be evaluated, when students feel the learning goals and assessment are meaningful and worth learning, and if they are able to see their potential for success.

The recent publicity regarding dropouts on the Oprah Winfrey Show and by Bill Gates demonstrates the need to do something different to encourage and help at-risk students graduate from high school. With continued collaboration from the Florida Department of Education and Lake County Schools, Alee Academy can become a model school for this very effort.

To date, 459 of the students served by Alee students have achieved success in receiving a high school diploma. As the parable goes, millions of starfish wash up on the beach to inevitably die. Some are thrown back into the sea and live. Ask any one of these students who have graduated if Alee Academy made a difference in his or her success. The answer will be a resounding, yes!

The school utilizes historical student data as well as pretests and posttests, which each identify strengths, weaknesses of the students, as well as skill levels to gauge student performance. Examples of this include:

  • The Stanford Diagnostic Reading and Math Test (SDRT and ADMT) is given as a pre and post test to determine the skill level and grade level for each student as well as the overall school.
  • The Achieve Forecast Test is given three times during the year and utilized to determine the student strengths and weakness for reading and math. The reading test encompasses main idea, supporting detail, sequencing, compare and contrast, cause and effect, making inferences, drawing conclusions, author’s purpose, summarizing, vocabulary, library/reference skills and total. The math test encompasses number sense, problem solving, operations, measurement, geometry, spatial sense, algebraic thinking, data analysis, statistics and probability, and total.
  • The results of the FCAT for the previous year are gathered for each newly enrolled or returning student who has not successfully passed the 10th grade FCAT reading and/or math test, or who will be taking the 9th grade FCAT. The data that is gathered includes prior testing school, testing grade, SSS Reading scale score or SSS Math scale score, SSS Reading Developmental Scale Score or SSS Math Developmental Scale Score, SSS Reading Achievement Level or SSS Reading Level, and SSS Reading Gain or SSS Math Gain. Utilizing the SSS Reading DSS from the previous year, 78 points are added to the DSS to determine SSS Reading DSS Objective (the minimum for a gain of one year) for the current years FCAT test. Likewise, 55 points (for 9th grade) and 49 points (for 10th grade) are added the Math DSS from the previous year to determine the SSS Math DSS Objective. Further disaggregation of the FCAT data looks for students who are in levels 3 or above, those who are in the lowest 25% as well as those who do not have results from FCAT testing in the previous year.
  • This year the Folio testing has been implemented for the 9th and 10th grade students who will be taking the 10th grade Writing FCAT this year or who will be taking the 10th grade Writing FCAT next year.

1.3 How does the leadership ensure that the school’s vision, purpose, and goals guide the teaching and learning process?

Disaggregated data (FCAT) is shared with the instructional staff at the beginning of the school year in preparation for class scheduling, establishing curriculum guides, and expectations. During the school year, the SDRT, SDMT, Achieve, Folio as well as students’ achievement within their classes are utilized to guide the teaching and learning process.

1.4 What process is used to ensure that the vision and purpose of the school remain current and aligned with the school’s expectations for student learning and school effectiveness?

The Continuous Improvement Model (CIM) is utilized to ensure the vision and purpose of the school remains current and aligned with the expectations for student learning and school effectiveness. The Plan Do Check Act (PDCA) instructional cycle drives the classroom instruction. CIM calendars for reading and math are developed in the “planning” stage. Instruction is delivered in the “do” stage. Results from focus lessons within the classroom instruction are “checked” for mastery/non-mastery via mini-lessons within the classroom. Further mastery/non-mastery is assessed via various formats which include the Stanford Diagnostic Reading and Math Tests, Achieve Reading and Math Forecast tests, Folio writing prompts, Accelerated math are utilized in the check stage. Based on the results the mini assessments and other various formats, instruction is given to students or small groups are delivered to sustain student learning or re-teach a concept, thus “acting.”

SAR Section 2 - Focus Questions

2.1 What is the process for establishing, communicating, and implementing policies for the effective operation of the school?

Recommendations for policies and procedures for the operation of the school are proffered to the charter school board. These recommendations, once approved by the charter school board, are implemented and shared with the school staff. Further, annual reporting requirements of the effective operation of the school i.e., budgetary requirements, accountability reports, audits, student achievement, etc. are considered for approval by the charter school board then acted on accordingly.

2.2 What process does the school’s leadership use to evaluate school effectiveness and student performance?

The tools utilized by the school leadership to evaluate the school’s effectiveness and student performance are graduation results, promotion and retention, the results of the Stanford Diagnostic Reading and Math Tests, the Achieve Forecast Tests, the Folio Learning Express Writing Prompts, the FCAT reading and math results, academic performance and disciplinary reviews. Leadership of the school reviews the various forecast tests and the results/findings are then shared with the school staff and stakeholders.

2.3 In what ways are stakeholders, including staff, given opportunities to provide leadership and to contribute to the decision making process?

The leadership of the school has always maintained an open door policy. The staff is provided an opportunity to contribute to the decision-making process as well as provide leadership via individualized attention and staff meetings. Similarly, the charter board members as well as community members provide leadership to the school and contribute to the decision-making process via charter board meetings, meeting with the leadership team of the school, and parent/teacher conferences. The student council also provides leadership and contributes to the decision-making process.

2.4 What policies and processes are in place to ensure equity of learning opportunities and support innovation?

At Alee Academy all students have an equal opportunity to learn as well as succeed. The consistent review of data by the leadership and instructional staff assures that the students fully understand what is expected. Based on the review of data, the instructional staff has the autonomy to be innovative within their curricula. Further, the instructional staff has on going dialog with each other formally and informally, regarding individual students as to what works and does not work those students in regards to their academic and behavioral achievements. The instructional staff, based on this input, can align or realign their delivery to individual and/or groups of students.

SAR Section 3 - Focus Questions

3.1 How does the school ensure that the curriculum, instructional strategies, and assessments are aligned and articulated across grade levels in support of the expectations for student learning?

The Sunshine State Standards mandate content curriculum, scope and sequence of benchmarks from grade to grade. Teachers are cognizant of standards and effective instructional strategies, which are frequently addressed in training sessions. Teaching materials and standardized testing are all aimed at mastery of the SSS.

Alee Academy ensures that each teacher is able to develop certain scaffolding instructional strategies such as:

  • Modeling which allows students to learn the process of constructing meaning and to learn various strategies and skills involved in reading. Teachers also utilize modeling as they read aloud and the students following along in the text.
  • Cooperative learning is also done through effective instructional strategies that works well with all students as they learn to read, write, and think, thus improving their cognitive skills.
  • Students have choices in their learning environment, which aid in meeting their individual needs. Instructional strategies and assessments are articulated through faculty meetings, the local intranet, committee/school meetings, email communications, and parent/teacher conferences.

3.2 In what ways does the school ensure the implementation of researched-based instructional strategies, innovations, and activities that facilitate achievement for all students?

Alee Academy enrolls the full gamut of students with abilities ranging from MH to gifted. Instruction is adjusted appropriately to meet the needs of the student. Exceptional Student Education (ESE) students are assiduously monitored and their instruction modified as their Individual Educational Plans (IEP) instructs. Gifted students are challenged by sparking their interest and curiosity as well as encouraging them to delve deeper into the subject.

Teachers tweak curriculum designed for the vast majority of “average” students by providing more time or modified work or individualized subject matter. The context of teaching and learning consist of instructional lectures, group discussions and questions, cooperative learning, simulations, role-play, and characterization. These and other instructional strategies equip teachers with the methodological tools to promote understanding, conceptual awareness, and learning for every student within the classroom.

Teachers are available for tutoring or make-up work each Friday, and after school. Summer workshops and guest speakers keep teachers informed of techniques to implement research-based instructional strategies, innovations and activities.

3.3 What processes are implemented to ensure that teachers are well prepared and effectively implementing the curriculum?

To ensure that teachers are well prepared to implement the curriculum more than half the teachers at Alee Academy have advanced degrees in their field, and several years of successful teaching. All teachers are held to state standards for certifications. Effective implementation of curriculum is measured by students’ progress as measured by frequent standardized testing. Additional assurances would include administrative classroom visits and walk throughs, formal observation, and annual evaluation of each teacher.

To further assure the teachers are well prepared to implement the curriculum, professional development opportunities are scheduled each year to assure the staff is well prepared for the rigors of working with an at-risk student population. An overview of the professional development aimed at preparing for and implementing curriculum in an alternative school setting includes the following events:

  • This past summer a team of teachers attended the Bay Point Institute in Panama City Beach, Florida. The focus of the four-day institute was “Close the Achievement Gap.” During instruction at the institute, the team received instruction in academic intervention strategies, literacy success, positive school climate, diverse needs of students, and effective leadership. The team then cascaded their information during the beginning training session at the start of the new school year. As an example the team focused on improving and developing reading skills and the importance of vocabulary across curriculum. Since vocabulary plays such a distinct part in increasing reading skills, the teachers will utilize vocabulary words within each of their classes. The vocabulary words to be utilized were developed by the teachers focusing on vocabulary words which would be considered on the FCAT, the SAT, the ACT and college level vocabulary. This would provide students an opportunity to experience a larger variety of as well as upper level vocabulary words.
  • The science teacher attended two professional development workshops in 2007. Faculty from Oxford College of Emory University presented the two-week course “Improving Science Education Through Schoolyard Ecology”. The course is designed to instruct teachers in the basic principles of ecology in terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems through hands on learning in an outdoor environment. As part of their experience, teachers developed teaching plans for their own schoolyards using scientific inquiry based learning, learned about grantsmanship, Internet resources, and schoolyard wildlife habitat design. Participants returned to the institute several months later and presented their experiences with implementing their schoolyard investigation plans (SYIP). Faculty will visit each teacher’s school this spring (2008) to evaluate the success of the institute. Maia McGuire, PhD Marine Extension Agent with Florida Sea Grant (University of Florida) coordinated “Exploring Our Environment - From the Ocean to the River” October 8-12, 2007. For five days, attendees were immersed in classroom and hands on outdoor activities dealing with Florida’s coastal and marine resources. The fun and informative format included topics such as; manatees, shells, sand, sea turtles, estuaries, watersheds, controlled burns, water quality, invasives, whales, and dunes. Presenters were all well known in their respective fields. A host of useful information, activities, and ideas were gathered for use in the classroom. As a result of the workshop, several successful fieldtrips have been taken to Florida’s beaches, providing students the opportunity to study shells and the serious impact humans are having on our beaches.
  • Dr. Rose Taylor conducted a two-day reading workshop. This workshop focused on identifying the struggling readers and then implementing interactive strategies to teach the most basic skills to those readers. These strategies included motivational techniques as well effective comprehension strategies for the targeted reading group.
  • Accelerated Math conducted a two-day workshop on identifying low-level math skills and aligning the curriculum to address the individual and group needs within the same classroom.
  • Dr. Evan Lefsky conducted a one-day writing workshop, which focused on improving writing skills. The writing rubric from level one through level six was discussed in detail with attention to the requisite skills necessary to move up a level within the writing rubric. Sample essays for each of the writing levels one through six were provided as evidence for each level to be utilized in the classroom for the students to better understand the rubric. Teachers also utilized completed student essays from prompts provided by Dr. Lefsky prior to the workshop. During the workshop, the essays were scored to assure the teachers understood the rubric and could then utilize these same essays to assure the students would understand the expectations and how to improve their writing skills. Strategies were provided to the teachers to aid their students in moving from a level one writer to a level two; from a level two writer to a level three; from a level three writer to level four; from a level four writer to a level five; and a level five writer to a level six.
  • Dr. Clint VanNagel conducted a two-day workshop on differentiated instruction and the unmotivated student. The workshop focused on identifying individual learning styles and then aligning instruction to meet those needs. It also addressed the unmotivated learner and techniques to include them as well as redirect them.
  • A leadership team attended the two-day Continuous Improvement Model (CIM) training session sponsored by the Florida Department of Education. This was in preparation for the upcoming school year to utilize disaggregated data from various tools and then align the curriculum to meet the student needs to assure improved achievement across the curriculum.
  • Girls and Boys Town conducted a two-day workshop on the Well Managed Classroom. The workshop focused on teaching social skills within the curricula. These included respecting rules, limits, other students, problem solving skills, inappropriate behaviors, inattentive students, disruptive students, and helping maintain and regain self-control. Teachers gained knowledge and practical applications to be utilized within their classroom to enable them to enhance the ability the students to cope with and understand how to they can take corrective action to improve their academic opportunities.

3.4 How does the school provide every student access to comprehensive information, instructional technology, and media services?

Students have accessibility to comprehensive information for each subject within each classroom. Instructional technology is readily available via a computer lab at the Eustis campus as well as classroom computers in all but one class. At the 9th grade center on the Umatilla campus, computers are available in three of the six classes. Media service is available to each classroom, which include televisions, DVD players, VHS players, and overhead projectors.

Further each classroom has reading material available in the form of mini-libraries at the Eustis campus and one at the Umatilla campus. Reading material is available in varying degrees of reading skill levels as well as reading interest levels. These mini-libraries were established to provide reading material within the classrooms, which were high interest materials as well as various reading levels based on the recommendation from the reading training provided through the professional development.

SAR Section 4 - Focus Questions

4.1 How is the assessment system currently used in your school to analyze changes in student performance?

Informal and formal assessment is used to measure student progress. This process begins with the FCAT data being sorted by testing grade. This determines the students who are in need of being tested on the FCAT for the current year in the 9th grade, 10th grade or retake FCAT reading and/or math, the 10th grade writing, and the 11th grade science. The first review of data determines which students were tested on the FCAT for the previous school year. If a student has tested during the previous year, their FCAT scores for the current year will be utilized to determine a baseline and then utilized to determine growth based on the scores for the FCAT in the current year.

Using the previous FCAT Developmental Scale Score (DSS) as a baseline, the expected learning gain (one year of growth) is then determined. To determine the 9th grade and 10th grade learning gains, 78 points are added to each baseline DSS for an individual student. As an example, if a student scored 1282 points on their DSS in 2007, their DSS for 2008 to assure a learning gain would have to increase to 1360 DSS points. The math learning gains for the 9th and 10th grade is determined in the same fashion although the DSS points are different. The DSS points to assure a learning gain in the 9th grade is 55 points and the 10th grade is 48 points.

Once the goals are determined, the data is then sorted by grade and testing grade. Those students, who have a testing grade for the previous year, are separated from those who were not tested in the previous year. The students who were not tested in the previous year are not included as part of the testing for the results posted for the school in terms of growth. The scores for this group of students are reflective in the percent of students in levels 3,4, and 5 but not in learning gain. These students become a group of their own for testing purposes only.

From that same data sort, a second group of students are identified. These are students who tested in the previous year but have been retained in the same grade as they were previously tested. Just as the student who did not test in the previous year, these students will not be part of the results for the school as growth. Learning gains cannot be determined when a student takes the same test again the following year. Likewise, these students are also in their own group for testing purposes.

For the remaining students who are part of the testing group for the school, their data is sorted again by DSS from highest to lowest. This sort aligns the students based on their DSS as well as their FCAT achievement level. Reviewing the FCAT achievement level determines those students who need to be in intensive reading and/or intensive math classes.

This same data for those students who are part of the testing group is then disaggregated into three other groupings. Those students who are level 3, 4, and 5; those who are levels 1 and 2; and those who are in the lowest 25th percentile. This data is utilized three ways in the presentation to each of the students, the staff, and the stakeholders. First, those who are levels 3, 4, and 5 need to maintain their current level; second, those students who are identified as having an opportunity to move up a level; and third, those students who are currently in the lowest 25th percentile. Each student has an opportunity to make a learning gain. Their respective DSS baseline is reviewed as well as the expected growth for a learning gain. It is understood for those students who are in the lowest 25th percentile will probably change (as it is the score for the current year that determines the lowest 25th percentile) they do probably have the greatest opportunity for growth as compared to the other students.

Additional data that is reviewed is the SSS Gain. This lets the teachers know whether a student made a learning gain in the previous year. If a student did not make a learning gain during the previous year, their past scores are reviewed to determine if there is historical data indicating that they have not been making learning gains each year. If there have not been learning gains, the scores on the content areas are reviewed for other indications of lack of skills to assure gains.

For ease of understanding and communication to the staff, the Excel worksheets are color coded; blue for levels 3, 4, and 5; black for levels one and two; and red for lowest 25th percentile. The worksheets are printed and distributed to the staff at the workshop before the school year begins. The color-coding provides a quick reference for the teachers in the intensive reading and intensive math classes as well as the teachers across the academic classes. As new students are added their data is included and the information is redistributed to the teachers.

Other than FCAT, the Stanford Diagnostic Reading Test (SDRT) and the Stanford Diagnostic Math Test (SDMT) are used to determine the strengths and weaknesses of the students in various content areas and skill sets. The SDRT and SDMT are given as pre-tests at the beginning of the school year and posttests at the end of the school year. This data is used to determine the overall grade level for each student as well as the school. The sub tests for the SDRT are comprehension, vocabulary and scanning, which are further disaggregated into skill levels by content clusters.

The content clusters for comprehension are:

  • Recreational reading
  • Textual reading
  • Functional reading
  • Understanding
  • Interpretation
  • Critical analysis
  • Process strategies

The content clusters for vocabulary are:

  • Synonyms
  • Classifications
  • Words parts
  • Content area

(It should be noted that, based on the SDRT pre-test, the average reading level this year is between the 5th and 6th grade.)

For the SDMT the subtests are concepts and applications and computations

The content clusters for concepts and applications are:

  • Number systems and numeration
  • Problem solving
  • Graphs and tables
  • Statistics and probability
  • Geometry and measurement

The content clusters for computation are:

  • Operations - whole numbers
  • Operations - fractions and mixed numbers
  • Operations - decimals and percents
  • Equations

(It should be noted, that based on the SDMT pre-test, the average math level this year is between the 6th and 7th grade.)

Next, the ACHIEVE Forecast Test is utilized as an FCAT predictor for the intensive reading and intensive math classes. The ACHIEVE tests provides information by student, by class, by grade, and by school. The information is provided in a format of mastery, partial mastery, and non-mastery for a particular benchmark as well as overall correct for all benchmarks. The ACHIEVE test is given three times during the year, before the FCAT test in March. The first test establishes a baseline for the each student, class, grade and the school. The scores on the second and third tests are then used to determine growth for each student, class, for grade, and for the school.

The benchmarks for the ACHIEVE reading test, which align with the FCAT are:

  • Main idea
  • Supporting details
  • Sequencing
  • Compare and Contrast
  • Cause and effect
  • Making inferences
  • Drawing conclusions
  • Author’s purpose and plot
  • Summarizing
  • Vocabulary
  • Library/Reference skills

The benchmarks for the ACHIEVE math test, which align with the FCAT are:

  • Number sense
  • Concepts
  • Operations’
  • Measurements
  • Geometry
  • Spatial sense
  • Algebraic thinking
  • Data analysis
  • Statistics and probability

This ACHIEVE information is also placed in a database to track the achievement for the school or the students as a whole. In that this is the third year the ACHIEVE test has been utilized, we are now looking for trends in students from year to year. This is a comparison of 10th graders this year to 10th graders from previous years and the 9th graders this year to previous years 9th graders. This data has indicated that the skill sets for the students who enroll and/or are placed at an alternative school is not increasing but have remained constant with similar weaknesses within the same benchmarks.

Second, we look for similarities in skill sets based on the benchmarks that are used on the FCAT. To accomplish this, a comparison of the mastery and partial mastery scores for each benchmark. The 2007 reading and math ACHIEVE scores for each benchmark establishes the baseline for each of the following year’s students’ scores to be compared to.

Lastly, a review of the non-mastery scores for each benchmark is used to identify the skill level that the students are bringing with them this school year.

4.2 What are you doing to ensure that assessment results are timely, relevant, and communicate in a way that can be used by teachers, students, parents, and external stakeholders to aid the performance of individual students?

Teachers are informed of student testing results with copious paperwork including charts and graphs for facilitated comparison. Results of standardized tests are sent home to parents via the students, and reviewed at individual conferences. Overall, FCAT results for all schools, including Alee Academy, are published by the state on the MyFloirda.com web site and in newspapers in the spring after FCAT results are tabulated.

In house, the FCAT results are shared at the beginning of each year with the entire staff to establish student and class expectations and goals. The intensive reading and math teachers utilize the continuous improvement model to develop curriculum calendars based on the requisite skill levels that need to be focused within the content areas prior to the FCAT tests. Further each student is also provided an FCAT objective based on his or her developmental scale score from the previous year and the developmental scale score improvement as measured in a growth of one year. The Achieve test results (pre, interim and post) are shared with the students and parents after each respective administration. After those content areas where the skill sets are identified as non-mastery or partial mastery, these concepts and applications are reviewed and then re-taught, prior to the pre and interim test being re-administered. The Folio Learning Express writing results (pre, interim, and post) are shared with the students and parents after each respective administration. The results are utilized to improve the students writing abilities. The SDRT and SDMT data is shared with the teachers as supporting data for the other performance indicators and then utilized to determine the grade level improvement at end of year.

4.3 How are data used to understand and improve overall school effectiveness?

The effectiveness of the school is determined by individual student improvement versus the school as a whole. Administration provides explanations for the disaggregated data for each of the evaluative tools utilized to predict student performance. Therefore, instruction techniques and focus is altered based on identified student weaknesses. Individual teacher effort and task are aligned across curriculum to compliment other evaluative tests such as FCAT, Achieve, and Folio.

4.4 How are teachers trained to understand and use data in classrooms?

Prior to the school year beginning, training is conducted on the Continuous Improvement Model. This training provides assistance in retrieving and understanding data that is available to improve student and school performance. During the school year, ongoing teacher/staff trainings are conducted to assure data is disaggregated at all levels and provided in a format conducive of driving improved performance. Based upon the data presented the staff identifies weaknesses and focus on specific needs, which are incorporated into all direct and indirect teaching methods, techniques and lesson plans.

SAR Section 5 - Focus Questions

5.1 What is the process for recruitment, induction, placement, development, evaluation, and retention of qualified teachers, administrators, and support staff?

The process for recruitment is similar to Field of Dreams; Alee Academy was built and teachers, administrators, and staff came. Dedicated educators leaped at the opportunity to “make a difference” at an alternative school that was sorely needed in the community. Of course, some recruitment was done through classified advertising in local newspapers, web based job sites, word of mouth as well as recommendation from Lake County school system employees.

The director handles induction, placement, development and evaluation, with input from the Board of Directors. New employees are introduced to the other school members at the first team meeting at the beginning of the school year. Teacher placement is determined by certifications, experiences, qualifications, interests, flexibility, adaptability, desire, and passion to work with at-risk students.

Teacher development is an integral part of assuring that the teachers and staff receives training to enhance their pedagogical skills as well as their classroom management skills necessary to instruct and work with at-risk students in an alternative school. Evaluation of teachers is based on the periodic classroom observations incorporating the Professional Performance Standards, which include planning, teaching procedures, classroom management, presentation and knowledge, assessment techniques, and personal characteristics and professional responsibilities.

Retention of qualified teachers, administrators, and staff is a key to assuring the success of the vision and mission of the school. The unique atmosphere of Alee Academy with small classes that are held Monday through Thursday is another aspect for the retention of staff. Friday is a half-day for planning, tutoring, meetings, and workshops. Teachers are supportive of each other, as is the administration. New ideas, strategies, environments and methods are always welcome. Additionally, various incentives such as a re-signing bonus for returning teachers, the benefit package offered by the school, which includes tuition reimbursement, in-service hours that go toward continuing education, a savings plan with Solomon Smith Barney, major medical insurance, health and life insurance, which aid in the retention of qualified staff.

5.2 How does the leadership ensure that the allocation of financial resources is supportive of the school’s vision, educational programs, and its plans for school improvement?

The administration and board of directors allocate resources in accordance with the school charter. Annual budgets are presented to, reviewed and approved by the charter school board. All expenditures are in line with fiscal governance and accountability. Further assurance is accomplished via cost reporting to the school district financial office, capital outlay reporting for capital expenditures, and audits each year in accordance with the audit and accounting guide - state and local governments by BKHM Certified Public Accountants. It should also be noted that Alee Academy is not top heavy with sinecures.

5.3 How does the leadership ensure a safe and orderly environment for students and staff?

The daily use of metal detectors, arrival and dismissal procedures, enforcement of the Lake County District Student Code of Conduct, and the crisis intervention plan insures a safe and orderly environment for students and staff. Administrators are consistently visible within the school environment thus setting the tone for the school day. In addition, constant vigilance by the school staff to enforce the school rules is part of the continual safety process, which sets an atmosphere in the school for peace of mind for everyone, students, teachers and staff.

Rules are given to students in a student handbook and are posted in all classrooms. Disorderly or unsafe behavior that cannot be quelled in the classroom by the teacher is referred to the administration. A system of cameras records all occurrences 24 hours a day, seven days a week, usually there is no disputing what really happened.

5.4 What process is used to ensure and monitor that each student has access to guidance and resource services that meet the needs of the student?

Teachers, staff, and administrators are available to students for consultation as needed. Certified school guidance counselors from referring schools as well as the Safe School Department is consulted as the need arises. Individualized counseling sessions are conducted prior to and at enrollment of each student. During these meetings, discussions of the student’s transcripts are conducted thus, identifying future expectations inclusive of graduation. Total credits earned, grade point average, and state standardized testing are a few of the specifics discussed with the students and parents. Student support is further enhanced via administration’s open door policy thus allowing student accessibility in their times of need and/or concern. Lake County Schools Teen Parenting advisors and/or counselors visit the school on a weekly basis providing support for the identified students. ABC’s for Teens, a counseling program, provides abstinences counseling to the students each school year.

SAR Section 6 - Focus Questions

6.1 How does the school’s leadership ensure that the school is responsive to community expectations and stakeholder satisfaction?

The vision, mission, and expectations of the school were identified with the original charter school contract in the 1999-2000 school year. Alee Academy leadership has maintained an open channel of communication with the media, education officials at the state level and local and state legislators. Alee Academy has exceeded expectations in success with at-risk students and graduation of students who would otherwise not have been successful in a traditional school setting.

Each year the school shares student success with the community and stakeholders, which include the referring school administration and guidance departments, Charter School Board members, Lake County School Board, and the Florida Department of Education. The leadership of the school ensures that the school is responsive to the community by giving them the opportunity to provide input. The local communities, as well as stakeholders, have an opportunity to provide input via parent/teacher conference, student council, Charter School Board meetings, Lake County School Board meetings, open houses, and Alee Academy opinion surveys. An example of recognizing stakeholder expectations was the removal of boatbuilding classes and implementation of intensive math and reading classes.

6.2 How does the school’s leadership foster a learning community?

Learning takes place where there is order, comfort, and trust are present. Teachers, administrators, and staff strive to create and maintain this environment. The leadership of the school fosters a learning community for teachers and staff by providing and supporting continuous professional development. By modeling our willingness to learn, it creates an environment that encourages our students to learn.

6.3 What avenues are used to communicate information to stakeholders about students, their performance, and school effectiveness?

The school communicates information to the stakeholders through report cards, progress reports, phone calls, test results, parent/teacher communiquÃ_f_©s and conferences, open houses, school bulletin boards, local newspapers, articles by the students in a bi-weekly column in the North Lake Outpost, and annual reports.

Additional information is also communicated as a result of the media curiosity about “alternative” schools.

SAR Section 7 - Focus Questions

7.1 What is the process for continuous improvement used by the school and what are the results that this process is delivering for student performance and school effectiveness?

The process for continuous improvement used by Alee Academy is analysis of FCAT, ACHIEVE, Stanford Diagnostic and Folio results. Depending upon the subject or skill needing improvement, a specific course of action is planned and enacted.

As each student is enrolled, his or her individual FCAT scores, from their previous year for math and reading are printed from either FCAT Star or the 734 screen on TERMS. The data, which is, retrieved, includes the Scale Score, the Developmental Scale Score, and FCAT Level.

A preliminary/cursory review of the data is completed for each student. The review of this data accomplishes two things. First, it identifies the reading and math achievement level of the student. Second, it identifies the particular weaknesses of the student within the content areas. In reading, the content areas are words and phrases, main idea and purpose, comparisons and reference and research. In math, the content areas are number sense, measurement, algebraic thinking, and data analysis.

Those students identified with FCAT achievement level one and level two skills are assigned to intensive reading and/or intensive math classes. Scheduling is then based on the skill sets and the weaknesses identified in the content areas. The students are placed within classes with students with similar learning needs and take into consideration classroom capacity. This scheduling enhances the ability of the teacher to focus the delivery of instruction based on individual and/or particular learning needs of the student(s).

With this same FCAT Star or TERMS data, an Excel spreadsheet is created for each grade level (9th, 10th and retake) of FCAT to be taken during the year. This spreadsheet assists in determining an FCAT objective for an individual student. The objective is based on an expected one-year gain in reading and math as determined by the developmental scale scores.

A worksheet is created for each grade level and FCAT test to be taken during the school year. These include: 9th grade reading, 9th grade math, 10th grade reading, 10th grade math, reading retake, and math retake. The data collected includes: student name, student ID, grade, testing school, testing grade, year tested, scale score, developmental scale score, achievement level and gain.

Intensive reading and math classes were implemented in the 2006 school year when alternative schools were to be graded the same as all other schools. As an alternative school, Alee Academy has chosen to receive points only and not a school grade. Since then the school has realized improved results as follows:

  • Total points have improved from 155 in 2005 to 223 in 2006 and 300 in 2007.
  • The percent of students in achievement levels 3, 4 and 5 in reading increased from 3 percent in 2005, to 11 percent in 2006, and then maintained the 11 percent in 2007.
  • The percent of students in achievement levels 3, 4 and 5 in math increased from 19 percent in 2005, to 20 percent in 2006, and to 25 percent in 2007.
  • The percent of students in achievement level s 3+ and 3.5 + average in writing increased from 45 percent in 2005, to 46 percent in 2006, and then to 71 percent in 2007.
  • The percent of students with improved reading levels increased from 19 percent in 2005, to 44 percent in 2006 and decreased to 36 percent in 2007.
  • The percent of students with improved math level increased from 39 percent in 2005, to 47 percent in 2006 and to 56 percent in 2007.

7.2 What steps are taken to ensure that the improvement goals reflect student learning needs that are aligned with the vision of and purpose of the school?

The improvement goals reflect student-learning needs, which are formulated from actual test data, whether that be the FCAT, ACHIEVE, SDRT, SDMT, or FOLIO. The vision and purpose of the school is to enable students to acquire skills that will enable them to graduate from high school and successfully transition to work or college. Since all learning needs to be predicated upon a successful future the synchronicity is perfect.

7.3 What process is used to ensure that the school personnel are provided professional development and technical assistance to implement interventions and achieve improvement goals?

To ensure that teachers are well prepared to implement the curriculum more than half the teachers at Alee Academy have advanced degrees in their field, and several years of successful teaching. All teachers are held to state standards for certifications. Effective implementation of curriculum is measured by students’ progress as measured by frequent standardized testing. Additional assurances would include administrative classroom visits and walk throughs, formal observation, and annual evaluation of each teacher.

To further assure the teachers are well prepared to implement the curriculum, professional development opportunities are scheduled each year to assure the staff is well prepared for the rigors of working with an at-risk student population. An overview of the professional development aimed at preparing for and implementing curriculum in an alternative school setting includes the following events:

  • This past summer a team of teachers attended the Bay Point Institute in Panama City Beach, Florida. The focus of the four-day institute was “Close the Achievement Gap.” During instruction at the institute, the team received instruction in academic intervention strategies, literacy success, positive school climate, diverse needs of students, and effective leadership. The team then cascaded their information during the beginning training session at the start of the new school year. As an example the team focused on improving and developing reading skills and the importance of vocabulary across curriculum.
  • Since vocabulary plays such a distinct part in increasing reading skills, the teachers will utilize vocabulary words within each of their classes. The vocabulary words to be utilized were developed by the teachers focusing on vocabulary words which would be considered on the FCAT, the SAT, the ACT and college level vocabulary. This would provide students an opportunity to experience a larger variety of as well as upper level vocabulary words.
  • The science teacher attended a weeklong professional developmental workshop Emory’s Oxford College Environmental Institute, in Oxford, Georgia, enabled the teachers to develop their own teaching plans using their schoolyards for scientific investigation when they return to their school. For 10 days, the educators learned the basic principles of ecology in terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems, how to apply this knowledge to lesson plans, and how to develop their school yards for environmental education. Teachers say the program has had a profound impact on how they teach science - and how their students learn it - while improving math and reading skills in the process. Many have gone on to secure grants and volunteers to build outdoor classrooms and nature trails. In addition to the summer institute, the participants reconvene for a half-day session in November to relate their experiences with implementing their plans and discuss future, long-range plans for additional investigations. The institute staff also visits each teacher’s class during the school year to evaluate first-hand the success of the institute.
  • Dr. Rose Taylor conducted a two-day reading workshop. This workshop focused on identifying the struggling readers and then implementing interactive strategies to teach the most basic skills to those readers. These strategies included motivational techniques as well effective comprehension strategies for the targeted reading group.
  • Accelerated Math conducted a two-day workshop on identifying low-level math skills and aligning the curriculum to address the individual and group needs within the same classroom.
  • Dr. Evan Lefsky conducted a one-day writing workshop, which focused on improving writing skills. The writing rubric from level one through level six was discussed in detail with attention to the requisite skills necessary to move up a level within the writing rubric. Sample essays for each of the writing levels one through six were provided as evidence for each level to be utilized in the classroom for the students to better understand the rubric. Teachers also utilized completed student essays from prompts provided by Dr. Lefsky prior to the workshop. During the workshop, the essays were scored to assure the teachers understood the rubric and could then utilize these same essays to assure the students would understand the expectations and how to improve their writing skills. Strategies were provided to the teachers to aid their students in moving from a level one writer to a level two; from a level two writer to a level three; from a level three writer to level four; from a level four writer to a level five; and a level five writer to a level six.
  • Dr. Clint VanNagel conducted a two-day workshop on differentiated instruction and the unmotivated student. The workshop focused on identifying individual learning styles and then aligning instruction to meet those needs. It also addressed the unmotivated learner and techniques to include them as well as redirect them.
  • A leadership team attended the two-day Continuous Improvement Model (CIM) training session sponsored by the Florida Department of Education. This was in preparation for the upcoming school year to utilize disaggregated data from various tools and then align the curriculum to meet the student needs to assure improved achievement across the curriculum.
  • Girls and Boys Town conducted a two-day workshop on the Well Managed Classroom. The workshop focused on teaching social skills within the curricula. These included respecting rules, limits, other students, problem solving skills, inappropriate behaviors, inattentive students, disruptive students, and helping maintain and regain self-control. Teachers gained knowledge and practical applications to be utilized within their classroom to enable them to enhance the ability the students to cope with and understand how to they can take corrective action to improve their academic opportunities.

7.4 How does the leadership ensure that the improvement plan is implemented, monitored, achieved, and communicated to stakeholders?

The leadership ensures that the improvement plan is implemented, monitored, achieved and communicated to the students and parents through disclosure of test data. Teachers are an integral part of the planning and implementation process, and communication of the improvement plan as well as the results achieved to the community and stakeholders.

SAR Section 8 - Conclusion Questions

8.1. As you review your responses to the standards, what major trends, themes, or areas of focus emerge that cut across the seven standards?

One major theme that seems especially significant is the necessity for the program to reflect the needs of the at-risk students and be developed to support those needs using a combination of new research based methods and time proven techniques and materials. Identification of the student’s strengths and weaknesses is accomplished by disaggregation of data of the various analytical tools and classroom tests, thus assuring that all decisions are data driven.

8.2. Based on your review of these cross-cutting themes/trends and each of the seven standards, what would you consider to be your school’s greatest strengths?

The at-risk students who attend Alee Academy are truly discouraged learners. They come to us with low self-confidence; have a deeply held sense of personal impotency, helplessness, and lack of self worth. They have avoided school because it is demanding, threatening, confusing, and has been unresponsive to their needs. They are distrustful of adults, as adults in their life have been unfair and unresponsive. They have a limited view of the future. They may be responsive to short-term goals but do not see their future as bright or positive. They are behind in their academics skills. They have limited reading, math and writing skills and view themselves as dumb rather than unskilled.

Some come from fragile homes where the parents often suffer similar characteristics. Some come from homes of well educated parents who themselves struggle to understand their child’s discouragement and lack of academic success. Others come from homes where the parents are eager to help and glad an adult is taking an interest in their child.

The discouraged learners are impatient with routine, long periods of sitting and listening, and classrooms with little variety, because of this and their low skills, they can be disruptive when they are impatient or question why something must be done. Most significantly, they do not see a relationship between effort and achievement, but rather, see success as a matter of luck or ease of task. They are “externalizers” who see the world “happening to them” where they have little control of over success or failure.

Our greatest strength is the willingness to work with those discouraged learners who have not been successful in the conventional pedagogy. It is through our ability to recognize areas of strengths and weaknesses, which our students bring to the program, that enable us through guided participation to develop the student’s cognitive skills. Thus moving them ahead in their academic careers. Our commitment as a faculty is to celebrate the strengths and shore up the weaknesses, to maximize their potential as learners.

8.3. What would you consider to be your school’s greatest challenges?

The greatest challenges, which are faced each day, are threefold. These are attendance, non-productive behavior, and a lack of motivation.

  • Since they lack the adequate reading, math, and writing skills, they are not successful in their academic endeavors. At school they have been a failure, and adults have not seemed to care about them and therefore, they won’t be missed if they are absent. So, they often give up on school and their attendance is affected.
  • Further, their low skill levels and non-productive behavior is viewed as disruptive by traditional standards. Many of our students arrive having already been labeled as non-productive and as such, have fallen into the predictable chain of events from difficult to dumb to delinquent to dropout.
  • They are unmotivated as they feel there is nothing they can do about their current situation and thus believe they have no reason to think things will get any better.

However, we are faced with meeting the psychological needs of the discouraged learner before we can respond to their academic problems and thus impact the challenges addressed above. The psychological needs are:

  • The feeling of incompetence must first be addressed before we can improve their academic competence.
  • The feeling of belonging must be addressed to assure that they are part of a group who are truly interested in their success, academically as well as after high school.
  • The feeling of usefulness must be addressed to assure they understand that their lives do have meaning and they are capable of making a difference in this world.
  • The feeling of potency must be addressed to assure that they do have the power to make a change in their future. All people fall within a continuum of attribution; there are those who believe that hard work and merit are the keys to success, and then there are those who believe that success is based on luck or ease of task. The discouraged learner is an externalizer who believes that the world is happening to them and their failures are the fault of someone else.
  • The feeling of optimism must be addressed to assure that they realize they do have a future. This is addressed by assuring they receive feedback on their competence, belonging, usefulness, and potency.

8.4. How will you use the insights gained from this self-assessment to inform and enhance your quality assurance and continuous improvement efforts?

Anytime an educator is charged with soul searching, reliving, mulling over, and generally reminiscing about his/her past efforts at educating the youth of our nation, a million different tactics, better approaches, more efficient methods, or even subtle nuances about how we have interacted in teaching situations come to mind, all of which can be used as a springboard to better teaching in the future.