Do you remember what it was like? Days of looking up at the board and digesting the details spilling out of your teachers mouth can’t be too much of a distant memory. We may have surpassed those integral moments in life, but kids today still do. It’s important that students feel comfortable and ready to learn when they come to the classroom. Boston Collegiate Charter School does their best at accomplishing this. They have their own set of effective practices which make college more than just a possibility for their students:
Make More Time
To ensure that every student masters each and every standard, BCCS provides more time on task. This means: a longer school year, a longer school day, extensive literacy and math instruction, mandatory afterschool tutoring for students in need of extra help, Homework Club for students who are missing homework or whose homework does not meet BCCS standards, and four-hour Saturday School for students in need of additional academic support. Additionally, teachers set clear expectations and create routines to keep students focused on their school work at every possible moment, as more time on task leads to significantly more academic success. Five wasted minutes per class leads to 95 wasted class hours every year, so teachers invest in making sure every minute of class time is used productively.
The most effective schools use assessments to diagnose student needs, measure instructional impact, and build a culture of continuous reflection and improvement. In addition to mandated state MCAS exams and the assessment and accountability provisions of No Child Left Behind, BCCS implements multiple school-wide assessments and administers them consistently to determine students’ progress towards each performance standard. Teachers meet regularly to analyze this data and work collaboratively to identify concepts to re-teach, students in need of additional support, and areas of strength on which to capitalize through classwork and focused instruction.
Students need a safe and orderly environment in order to reach the high academic expectations we set. Through the Code of Conduct, BCCS creates a calm, composed, and disciplined environment to maximize the amount of time on-task. Strategies include a strictly enforced school dress code, a consistently enforced merit and demerit system that defines clear expectations of and immediate responses to positive and negative behavior, a rubric system that provides immediate feedback to students at the end of each class, and a common Blackboard Configuration (BBC) consisting of a Do Now, Objective, Agenda, and Homework. Through the consistent implementation of these structures, along with a number of daily routines, students are presented with clear expectations in each classroom. What is unacceptable in one class is unacceptable in all classes. What is rewarded in one class is rewarded in all classes. Consistency and clarity are keys to student success at BCCS.
The vast majority of our students will be the first in their families to attend college. For too many at-risk students, college only exists in the abstract. At BCCS, freshman year of college is a natural extension of graduating from high school. BCCS’s culture of college is instilled beginning in the lower and middle school years in a variety of ways. First through academic assignments and expectations designed with college success in mind, BCCS develops college-ready students through academic rigor. Second, our “Bridge to Success” program develops year-long relationships with local colleges grade by grade, beginning in grade 5 with regular campus visits and college-sponsored programming. Third, conferences for families and students with the college advisor beginning in grade 5 make college, especially the financial aid process, an accessible and known expectation. Finally, mentoring relationships with high school students and BCCS alumni in college provide accessible and personal connections to college for our youngest students.
Focus on Literacy
An unfortunately high number of our 5th grade students enter BCCS reading below grade level. BCCS provides explicit instruction in literacy skills through two hours of daily reading and writing instruction in grades 5-8 and develops students as lifelong readers through a host of daily required reading activities across all grade-levels. Students participate in DEAR time (Drop Everything And Read) three times a week to model and practice the importance of independent reading. Through teacher-led, shared read-alouds, along with independent reading and 1-on-1 conferencing, students gain exposure to the idea of reading for enjoyment.