SAPHS is committed to meeting and exceeding the Arkansas State standards for each academic subject. We will have high expectations for student achievement and will create feasible plans for each student to attain success. SAPHS’s student performance standards will be clearly identified, realistic, measurable, and demonstrable. As a part of project-based learning Teachers work with students on specific, real-world projects to develop analytical thinking and technical skills, and to foster each student’s sense of accomplishment. Class sizes are average, with a student/teacher ratio of 25 to 1.
To accomplish the mission of Southeast Arkansas Preparatory High School, the key programmatic features of SAPHS are:
1. Integrated STEM focused learning experiences
2. Project-based learning
3. Blended learning for interventions (STAR, Compass Learning, Khan Academy)
4. Extended day and year to catch students up
5. Data-Driven instruction and reteach time for standards not mastered
6. Restorative Mediation as the primary student discipline platform
7. College preparatory curriculum
8. STEM Internships
9. Warrior culture week for students
10. Dedicated time to focus on character development
11. School wide community meetings to celebrate students and teachers
12. 120 minutes of additional time and support in Reading and Mathematics
The Southeast Arkansas Preparatory High School Difference
What sets SAPHS apart from other area high schools is its emphasis on college preparation using project-based learning, community internships, frequent assessments that track our students locally and nationally, whole school re-teach days for standards not mastered, STEM instruction, and cultural practices, like weekly school celebrations and student recognition, that reinforces our academic framework. SAPHS’s design also directly addresses the achievement gap and underrepresentation of women and people of color in STEM professions. Serving students in a district with a high demographic of students of color, SAPHS’s use of sound college preparatory and project-based STEM focused instruction will work to decrease existing gaps in the STEM workforce and prepare a pipeline of future innovators, problem-solvers, and leaders in our community.
Project-Based Learning-The guiding principle behind PBL is to learn by doing. Real-world problems capture students’ interest and provoke critical thinking as they acquire and apply new knowledge in relevant contexts. Teachers act as facilitators, working with students in groups to frame worthwhile questions, structure meaningful tasks, coach the development of knowledge and build teamwork skills, all while carefully assessing what students have learned from these experiences. These challenges are designed to prepare students to be college ready and globally competitive by developing critical thinking, collaboration, and communication skills. It should be noted that SAPHS views PBL as not only referring to long-term, inter-disciplinary projects, but also shorter, creative problem-solving activities that can take place in a single, hour-long class period.
Through thoughtful curriculum design, experiential learning opportunities both in and beyond school walls, and an emphasis on school culture, SAPHS’s design has embedded key elements that have been demonstrated to succeed in preparing students for success on state standardized assessments and college matriculation. Our school model draws heavily on the best practices of high performing schools serving low-income student populations similar to the one we intend to serve at SAPHS.
The student experience at SAPHS begins with providing every one of our young people with access to and success in high-value learning opportunities. These include engaging project-based learning, transforming teaching from “teachers telling” to “students doing.” Students will engage in hands-on learning experiences that involve them in complex, real-world projects through which they develop and apply adaptable skills and knowledge. They will also have access to and be encouraged to take advanced science and math classes so that they are adequately prepared to continue study in those areas as they graduate high school and progress to college learning and 21st century careers. Our curriculum includes self-directed learning opportunities, collaborative projects, internships, support from community mentors, and an opportunity to earn college credits.
Being college and career ready means that students have the skills, knowledge, and experiences necessary for success in postsecondary education and economically viable career pathways in a 21st century economy. Fundamentally, we will act upon the belief that all students can learn at high levels and deserve the opportunity to receive a college preparatory public education that leads to careers in high-demand STEM jobs of the 21st century. Through engaging hands-on projects and real-world learning experiences, students become innovators and design thinkers who will create a strong economic future and contribute to both local and global social and civic well-being.
At SAPHS three core educational beliefs guide our educational program:
• All students can thrive in an intellectually challenging environment and can successfully matriculate to college to learn requisite skills that will prepare them for the high-demand career opportunities existent in the evolving technology and innovation world.
• High school students do especially well when they understand the relevance of their academic work and the links between schoolwork and “the real world” and have access to and success in high-value learning opportunities.
• Students learn best when given meaningful applications for learning that demonstrate mastery of content and process.
The academic focus at SAPHS is not geared towards any text, but rather carefully aligned to the Arkansas State Standards, College Readiness Standards, and Next Generation Science Standards. SAPHS’s teachers work in cross-disciplinary teams to create curriculum and projects that are integrated across subjects, intentionally highlighting cross-curricular skills and concepts, and aligned with Arkansas’s academic content standards. Staff will develop criteria for “evidence of mastery” and students will be required to meet or exceed SAPHS’s standards in order to graduate. Staff will also participate in ongoing professional development and collaboration.
Key Structural Elements
Core Element 1 – Project-Based Learning (PBL): Project-Based Learning is an approach, which transforms teaching from "teachers telling" to "students doing." PBL is a teaching method in which students gain knowledge and skills by working for an extended period of time to investigate and respond to a complex question, problem, or challenge. SAPHS students will regularly demonstrate and apply learning through meaningful projects and experiences. These projects ensure students are learning concepts at a deeper level. Our students will be required to publicly demonstrate their learning through presentations and portfolios. SAPHS will work diligently to provide exemplars of outstanding project-based instruction to its teachers so that all teachers may achieve base mastery in SAPHS teaching practices.
Core Element 2- Rigorous College Preparatory Curriculum: While it is true that some students will go directly to the workforce after high school, new research suggests that the skills needed to get and keep good jobs- both white collar and blue collar- are very similar to what colleges demand of incoming freshmen. Students who take more challenging courses in high school will have more options for higher education and high wage employment. SAPHS seeks to provide all students with educational supports that close the learning and achievement gaps of our students while offering opportunities for advanced curriculum and instruction. Our high school students will be expected to take four years of rigorous English, Science, and Math courses (through Pre-Calculus), and a challenging sequence of courses that will dramatically improve their preparation for the world they will encounter after high school and innovation career fields.
Core Element 3- Data-Driven Culture: SAPHS believes it is the responsibility of all teachers and administrators to know how students are performing on specific standards and what plans of action are being enforced to ensure all students demonstrate mastery of critical skills and reach their fullest potential. Another common research-proven practice of the highest performing urban charter schools in the country is the use of data systems and supports to effectively guide instruction. Performance data will be used for diagnostic purposes in the classroom and thus relevant to ongoing instruction and instructional supports. SAPHS educators will be very clear about what essential instructional outcomes students must achieve, and therefore, set measurable short and long-term instructional goals based on data. We will utilize the approach designed by Paul Bambrick-Santoyo as outlined in his book Driven by Data. This approach is currently utilized by some of the highest performing urban charter schools in the country. The entire SAPHS staff will utilize standards-aligned interim assessments in all core content areas to monitor and drive the effectiveness of their instruction. These 6-week cycles of interim assessments will be aligned with the Arkansas academic standards and will be used by all core subject teachers. Data from these standards-based exams will be used to determine which standards need to be re-taught during reteach week, the kinds of academic and behavioral supports needed for students to progress towards mastery of learning outcomes and expectations, and necessary curriculum adjustments.
Core Element 4- Extended School Time: We’ve learned that the traditional seven-hour school day provides insufficient instructional time to prepare at-risk students for the demands of the nation’s colleges and universities and high-skill, high-wage 21st Century jobs. Our eight-hour school day provides staff with additional minutes of instruction focused on remediation for students who are falling behind academically, as well as enrichment for advanced students that are ready for additional challenges. Since we anticipate many of our students will enter school behind grade level, we have extended the school year from the traditional 178 days to 185 days, and our school day will run from 8am to 4pm. Most of this extra time will be used to master basic skills and get students on grade level as soon as possible and to prepare them to participate and excel in advanced learning and coursework. It also allows us to provide time for daily projects and hands-on learning experiences.
Core Element 5- Integrated STEM Curricula: It appears that integration can be effective because basic qualities of cognition favor connected concepts over unconnected concepts; the former are better organized for future retrieval and meaning making than the latter. A major insight from research on cognition and learning is that the organization of knowledge—that is, the ability to make connections between concepts and representations—is key to the development of expertise in a domain. Multiple studies have shown that experts do not just know more about a domain, they understand how ideas are related to each other and their relative importance and usefulness in the domain. Through study of advanced math and science courses, principles of engineering, and design thinking, SAPHS students will engage in inquiry-based learning activities designed to equip them with the content knowledge, practical skills, leadership and project management skills necessary to self-sustain in such a high-paced, quickly evolving professional context through and integrated STEM curricula that emphasizes both knowledge building in individual disciplines, but also how to make connections among them. All evidence from emerging career fields points to the fact that these are the cognitive skills and depths of knowledge that students need to be successful in the 21st century careers and beyond.
Other Programmatic Elements
Character Development: We have learned that a deliberate focus on student behavior and character is critical in developing critical thinkers and emotionally intelligent individuals who can accomplish tasks independently or in a group. The importance of positive character development parallels the work of student academic achievement. We expect that our students will come to school on time every day, in school uniform, and ready to learn with an acute attention to detail. We have high expectations of every student who enters the doors of SAPHS, and therefore even the smallest negative behaviors are addressed quickly and with minimal disruption to the learning environment. We will have weekly character lunches as well as warrior ethics sessions during advisory time during the week.