On April 19, 2012, Erie Elementary Charter School hosted a Study Tour for fellow Schools That Can – Chicago members. The focus of the Study Tour was Erie’s work to personalize the academic process.

A major component of Erie’s approach is the structure of the first and last 30 minutes of each school day. In the younger grades (K – 5), classes begin the day with a morning meeting where students come together to share personal stories and news items of interest that are then open to group discussion. Teachers also use this time to personally greet each student and to provide news and announcements that set the tone for the day.

In the older grades (6 – 7), students begin and end the day in Advisory where they focus on team building and the development of leadership skills. Discussions focus on helping students develop Habits of Work, Mind, and Heart, the core of Erie’s school culture.

Visitors at the Study Tour were also able to note other practices that help Erie make the educational process more personal, such as having two staff members greet students and help them out of their cars as their parents drop them off, “newspaper” feature stories on featured students posted in the hallway, teachers who loop with their students, and a gradual release into departmentalization in the upper grades.

Collectively these efforts have made it so that Erie has never expelled a student, experiences very few suspensions, and retains nearly 90% of its students from year to year.
Next up in Chicago is a Roundtable at Holy Family School where Holy Family’s mentorship program for 8th graders (students are paired with recent college graduates to discuss schooling, careers, and what it is like to be a young professional) will be the topic of discussion. As with the event at Erie, we are confident that the discussion will be rich and beneficial to all in attendance.