Selected readings on US charter schools
The national Move On When Ready initiative allows high-achieving students to prove they are capable of taking college-level courses and “move on” to a community college or technical school after 10th grade. This is the second year Arizona has participated in the initiative.
Toltec’s new charter school, Cambridge Preparatory Academy, will offer tuition-free classes to 25 students at each grade level, including a full-day kindergarten, a 200-day school year, an iPad for each student, accelerated learning and multiple educational pathways.
Principal Sam Granillo said the iPads are for “flipped instruction.” Teachers will record lessons for students to watch at home and use class time for independent practice and labs.
The academy will use the Cambridge International Curriculum, which aligns with the new Common Core Standards, includes inquiry-based lessons and provides resources, teacher training and quarterly assessments. Teachers start training this month.
Every student will have an individualized education plan, Granillo said, and start exactly where he or she needs to be, regardless of age or grade level. Students will advance through each stage as they show mastery. Some children will move faster in some areas.
Superintendent Bryan McCleney said Move On When Ready grades are like karate belts. Students move up one level when they master the current level, so they may be at a higher level in math than in English.
The academy’s website says its vision is success for every student at his or her own pace. Its mission is to adapt learning to meet each student’s educational needs.
McCleney said students will take a rigorous exam at the end of 10th grade. Those who perform at a college-ready level can receive a Grand Canyon High School Diploma and the opportunity to take two years of free college credit through dual enrollment with Grand Canyon University (with no relationship to the diploma) or enter a community college or technical school. Those who do not pass may take the exam again the following year.
Cambridge University provides instructional support and professional development. The National Center on Education and Economy provides national oversight and collects data. The Center for the Future of Arizona provides technical support and estimates that 30 charter, private and district high schools in Arizona have Move On When Ready programs in place now, including in the Amphitheater, Dysart, Gilbert, Kingman, Mesa, Phoenix Union, Wickenburg and Yuma public school districts.
McCleney said he believes Toltec will be the first district in the state to offer a K-12 Move On When Ready program.
“So if at the end of 10th grade you don’t have those skill sets yet to pass that exam, you stay for the 11th grade,” McCleney said.
The Toltec Governing Board created the charter school because it wanted to provide school choice and family schools, he said, those where children could stay in the same school from kindergarten through 12th grade, “but we’re really interested in making sure that all students are prepared for college and career readiness.”
Students from Arizona City, Eloy, Casa Grande, Coolidge, Florence and Picacho are invited to apply for grades K-9 this year. Tenth grade will be added next year, 11th grade the following year and 12th grade after that, according to plans. Applications will be accepted until April 30 or classes are filled. The district does not plan to bus children from communities outside the Toltec district but may send buses if enough students enroll from a community.
The district includes Arizona City and the Toltec part of Eloy, and the territory also is part of the Casa Grande Union High School District. Students traditionally have gone to high school in Casa Grande.
The academy will be in the new wing of the district’s elementary school in Arizona City, which is switching to a K-8 format for other students. After the first year, plans include moving the academy to its own high-tech campus. The school day will run from 8 a.m. to 4:15 p.m. Mondays through Fridays from July to June.
Frank Davidson, superintendent of the Casa Grande Elementary School District, said he certainly understands Toltec’s rationale for pursuing a charter option.
“Charter schools do receive more funding per pupil,” he said, “so this will increase the amount of funding coming into their district, and I know they are looking at creative ways to be able to deliver instruction.”
CGESD looked at a charter option last year and pulled back, he added. It is considering a charter option again this year and will present it to the Governing Board at the May meeting. “I think what Toltec is doing is consistent with what is taking place at other districts as well,” he said.
Source: Casa Grande Dispatch – by Susan Randall