From the Principal’s Desk – Sept 2014

What an amazing journey we have been on in the last seven weeks! Your prayers, warm wishes and excitement are palpable.

Settling In
We are settling into the rhythm of a new school year.
The days are becoming cooler.
The animals are beginning their hibernation preparation.
Our soccer team has had their very first away game.
Grade books are filling with classwork, homework and assessments.
Dorm doors have transformed into prayer walls with decorations and inspiration.
Students are eagerly anticipating Home Leave and much needed family time and rest.
And our English, Math and Science teachers are busily preparing for our October ACT-aligned midterm.

The school year is in full swing and learning is in progress.

Teaching and Learning
The Principal Plan for 2014-2015 focuses on five essential areas: Culture, Academics, PR/Marketing, Talent and Fundraising. Our academic objective is to enhance the alignment of school programs, rituals, instructional approaches and calendar to college and career readiness. Our first step in that direction is to create internal formative assessments that are aligned to the ACT. In October 2014, December 2014, March 2015 and May 2015, ninth and tenth grade students will pilot our data-driven initiative to align our course content with ACT skills and ACT summative assessments. All freshman and sophomore English, Math and Science instruction will partially align to the ACT. The ACT has four sections: English Grammar, English Reading Comprehension, Mathematical Reasoning and Scientific Reasoning.

By focusing on data-driven instruction in our core content areas we endeavor to:

  • Establish a common rigorous internal assessment for our students.
  • Set performance benchmarks and goals for our rigorous external assessment (ACT).
  • Provide opportunities for faculty to regularly analyze student data on key academic skills.

Ensure opportunities for faculty to regularly re-teach topics and skills based on formative assessment outcomes in preparation for summative assessment goals.

Parents and students can expect us to adhere to the following timeline for ACT alignment:

principal-desk-sep14-timeline

In June 2015, the Pine Forge Academy Curriculum Committee will review ACT data; publish ACT data (each student and family will receive a personalized report) and assess the 2014-2015 Data-Driven Instructional pilot program in order to make recommendations for the 2015-2016 school year.

The Truth about Testing
It is no secret that a test score gap exists between Black American and White American students in our nation. Historically, 5% of Black American students demonstrate college readiness on all four categories of the ACT; for White Americans the readiness percentage climbs to 33% and for Asian Americans the readiness percentage climbs to 44% (according to www.act.org/research/ ).

While many individuals dispute the causes of the test score gap, the impacts cannot be denied. In his book “The Black-White Test Score Gap” William R. Johnson states that “wage differentials exist between Black and White workers – in some part – because of differences in the acquisition of basic verbal and mathematical skills.” To remedy this difference, educational thinkers like Dr. Lisa Delpit and Dr. Jawanza Kunjufu demand that educators provide Black students with the “codes of power” to actualize their high academic abilities. Strategies include:

  • Providing students of color with culturally relevant and culturally rich curriculum.
  • Demonstrating sensitivity to building student self-esteem and confidence.
  • Honoring the heritage and ancestry of African-American/African/Caribbean-American culture.
  • Teaching students- through rites of passages – gender roles for young womanhood and young manhood.
  • Practicing the rules of the culture of power and embracing the “dual consciousness” of Black American citizenship.
  • And pushing, practicing, demanding the highest expectations in academic achievement and development.

None of the strategies above are new or novel to Pine Forge Academy. As we push forward a new Data-Driven Instructional initiative, we do so with the full confidence that our ACT-alignment coupled with our Christ-centered curriculum and historically Black cultural perspective will yield awesome results for our students.

We ask for your prayerful support and encourage your comments and thoughts on this endeavor.

10 Responses to "From the Principal’s Desk – Sept 2014"

  1. How are we planning to keep on schedule with class delivery and manage our student and faculty stamina if we see significant “gaps” in ACT testing performance? Will will be making all students retake all of the gap material? Will tutoring be established for only impacted students? And how are “gaps” defined, as this drives the suggested remediation steps.

    Thanks for the opportunity to weigh in.

    • To: Kirk Mitchell

      Great questions! Thank you!
      1. Each teacher has a weekly one-on-one with an administrator. This time will be used to review lesson plans, analyze student data and prepare effective methods to teach and re-teach. We will use the O3 to keep pace with the schedule and to monitor stamina.
      2. We aren’t sure if we will make all students re-take the gap material. We need to see our baseline data first. With the baseline data this month, we can ascertain what to do for which classes and individual students.
      3. Gaps are identified by student proficiency, mastery or deficiency in core college readiness standards identified by the ACT and aligned with Common Core.

      Hope this adds clarity!
      Nicole

  2. Data drives instruction. Drilling down creates an atmosphere for staff to have meaningful conversations about teaching and learning. Transparency and collaboration is the key!

    • To: Mrs. Dent

      I completely agree! Often times it takes a school system 3 iterations in the DDI cycle before student scores are noticeably improved. However, once faculty and students understand and fully engage in the cycle of “teach -assess – analyze – re-teach” student achievement increases.

      Thanks for the support and prayers!
      Nicole

  3. Awesome!

    • To: Rona Colbert

      Glad to hear! Please keep us lifted in prayer! Especially our faculty and staff as we move forward with this pilot.

      Nicole

  4. I appreciate the diligence, thoroughness, timeliness, etc. of your communications to board members and the broader PFA communities. Refreshing!

    • To: Dr. Canosa

      Thank you for your support! It is our desire to ensure transparency in order to foster strong collaboration between school and home. Keep us lifted in prayer!

      Nicole

  5. Great way to communicate to parents and friends

  6. I was shocked recently to read that, on average, African American and Latino high school SENIORS perform math and read at the same level as 13 year old white students. ( http://tinyurl.com/blackwhitegap ) But I’m also encouraged to be reminded (no surprise) that students of color learn best and achieve more with teachers of color at all levels, K-16. ( http://tinyurl.com/teachersofcolor ) Which gives Pine Forge Academy both a not so unique challenge and a unique opportunity. WITH a unique and talented leader at the helm! Who knows but that you, Ms. Falconer, have come to your leadership position for such a time as this? (Esther 4:14)

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