What Makes the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. School Special?
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1) We are one of ten model EXPANDED LEARNING TIME SCHOOLS (ELT) in the state. Three years ago, the Department of Education awarded us a grant, which funds all of our classroom and homeroom teachers an additional two hours. As a result our hours are 7:55 a.m. – 3:55 p.m. There is tremendous bi-partisan support for this program and we have received a great deal of local and national acclaim for our ELT design. Currently in our third year of ELT, the additional time allows us to:
- Teach in a hands-on, project-based fashion
- Meet all of the state standards
- Take more field trips to enhance learning in the classroom
- Reflect on our learning
- Provide exciting enrichment courses for all children
- Pursue teachable moments
2) Our MANDARIN CHINESE LANGUAGE PROGRAM was one of the first in the nation. Students study Mandarin Chinese for thirty minutes daily, starting in junior kindergarten. Students learn to write traditional Chinese characters, come to appreciate Chinese culture and learn to speak the language. In the eighth grade students travel to Hangzhou, China with their teachers to further develop their language skills. The high school, CRLS, now offers several advanced Mandarin courses as well.
3) We use the RESPONSIVE CLASSROOM PROGRAM to build a positive classroom and school community. The program is a professional development program for teachers, which supports the philosophy that the greatest cognitive growth occurs through social interaction. Students in all grades participate in a morning meeting first thing every day. This allows the children to get to know one another and provides the teachers an opportunity to teach lessons about cooperation, responsibility, empathy and self-control.
4) The LITERACY COLLABORATIVE (LC) is an engaging approach to the teaching of literacy. All of our teachers, using this program, develop an environment rich in literature, where a love for reading and writing is inspired through daily readers’ and writers’ workshops. LC is also a long-term, intensive professional development program for teachers. Teachers have been trained as coaches at Lesley University and then return to the school and give that training to the rest of the faculty. In addition to the monthly courses they teach, the coaches model best practice, plan with the teachers and observe them teaching and offer feedback. The Literacy Collaborative classroom is well-organized and offers powerful demonstrations. The Literacy Collaborative promotes the teaching of reading and writing at a very high level and, as a result, many of our children are reading above grade level.
5) TERC INVESTIGATIONS is our hands-on, constructivist approach to the teaching of math. Students engage in inquiry-based math experiments or “investigations”. Teachers give a mini lesson with new information and then provide the students with a challenging problem to solve. After students have come up with a solution, students listen to one another’s different approaches and then the teacher brings the discussion to synthesis. This approach to teaching math is research-based, effective and engaging. It does, however, take more time than a more traditional approach to teaching math and is one of the key reasons we implemented the expanded learning time (ELT).
6) We assess the “whole child” using PORTFOLIOS. Portfolios are binders where teachers and students keep the most significant pieces of their work each year. Students also have electronic portfolios, which include clips of them speaking Mandarin Chinese and reading favorite pieces of their writing. These portfolios stay with the students until their eighth grade year, when they present them to a panel of their parents and teachers as a formal part of their graduation. Portfolios are housed in the office and can be viewed by parents, teachers, students and visitors at any time. The entire community is invited to our Portfolio Day every June, when students make their work public by sharing their portfolios with visitors.
7) PROJECT-BASED LEARNING (PBL) is our approach to teaching science and social studies. This approach integrates science and social studies topics with language arts, math, technology and fine arts. Students engage in authentic projects, such as writing an editorial about global warming for a local newspaper. Teachers at every grade level have partnerships with organizations, such as the Museum of Science, that support the projects by sending specialists to the classroom or inviting the students on field trips. As part of PBL, we work closely with CitySprouts. All of the classes work on experiments and projects in the school garden that enhance their learning of science and social studies.
8) ELECTIVES are courses that students choose each semester. They provide an opportunity for students to pursue their own personal interests. The courses are designed by the faculty but are based on the interests and needs of the students. Courses are designed in four categories: science and technology; arts and culture; critical thinking and physical education. Some courses include: ballet, pottery, journalism, website design, Spanish language, and marine biology. Students in grades junior kindergarten through fifth grades have electives twice a week for an hour. At the end of each semester, there is an Electives Exhibition, when all of the students have the opportunity to share their elective projects with the community.
9) EXCELLENCE IN TEACHING is the most important component of our school. We have a world-class faculty. Our teachers are experienced, innovative, caring and committed. They meet weekly in grade level, cluster and full faculty teams to look at student work and to help one another refine their practices. We believe in life-long learning; teachers coach one another and each classroom teacher has an intern graduate student teacher for the year. This laboratory school approach inspires our teachers to be reflective about their practice and also allows us to prepare excellent new classroom teachers.
10) PARENT INVOLVEMENT is the key to our success. We see parents as partners and using the Joyce Epstein model of high-quality parent involvement, we encourage parents to be involved in many different ways. Parents work as classroom volunteers, legal advisors, grant writers and fundraisers. Parents developed a 501C3 non-profit organization, Friends of the M.L. King School, which raises money for exciting new electives.