Concept Schools (CS) six core values; guide its interactions with all members of the school community:
- Respect – All members of the CS community (students, parents, and staff) have equal worth and should be treated with respect.
- Responsibility – All people have choices, and teachers, parents, and students should be responsible for their actions.
- Integrity – Belonging to a community requires a commitment to the common good. The community is stronger when everyone can be counted upon to be honest and trustworthy.
- Courage – Having the courage to try new things expands minds and causes students, parents, and staff to reach beyond their own expectations.
- Curiosity – The ability to wonder and to create connections stimulates further learning. At CS, inquiry will be fostered on the part of parents, staff, and students.
- Effort – Success is accomplished when students, family, and staff are willing to do what it takes to accomplish their vision of the future.
Culture and Philosophy
The success of students, parents, and staff who work hard and achieve success are recognized and celebrated.
The core features of CS are based on ten features of good small schools outlined in Redesigning High Schools: What Matters and What Works (2002), a publication of the School Redesign Network at Stanford University. The core features of CS include:
- Personalized approach
- Continuous relationships
- High standards and performance-based assessments
- Adaptive pedagogy
- Multi-cultural teaching
- Knowledgeable and skilled teachers
- Collaborative planning and professional development
- Family and community connections
- Democratic decision-making
- Authentic curriculum
The CS is dedicated to providing a diverse population of students with an outstanding education focused on math, science and technology. The curriculum is designed to ensure 100% student proficiency on state standards in math, science and English Language Arts as well as a 100% graduation rate and acceptance into college.
CS implements a standards-based, college-preparatory curriculum giving the staff flexibility to adapt instructional strategies in order to meet the needs of the students. The curriculum is based on a model developed and successfully implemented by Concept Schools in 19 charter schools in 4 states (Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, and Michigan). All parts of the CS curriculum is fully aligned with State Learning Standards.
Curriculum maps and unit plans provide the framework for the detailed weekly lesson plans that the teachers will complete with their grade-level partners. A shared drive will make plans accessible for reference by students and staff. These plans will specify the daily activities and assessments that teachers will use to teach and measure progress and to ensure that all homework and class work are aligned to standards.
Middle School Curriculum
Below is the middle school sequence with total weekly instructional time:
|Subject||Minutes of Instruction|
|Mathematics||450 minutes a week (90 minutes a day)|
|English Language Arts||450 minutes a week (90 minutes a day)|
|Science||225 minutes a week (45 minutes a day)|
|Social Studies||225 minutes a week (45 minutes a day)|
|Art||135 minutes a week (3 times a week of 45 minutes)|
|Computer||135 minutes a week (3 times a week of 45 minutes)|
|Physical Education/Health||135 minutes a week (3 times a week of 45 minutes)|
|Life Skills||45 minutes a week|
|Total||1800 minutes a week|
High School Curriculum
High school graduation requirements exceed traditional public schools and include service learning and a senior thesis. In order to earn a diploma, each high school student must meet all of the following requirements. Only students earning a diploma are permitted to participate in graduation activities. The high school curriculum will continue to undergo design refinements prior to the first ninth grade class entering CS so that the minimum high school course requirements provide students with the opportunity to meet the entrance requirements for top-tiered colleges and universities.
High School Graduation Requirements
|Criteria||Core Academic Program|
|Coursework||Completion of all required courses|
|GPA||Overall C or higher|
|Standardized tests||Completion of Graduation requirement tests|
|Digital Portfolio||Creation and maintenance of a digital portfolio that meets the school standards|
|College Portfolio and Applications||Completion of a college plan, resume, and necessary college applications|
|Internship||Completion of a summer internship during the course of high school|
|Service learning||40 hours of service learning|
|Senior Capstone Project||Completion of a senior capstone project|
Academic Graduation Requirements
|Mathematics||4 credits including Algebra I (may be taken in 8th grade), Geometry, Algebra II, Pre-Calculus|
|Science||4 credits including Physics, Chemistry, Biology|
|English||6 credits including Survey of Literature, World Literature, American Literature, British Literature, and 2 credits of Writing|
|Social Studies||2 credits including World History and American History/Government|
|Computer Technology||2 credit|
|Fine Art||1 credit|
|Physical Education||1 credit|
|College Pathway||2 credits including ACT/SAT Prep and College Path|
|Electives||6 credits; 1 must be in Technology; 2 must be in Foreign Languages; 1 must be Cons Ed/Economics; 1 credit must be taken online|
CS Elective Course Offerings
|African-American History||Film||Personal Finance|
|African-American Literature||Game Design||Philosophy|
|Animation and Graphic Design||HTML||Robotics|
|Art History||International Studies||Sculpture|
|Database Programming||International Politics||Sociology|
|Digital Photography||Latin-American Culture||Web Programming|
Rather than adhering to a single teaching philosophy or instructional model, the design will draw on best practices from the field and research to define a set of core instructional practices. CS teachers will utilize a unique mix of the following research-based instructional strategies:
- Direct teaching
- Differentiated instruction
- Problem-based learning
- Project-based learning
- Collaborative learning
- Data-driven instruction
- Transformational use of technology
Use of these techniques provides an engaging, dynamic learning environment for students to explore the questions they have about the world and ways to positively contribute to the world around them. CS will utilize a variety of instructional approaches to teach advanced concepts and thinking skills in mathematics and science, as well as other disciplines.
CS use a combination of diagnostic, authentic, state-mandated standardized tests, and nationally recognized norm-referenced assessments to compare students’ progress over time with the school’s goals. These assessments include:
- Northwest Education Association (NWEA) Measure of Academic progress (MAP)
- ACT’s Explore and Plan
- State Standardized Tests
In addition, Concept Schools have designed and use interim assessments that are aligned with the Illinois standards and mirror the state tests. Within a few days of the test, data from the interim assessments will be analyzed and uploaded to the online database created by Concept Schools. Teams of CS teachers will review the analysis from the interim assessments and develop specific strategies to address the students’ learning deficiencies.
Remediation & Intervention
The students entering the school possess a wide range of skills. The extended day and school year, rigorous program of study, extra programming, and parental involvement will be critical if the students are to achieve all academic goals.
Once enrolled at CS, students will be required to take diagnostic tests focusing on mathematics and reading. The results of these tests will be analyzed by administration and staff to understand each student’s needs and to create a personalized education plan.
The following academic support programs will be provided:
- Before- and after-school tutoring
- Saturday schools
- Pull-out programs
- Winter and Summer Academic Camps
- Peer tutoring
- Lunch and recess learning programs
- Buckle Down Institutes
CS uses a combination of the following tools to identify and assess accelerated students:
- Grade level diagnostic tests created by Concept Schools
- Past performance in standardized tests
- NWEA test
- Concept Schools Interim Assessment
- Teacher recommendation
- Any prior evaluation by professional organizations/individuals presented by parents
- Class Performance
CS teachers differentiate their instruction by content, process, and product in order to meet the needs of accelerated students. CS teachers receive training in differentiated instruction at the Summer Institute, Concept Schools’ annual conference, and professional development days. The dean of academics monitors lesson plans and observe in the classroom to ensure that teachers differentiate instruction.
High school students requiring acceleration are enrolled in academically challenging Mathematics and English Language Arts classes. Students have the opportunity to take AP courses, dual-credit courses, and courses offered through the Virtual High School. Accelerated students may have the opportunity for early graduation.
Accelerated students have the opportunity to participate in special interest after-school programs. These programs have a project-based, challenging curriculum and provide students the opportunity to participate in local, national, and international competitions. Examples of programs/activities include Math Counts, Math League, robotics team, science fairs, Olympiads, bridge building, Destination Imagination, and Word Masters. CS also organizes winter and summer programs for accelerated students in order to meet their needs and challenge them to perform to their full potential.
Parental Involvement Plan
Parental or family involvement is essential to the school’s mission and student success. The following actions will contribute to an effective school-parent/family partnership:
- The school publishes a clear policy welcoming parental involvement and post opportunities to become involved in an obvious place in the school building and on the school’s Web site.
- Teachers conduct home visits with parents to enhance parent education and build stronger relationships between students, parents and teachers.
- The school provides parent/family education programs
- The school office is trained in customer service skills to ensure that they present a friendly and open environment. Parents/families are treated with respect and are not kept waiting unnecessarily.
- The school’s Web site provides clear and consistent communication. Parents/families access to daily homework assignments, grades, attendance, and other information via the school’s secure Web page.
- The school recognizes the contribution of parents in their children’s success by organizing events, such as the Honor Roll Parent Dinner.
- The school sets up a parent area in the school building, equipped with a comfortable seating area, a telephone, copy machine, computers, books on adolescents, etc.
- The school provides translated materials and/or in-person contact with parents whose primary language is not English. Translators are involved in all parent-teacher interactions as needed.
As a college preparatory school, the CS ensures that students gain the necessary skills not only for a successful college education, but also for a successful career. Therefore, several components in the design integrate career education and exploration within the curriculum such as life skills curriculum, job shadowing, summer internships, senior thesis, career and college fairs, college path courses, and other elective courses.
CS has a dedicated Technology person to assist faculty members at the school in enhancing learning through technology. Technology instruction at CS emphasizes content learning while strengthening technology skills of students, teachers and staff. Teachers use these methods and tools in to order enhance instruction in the content areas:
- Collaborative Environments, i.e. social networking platforms, community Web sites, classroom management systems, multiplayer gaming environments, or virtual worlds
- Online Communication Tools, i.e. instant messaging, online conferencing, micro-blogging platforms, and online broadcasting
- Mobiles, graphing calculators, and laptops
- Cloud Computing, i.e. Flicker, Google, and YouTube, which are virtual servers available over the Internet
- Smart Boards
- Smart Objects, i.e. devices that use quick response codes and are connected to larger information sources or interactive books and maps
- Personalized Web pages, blogs, and blackboard-type online communication tools through which teachers can tag, categorize, publish, and review work online
- Virtual learning
Co-curricular programs play a significant role in the culture of the school. Students are engaged in projects and activities before and after school. CS students participate in five main categories of events – clubs, special interest groups, annual school-wide events, field trips, and sports.
School Culture and Climate
CS focuses on establishing a culture that values and celebrates success, teaches shared values, sets high expectations, builds pride, and fosters a sense of community and belonging. The culture and climate of the school incorporates five essential attributes:
- Focus on Student Achievement
- High Expectations
Serving Specialized Population
Special education programs and services at CS are provided in accordance with federal and state laws and regulations as well as the individual student’s Individualized Education Plan (IEP). The CS faculty and administration work collaboratively with the district or other companies in providing high quality services to students with disabilities. A Special Education Coordinator is responsible for conducting IEP meetings to assess, review and revise IEP’s. Auxiliary and related services identified through the IEP (such as speech and language service or physical therapy for example) are provided by the District or special companies.
Students with disabilities have an equal opportunity with students in the regular education program to participate in, and where appropriate, receive credit for non-academic, extracurricular and ancillary programs, services, and activities. Students with disabilities receive the same notices concerning school-sponsored programs, activities, and services as other students.
Providing a healthy culture that promotes safety, security, strong relationships, and a sense of belonging are some of the most critical components for providing a framework to support students with at-risk characteristics. Within this type of environment, students feel secure in approaching faculty and support staff for assistance.
Students at the CS with limited proficiency in English achieve proficiency in the English language through the use of the school’s services and teaching methods. CS hires at least one certified ESL teacher and adapt staffing according to the student population. CS ensures that ELL (English Language Learner) students will not be excluded from curricular and extracurricular activities based on an inability to speak and understand the language of instruction. Parents whose English proficiency is limited receive notices and information from the school in their native language so that CS is able to encourage the participation of all parents in the CS community.