The purpose of FIPS Academic plan is to articulate the fundamental educational practices specific to our school as we implement individual components of our Academic Plan.
FIPS excels in teaching critical thinking, complex problem solving and high-order reasoning. Critical thinking – the acquired skill of gathering, organizing, testing and using information – is the key to understanding and navigating today’s global community.
Every day in our classrooms, our teachers use a system of proven best teaching practices to help students reach their fullest potential. These techniques include:
Every child learns differently and brings his or her own unique skills, interests and knowledge to the task. Differentiated Instruction focuses on actively engaging students by teaching to each child’s interest and ability level every day and in every lesson. Not to be confused with “tracking” or grouping by ability level, differentiation ensures that each student masters the appropriate skills and concepts before moving on. Differentiated instruction expects teachers to work with students from their Personal Learning Plans (PLPs), and effective differentiation make ongoing adjustments in the areas of content, process and product to meet the needs of each student.
Almost all new learning includes unfamiliar language or suggests alternative definitions for familiar words. For this reason, FIPS teachers make a habit of posting the unfamiliar words associated with the day’s lesson and employ many instructional strategies to facilitate the acquisition of new vocabulary. By writing vocabulary on the board, teachers and students are reminded of the central role that vocabulary plays in effective instruction, learning and communication. Teachers will know that new learning has taken place when students begin using the new words appropriately when framing their own questions and answers.
Writing is a skill which, just like playing a sport or musical instrument, isn’t acquired overnight. We think in language, and language and thought are so intimately connected that it is impossible to imagine one without the other. Writing mastery requires continual practice from an early age, and all FIPS students are expected to write for every class every day. Written work should be an integral part of each day’s lesson, and will continue to play a role in students’ lives both in college and in most careers.
Essential questions do not lend themselves to a singular, factual answer. Instead, they are designed to make students think and encourage them to consider a wide range of approaches and possible answers. Each day, essential questions for every lesson are posted in the classroom and serve to stimulate thought and focus for that day’s lesson. These high-order questions help not only to shape the lesson, but also to focus students’ minds and stimulate their thinking.
FIPS class instruction works toward deeper understanding in academic areas that are measured by high-order assessments. These daily assessments take many forms (quizzes, short writing assignments, group projects, oral reports, etc.) and are the basis for differentiated instruction the next day. They also help ensure that students are progressing against their PLPs. This type of assessment helps demonstrate how deeply students have been able to think about the lesson’s essential questions and whether the teacher has been successful in building their understanding of the subject and targeted thinking skill, or if changes are needed.
The adoption of standards-based learning and grading will be followed to raise its academic standards and measure student growth in critical-thinking and complex-problem-solving skill . FIPS will begin mapping their curricula to the Cambridge framework content standards, and in their maps, teachers will identify the ways in which they intended to assess their students’ work against these standards. Standards-based grading is the natural and inevitable completion of this work – the means by which we share with students and parents the results of these assessments and align teacher Grade Books and student Grade Reports with our teaching standards.
Parents and students will be able to identify the skills the school promises to teach and understand what lies behind the grades the school assigns.
Parents and students know that whatever teacher they get, he or she will be teaching the same skills and assessing in the same way as all other teachers at that grade level.
Parents and teachers know that the assessment is not just based on the student’s efforts, attendance record or extra work, but also on the actual ability of the student to complete specific and well-defined tasks. Together, these advantages give families greater insight into the learning process and enable students to focus on what they need to do to improve.