Apple Academy Charter Public Schools will utilize research-based instructional practices to meet the needs of our student population with a focus on literacy and the national movement for preparing 21st century learners. To offer a truly innovative learning environment within these practices, Apple will differentiate our content and delivery methods, and focus on the actions of teachers in their classrooms through inquiry and performance, as this is where innovation truly occurs.
Interdisciplinary, Inquiry-Based Approach - Apple will provide students with an interdisciplinary, inquiry-based approach to meet the demands of 21st century learning. This approach focuses on authentic learning and the application of methodology and language from more than one discipline to examine a central theme, issue, problem, topic, or experience. It embeds the core content areas with the arts and technology to provide a balanced instructional program, with curriculum that encapsulates a variety of internal methodologies that support the successful implementation of this approach. These methodologies are critically important to serving the population of students who are socioeconomically disadvantaged as well as those with special needs. They include: Contextual Learning; Concept Attainment; Cooperative learning principles; Socratic Method; and Differentiated Learning.
High-Yield, Research-Based Instructional Strategies - Based on the meta-analysis conducted by researchers at Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning (McREL), nine instructional strategies have been found to have a strong effect on student achievement for all students, in all subject areas at all grade levels (Marzano, Pickering and Pollock, 2001). All teachers at Apple will use these high-yield strategies, as one school-wide effort, to ensure equity and access for all students. The manner in which the strategies are implemented will be based on the assessed needs of the students and how each compliments our inquiry-based methodology. As a teaching community, we are cognizant that these strategies are not the only ones that will work within our student population. These will be one piece of the effective pedagogy utilized to meet the needs of Apple students.
Brain-based Learning - Brain-based learning is a new paradigm in teaching that integrates instruction with the optimal method in which the brain learns and stores information. It is about the engagement of strategies based on principles of how our brain works (Jensen. 2010). Many of our potential students have or currently do experience poverty, which neuroscience evidence has demonstrated does change the brain in areas such as the emotional, language, memory, stress and processing centers (Tong, Baghurst, Vimpani & McMichael, 2007; Dubow & Ippolito, 1994). Children affected by these inhibitors suffer greatly in school compared to other children (Jensen, 2008). Teachers need to be equipped with strategies for creating successful learning environments and the use of brain-based techniques will be accessed at Apple. Research on brain-based teaching explains that the brain learns, and recalls learning, through nonlinear patterns that emphasize coherence rather than fragmentation. The more teachers make connecting patterns explicit and accessible for students, the easier the brain will integrate new information (Hart, 1983).
We believe that the learner identity of every student will evolve into one of positive self-efficacy and increased performance due to conscious building of relationships and knowledge.
Action Research Teacher quality and teacher effectiveness are perhaps the two most discussed concepts in relation to student achievement. Research over the years has proven that there is a degree of truth that teachers make a difference, yet teachers are rarely empowered to explore and find a solution to the problems they experience in the classroom on a daily basis. Teachers at Apple will be involved in a cyclical process of action research that Mertler (2012) describes as the opportunity to:
- identify a problem of practice
- gather preliminary information including a review of related literature
- develop a plan of action and implement
- collect and analyze data
- develop an innovation and implement
- share and communicate results and the innovation
- reflect on the process
We believe that this process will allow individual teachers, grade levels and the school to increase rigor and relevance in both instruction and practice that will translate into improved teacher and student performance. Teachers will also be modeling the expectation for students to participate in inquiry-based learning. In this way, we will create an inspired, enthusiastic program for our students with a shared commitment and responsibility for student success. Furthermore, the aspirations of Apple to create a teacher-driven learning environment will be unique to our school. Teachers will share in the leadership, management and accountability aspects of educating our students and be able to engage in critical action research, around this model, that will inform and support our vision.