Our Instructional Model
Our success as a school lies partially in the clear and structured routines found in every Gateway STEM Academy classroom. Our instructional model consists of measurable aims, direct instruction, guided practice, and independent practice. Additionally, each class has regular and frequent assessments that measure each scholar’s level of mastery with the content and skills.
GSA will offer a rigorous curriculum aligned with both Minnesota and national standards for educational success. GSA teachers will work collaboratively and use research-based teaching strategies to provide differentiated instruction in a student-centered learning environment. The school will provide STEM projects at each grade level that are based on the National Science Teacher Association Standards, National Council of Teachers of Mathematics Standards, and The International Society for Technology in Education Standards. Technology is to be seamlessly integrated throughout the curriculum and the use of innovative instructional strategies will be evident in every classroom.
The”No Excuse”model for education is based on the philosophy that all children can succeed at high levels when given the opportunity (and expectation) to do so. The No Excuse model has several tenets GSA will incorporate while balancing with the whole child approach. A core element of the No Excuse model is High Expectations. Expectations for academic and behavioral conduct are clearly defined with measurable outcomes and are applied without exception for extenuating circumstances. This rigid application has been criticized by opponents as leading to excessive suspension and expulsion rates formally as well as informally (e.g. students and families self-selecting to withdraw from school). GSA is highly cognizant of this criticism and will provide balance by recognizing the necessity to embrace the unique characteristics and circumstances of each student. GSA does not believe there is a contradiction between holding high expectations for all students, applying these expectations consistently, and acknowledging the social/emotional status of the child at any given moment. GSA believes the current research on trauma and the effects of trauma on the brain are too persuasive to ignore in working with students and families.
The No Excuse model also espouses a rigorous curriculum and high quality instruction. This tenet is found in multiple educational philosophies and is readily embraced at GSA. We believe all students will learn and achieve at high levels when given the opportunity. Our staff will continually monitor the effectiveness of instruction and make adjustments to instructional practice so as to engage our students’ cognitive and creative processes. Taking from the whole child approach, we will infuse structured physical movement and unstructured self-directed free play throughout the school day. In keeping with the STEM emphasis on science and exploration, students will have multiple opportunities to engage with nature.
GSA will foster a culture of Achievement and Support: Achievement for our students and Support to be provided by our teachers and parents. Through a staff-developed “Commitment to Excellence” document, students, teachers and parents will make a commitment to adhere to the process and procedures for student academic and behavioral conduct. This commitment to consistency is evident not only in the No Excuse model but is the foundational premise for PBIS (Positive Behavioral Interventions and Support), a practice of school-wide support promoted by the Minnesota Department of Education.
Partnerships with parents and the community are essential for GSA’s success. We will demand much from our students: longer school days, high behavioral and academic expectations, Science Saturdays, and a willingness to move away from old habits and embrace new ideas. Our students can only meet these expectations if we have active and vigorous parental support. We will actively engage our parents and ask them to make the same commitments we ask of our students. GSA is a bold undertaking for our students and families and will require a new way of thinking.
GSA’s founders believe our program model reflects the vision and mission for the school. Many of our students will have experienced a trifecta of barriers to learning: low socio-economic conditions, English as a second language, and lessened opportunities for informal learning. We know the more opportunities students have to see the written word and to manipulate it prior to Kindergarten, the greater their success in formal education. Without judging our families, the lack of opportunity and exposure to written language requires intensive and purposeful exposure to quality literature and highly effective instructional strategies.
Our program model employing a strong knowledge foundation through STEM and a strong citizenship component through our No- Excuse and whole child approach embodies the mission and vision of GSA. Our mission is addressed by emphasizing an academic approach that taps into many facets of interest for today’s students, regardless of social and economic backgrounds.
Our Vision of “Educating the children of today to become the global innovators and leaders of tomorrow” is definitely embodied in a STEM approach that emphasizes critical and original thinking.
In keeping with the needs of our intended student population, GSA will provide a longer than typical school day (seven hours).
Gateway STEM Academy Core Curriculum includes:
Language Arts/Literacy Curriculum
To achieve success in literacy, GSA will address literacy through a rigorous application of differentiated instruction. Our students will come to us with a wide degree of skills and knowledge; it is our responsibility to adjust our instructional practices to meet our students’ needs. Instructional practice alone cannot meet student needs; a well-rounded research based curriculum is needed as the vehicle to allow instructional differentiation to take place. The goal of literacy instruction is to help children gain skills in all domains of language development, including reading, writing, listening and speaking. GSA will encourage students to become lifelong readers who can comprehend information presented in both academic and everyday life. A robust reading program that includes both small group differentiated instruction and whole-class instruction using an on-grade-level and Common Core-aligned text. Students will spend a minimum of 90-minutes each day on developing reading skills and comprehension.
The goal of math instruction is to provide foundational math knowledge for everyday life and to develop a solid platform for higher-order math learning. GSA teachers will guide students to actively construct their knowledge of mathematical concepts (i.e. math literacy) while becoming proficient at performing math (i.e. operational proficiency).
(1) BRIDGES in Mathematics by the Mathematic Learning Center
Bridges in Mathematics curriculum focuses on developing students’ deep understandings of mathematical concepts, proficiency with key skills, and ability to solve complex and novel problems. Bridges blends direct instruction, structured investigation, and open exploration. It taps into the intelligence and strengths of all students by presenting material that is as linguistically, visually, and kinesthetically rich as it is mathematically powerful.
(2) Khan Academy
In addition to the formal math curricula, GSA teachers will access Khan Academy. Khan Academy offers practice exercises, instructional videos, and a personalized learning dashboard that empower learners to study at their own pace in and outside of the classroom. The web-based resource guides learners from kindergarten to calculus using state-of-the-art, adaptive technology that identifies strengths and learning gaps. Khan Academy has partnered with institutions like NASA, The Museum of Modern Art, The California Academy of Sciences, and MIT to offer specialized content. This resource will allow our teachers to ‘flip’ classrooms to meet the needs of diverse learners. For example, Khan Academy will provide opportunities for gifted learners to be exposed to higher level concepts and ideas while giving struggling learners additional highly enriched practice.
The goal of science instruction is to inspire thinking skills necessary for scientific inquiry and to introduce students to the wonder of science. GSA students will gain positive attitudes towards science education and more confidence in their scientific abilities. FOSS (Full Option Science System) curriculum, developed by the industry-leading Lawrence Hall of Science at the University of California-Berkeley, engages students through activity-based learning. A 1996 study found that third- and fifth-grade students using the FOSS program outperformed students who were not using the FOSS on the science portion of the Stanford Achievement Test. FOSS students also achieved higher scores in reading comprehension, mathematics computation, and mathematics applications.
Social Studies Curriculum
The goal of the social studies curriculum is to engage students in learning about government, economics, culture, and geography from past, present, and future aspects of society. GSA will support all students in being responsible citizens of their community. Social studies and citizenship content will be integrated into the content presented in the other disciplines.
Special Needs & English Language Learners
As a public school, GSA is well aware of its obligation to serve all students, regardless of educational, physical, or behavioral needs. Indeed, GSA believes the No Excuse model coupled with the whole child approach is especially relevant to special education students. Accommodations (access to the learning) and modifications (changes to the rigor) will be made balancing individual student needs with adherence to the belief of high expectations for all. We will meet each individual’s need by setting modified or enriched goals according to the Individualize Education Plan and/or the data gathered on a regular basis from various instructional probes and assessments.
Gateway STEM Academy provides special education services and services for English Language Learners in accordance with state and federal special education laws, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), and the regulations implementing those laws. The GSA team:
- Maintains all special education records in accordance with state and federal laws;
- Provides specialized instruction and related services in accordance with scholars’ Individual Education Programs, 504 plans, and other educational and behavior plans
- Evaluates and makes eligibility and continuing eligibility determinations in accordance with IDEA classifications;
- Schedules all annual IEP reviews;
- Organizes professional development for teaching staff; and
- Supports teachers in making appropriate curriculum and instruction modifications
At Gateway STEM Academy, we recognize that we are molding our students into future leaders. It is important to help our students accomplish personal and academic success as well as develop the habits of thought and deed that help people live and work together as families, friends, neighbors, communities and nations. The character development program enables students and staff to understand, care and act on core ethical values such as respect, honesty, citizenship, and responsibility for self and others. Upon these values, we form the attitudes and actions that are the hallmark of safe, healthy and informed communities that serve the foundation of our society. At GSA, the teaching staff will deliver monthly focus lessons around a core character trait. All staff will support this work by emphasizing the trait for each month in regular, daily interactions with students. Students will be recognized monthly for exemplary modeling of the identified character trait.
Character Pledge: I will make good choices today. I will respect myself, my teachers, and others. I will give my best effort in all I do.
Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS)
PBIS (Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports) is an organized, data-driven system of interventions, strategies, and supports that positively impact school-wide and individualized behavior planning. Respect for law and for those persons in authority shall be expected of all students. This includes conformity to school rules as well as general provisions of law regarding minors. Respect for the rights of others, consideration of their privileges, and cooperative citizenship shall also be expected of all members of the school community. Respect for real and personal property; pride in one’s work; achievement within the range of one’s ability; and exemplary personal standards of courtesy, decency, and honesty should be maintained in the schools of this District. Gateway STEM Academy utilizes PBIS to teach students expected behaviors.
At GSA we use the acronym STAR—Self-control, Teamwork, Accountability, and Respect. The STAR system provides consistency and predictability in the school environment which contribute to academic success.
We believe the purpose of discipline is to help children take responsibility for their own actions. This is necessary in order for students to learn. Our students are to demonstrate respect for others, their safety, and their property at all times. As a school, we do not tolerate fighting, disrespect toward others, bullying, obscene language or destruction of school or student property.
At GSA, we have five basic expectations of students:
- Treat everyone with respect
- Be responsible
- Always try
- Do your best
- Be on time