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An Innovative Combination of Proven Practices
Mission Driven Schools Anchored in Research on Best Practices
Propel's schools are dynamic places where teachers, families, students and community partners work together. The academic achievement of our children is the central focus. We encourage excellence through an intense focus on reading, writing, mathematics, science and social studies. Propel's curriculum follows the Pennsylvania State Standards.
Propel's schools are research-based. Our senior instructional staff has completed five years of training with the University of Pittsburgh's Learning Research and Development Center at the Institute of Learning. Frequent and sometimes daily workshops on the Principles of Learning are a part of life at our schools. Teachers receive ongoing training in Clear Expectations and Accountable Talk. We pay close attention to the research on how children learn and the key elements of highly successful schools. Our Executive Director and Superintendent visit outstanding public schools locally, regionally and nationally.
Propel Schools offer small class sizes that focus on providing each student with the support and individualized attention they need. We also provide more time for instruction. We have a longer school day and a longer school year, which result in 25% more instructional time than the state requires. We offer full-day kindergarten. Our teachers work 220 days each year, an increase which allows for extensive professional development. This is in addition to the in-classroom coaching and workshops that occur before and after school.
Continuous Assessment to Meet Individual Needs
The heart of high performance and continuous improvement is the regular and persistent review of data and results. Propel's frequent assessments identify where intervention, support, and enrichment must guide instruction. We assess through: Kindergarten Readiness; the DIBELS Reading Assessment - at least 3 times a year; the DRA - annually for everyone and more frequently for students who are not at grade level; Corrective Reading - ongoing assessment for students who are not at grade level; PSSA - Grades 3 - 8; the Stanford Achievement Test - 10th Edition; and an ongoing math checklist based upon the PA Academic Content standards in Mathematics. Most importantly, we make decisions throughout the school year based on this assessment data. We also use flexible grouping in both literacy and math to ensure that children are receiving instruction that is at the appropriate level. A team comprised of administrators, coaches, teachers and parents make these decisions.
Unique 2.5 Hour Literacy Block
Our schools use a developmental, phonics based reading program to build decoding, fluency and comprehension skills. Our students use the highly recommended Open Court Series, which is compatible with our Balanced Literacy Program. We use the Waterford Reading Program, a nationally recognized and award-winning program for primary students. Students in grades K-4 have two and half hours of literacy each day. This time is comprised of Phonics and Word Studies and immersion into authentic literature. Our Literacy Coach has created Leveled Libraries (a new and well-researched movement in Reading Instruction) so that we can meet the individual needs of our children. Our Literacy time is broken into: Read Alouds, Shared reading, Guided reading, Independent Reading, Literature Circles, and Guided and Independent Writing.
Strong Math Program
Propel uses mathematics programs that develop the student's ability to use, represent, and explain mathematical concepts - one that emphasizes computational fluency, conceptual understanding and problem solving. Investigations in Data, Number and Space (the TERC program) was selected based upon recommendations from the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics and the National Science Foundation. Our children also use Every Day Counts to analyze data, see patterns, explore math relationships and communicate using math terms. Our middle school students use the Connected Mathematics Project, a program developed by the University of Michigan with funding from the National Science Foundation. CMP helps students and teachers develop understanding of important mathematical concepts, skills, procedures, and ways of thinking and reasoning, in number, geometry, measurement, algebra, probability and statistics.
Core Studies for In-Depth Learning
Propel students engage in a series of core studies of six weeks in duration. These are intensive, in-depth investigations drawn from the disciplines of social studies and science. Each core study also includes field trips, trade books, investigation and research. With primary children these studies often relate to their immediate community. The intermediate studies would include topics where tangible experience is more difficult to provide such as a study of the Arctic World.
The science component of these studies incorporates the inquiry-based ASSET, which is used throughout Allegheny and surrounding counties. Examples of topics are the Kindergarten study of Weather, the first and second grade study of Changes, and the third and fourth grade study of Rocks and Minerals. Students complete experiments, study concepts and read literature relevant to each topic.
The Core Studies have a unique program at the end of each six-week study; a culminating event that is tied to our Celebration of Learning (see below) takes place. Culminating events give students an opportunity to showcase their work and learning in social studies and science at a well-attended parent/community event.
Celebrations of Learning and Our CreativeArts Program
Six times a year, a Celebration of Learning showcases student work and accomplishment in both the CreativeArts program and the science or social studies unit just completed. The CreativeArts program supplements and supports the ongoing use of creative expression in the classroom and replaces traditional assemblies. Residencies of local professional artists support the work of Propel's full-time CreativeArts Director. All Propel schools participate in modules with arts organizations including: Pittsburgh Musical Theater, Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera, Pennsylvania Shotokan Karate Club, and Kelly Strayhorn Theater. In addition, modules have included special activities like mural painting, karate, yoga and more. A module is a six-week, every day, hour long study under the instruction and guidance of the artists in residence.
Strong Teacher Selection, An Uncommon Professional Development Program
We are able to accomplish these activities seldom found in traditional public educational through outstanding faculty and staff. Our teachers are all 100% state certified and highly qualified; most of them having either a graduate degree or currently engaged in graduate studies. The interview process is rigorous, and candidates must present a lesson to students as part of the interview. Teachers are observed frequently by both administrators and supported by the school's Literacy and Math Coaches. The principal must also undergo a rigorous interview process, and once selected, participate in the Principals Academy through the University of Pittsburgh. Propel's Chief Academic Officer has had experience in Curriculum and Instruction in three local districts, and has been a high school, middle school and elementary school principal. She left a superintendent's position to come to Propel, and continues to participate in the Western Pennsylvania Forum for Superintendents. She brings an extensive knowledge base to the academic program in Propel's schools.
Intensive Use of Technology
Propel makes certain that we educate every child in the use of current and emerging technologies as tools necessary for living, learning, and working in the 21st century. Technology is integrated into classrooms and schools for instruction, data collection, dissemination, and analysis. At Propel, every child has the opportunity to use all the technology tools while also being taught how to identify what is inaccurate or inappropriate and to always use technology and the internet in ethical ways.
We value the use of technology in assessing students, maintaining an extensive student data base, and using innovative technologies as tools for enhancing classroom instruction and student learning. We are working closely with Three Rivers Connect on the development of a federated search engine, and support a variety of research projects out of Carnegie Mellon University focused on emerging technologies. We have a full-time Director of Instructional Technology who is responsible for guiding and enabling our schools to embrace various technology practices, and a K - 12 Technology Coach who is responsible for embedding technology into the curriculum. We also designate one teacher as a Technology Liaison in each building, which allows the Director of Instructional Technology to easily communicate and be aware of what technology is being used and where more support is needed. Propel has numerous teachers who are Keystone Technology Integrators, bringing content, motivational, and management expertise to the classroom to capture students' imaginations and harness learning in children. Propel has also had staff members present at regional, state, and national technology conferences including TRETC, PETE & C, and ISTE.
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Phone: 412-325-7305 | Fax: 412-325-7309