Before the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) were adopted in California, http://www.cde.ca.gov/re/cc/, Fremont Christian School was already implementing instructional changes across the curriculum and in grades K-12 to reflect the paradigm shift in education from a system of lecture, isolated study, memorization, and regurgitation to one of high academic expectations, analysis, teamwork, communication, and creativity. As a private school, Fremont Christian School has the latitude to innovate and figure out what works best for our students.
Using the CCSS as a baseline does not mean FCS is forced to use one textbook we haven’t chosen nor take tests that are unproven or unreliable. We can place students in kindergarten if they are ready even if their birthday is beyond the cut-off date and we can place students in Algebra when they are ready even if a public system says that isn’t possible. We care about educational research not politics.
We have been making changes in our curriculum since 2010 to increase student engagement while increasing content knowledge and the development of skills which students will carry with them not only into each succeeding grade level and college, but also into personal and professional life. This is what we mean when we use the term 21st Century Skills. We also know that curriculum is not a textbook although well-researched, thoughtfully designed textbooks are a great resource for teachers. Teachers develop curriculum by using textbooks, original documents, magazines, media, non-fiction, fiction, all available resources, strategies, and design skills to create an engaging, challenging environment for every student. What a teacher prepares, presents and assesses is curriculum. There is freedom for a professional teacher within a professional learning community to investigate research-based methods and materials, innovate, and best serve their students.
In fact, our expectation at FCS of ourselves is that every teacher and administrator is him/herself a critical thinker, communicator, collaborator and creator in the school environment. We are committed to having a standard because that provides for accountability but we are equally committed to always nudging students to the next level, going beyond state or national expectations in grade level content standards.
Our students are learning, practicing, and applying the skills of critical thinking, collaboration, communication, and creativity in reading, science, math, history, writing, arts, biblical study, and more while also wrestling with worldview which is foundational to becoming a self-reflective member of society.
Instructional practice is the most important part of any curriculum. At FCS we are committed to best instructional practices that lead to both content knowledge and development of 21st century skills. All of our teachers (with the exception of performance teachers: music, PE, art) have received GLAD training at some time over the past five years. Guided Language Acquisition Design is a highly effective instructional model that focuses on high expectations and high achievement for all students. All elementary teachers provide regular classroom newsletters which include both pictures and text to introduce parents to GLAD strategies at work in the classroom. The Fremont Christian School faculty also uses Understanding by Design (http://www.authenticeducation.org/ubd/ubd.lasso) to complement GLAD as we both teach and assess students.
Key components of GLAD are metacognition, high level vocabulary development, and reading and writing like a college student. It emphasizes student problem-solving and 21st century skills: Critical thinking, Collaboration, Communication, and Creativity. GLAD and teaching strategies that give the students the skills to learn any content were around long before CCSS but this current emphasis has brought the need for better strategies to national attention. A student’s vocabulary is the greatest predictor of school achievement overall. Because of this, our teachers also received in-depth instructional coaching from Julie Adams in 2011 and 2012, http://www.effectiveteachingpd.com/, with a focus on vocabulary development and acquisition. All teachers, regardless of their content, are expected to be literacy teachers by providing instruction in the language, vocabulary, and text structures of their discipline.
updated: Feb. 23 2015