FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Q: How many students do you have?
Our numbers vary throughout the school year due to our year round open enrollment. As of November 12, 2012 we are carrying 74 students (29 middle schoolers and 45 high schoolers).
Q: What is standards-based education and how is that different than earning credits in the traditional school system?
In the performance-based model utilized at River City Academy, a student must “pass” a course by demonstrating proficiency in each performance standard in that level. Each course is comprised of a board-approved set of performance standards, which outline the student learning targets for that level. Each standard is also accompanied with a more specific rubric which outlines the criteria for an emerging, developing, proficient and advanced score. In general, score of 80-89% is considered “proficient” and 90% and above is considered “advanced.” Students may also demonstrate at the advanced level by teaching other students or delving more deeply into the specific standard. Scores of emerging or developing are in need of improvement. The minimum passing score for any standard and level is proficient.
The defined levels of proficiency for each performance skill are assessed and documented using a variety of skill assessments (traditional recall-think paper and pencil test), analytical assessments (the application of skills and knowledge), and contextual assessments (measures skills applied in the context of a real world situation).
Students are assessed at each level which provides opportunities to show what they already know and are able to do. Some students may need to practice skills that were forgotten or not learned, but will not need to revisit those standards in which they are proficient. Under the current KPBSD system, a student could have earned credit toward graduation by receiving a passing grade of “D” (60%). As a result, a student under this system could potentially miss up to 40% of the curriculum and still be passed to the next level. Conversely, a student that failed a course may be proficient in many of the performance indicators and will only need to revisit those skills not learned before.
Q: What about students exiting the Standards based school to enroll at a traditional (Carnegie Unit based) high school?
Knowing that students move between schools, all proficient levels are converted back to a Carnegie Unit and grade which is entered on the student’s transcript. Students who receive a level score of proficient receive a B. Advanced levels are translated to A grades. Any level which is incomplete or below proficient is listed as “no grade”. Every performance level is also assigned a credit value. These conversions are then used to calculate GPA and class ranking.
Q: What about state testing (SBA and HSGQE).
Students in performance based schools are required to participate in state-mandated testing the same as traditional schools. Student year in school (YIS), as assigned by the district, is used to determine which tests the students must take. Performance levels do not impact the testing requirements. Since the standards are based on the Alaska’s Grade Level Expectations (GLEs), there is continuity between the tests and the school curriculum.
Q: Are students from RCA eligible for university scholarships, including the UAA Scholars and the Alaska Performance Scholarship?
Yes. RCA converts all performance levels to credits and grades, just like other local high schools. Students receive a composite GPA and a competitive class ranking. These may be used to apply for scholarships and are used in awarding the UAA Scholars and determining eligibility for the Alaska Performance Scholarship.
Q: What is a performance high school’s curriculum?
All performance-based schools use common standards for reading, writing, math, science and social environments (social studies). At RCA, students are also required to show proficiency in Personal and Community (PECC), Technology and Careers. These supplant the traditional electives.
Q: What is Personal and Community (PECC)?
PECC is a series of levels which address standards in personal and social skills, health, personal expression (art) and service. Students may demonstrate proficiency in these standards through activities inside the school or in the community.
Q: What resources will be used to teach each course?
Whereas the standards that are used by each student and school remain consistent, the approach in meeting each standard is variable. Many different resources are used for learning, including textbooks, online publications, library research, interviews and hands on discovery. Note that a particular standard doesn’t mandate a particular curriculum to get the students to this destination — that is determined by the art and science of good instructional methodology; and a rich variety of resources. Standards do not prescribe any particular curriculum: The teachers and students can choose whatever curriculum he or she finds appropriate to help the student meet the standard(s). Standards are the WHAT of education while curriculum and instruction are the HOW.
Q: Do students take all eight subject areas each day?
At RCA, students spend the majority of their school day in academic classes. These include reading, writing, math, science and social environments. Each day also includes an Advisory period. During this time, students may work on any of their eight content areas, work with a teacher to create an ILP (Individual Learning Project) or receive direct instruction for their PECC, Careers or Technology courses.
Q: What are Interims?
At RCA, we take the month of January to engage in short intense courses and have a little fun. Students and staff work to determine which classes are to be offered. This time provides an opportunity for students to meet some of their non-core standards and also to catch up or work ahead in classes. Upper level students may also work with staff members to assist in instructing some classes. Previous courses offered during Interims at RCA include stained glass, batik, soccer, yoga, chess, robotics, the Blues, basketball, drawing, and many others.
Q: What courses can be taken at each grade level?
At a performance-based school, grade level does not limit which course a student may participate in. Once a student has completed one level, they move to the next level, regardless of their traditional grade.
Q: What grades does RCA serve?
Grades 7-12. RCA opened in 2007 as a high school only. After pressure from our stakeholder groups, the decision was made to add middle school grades. The middle school addition has been a very positive addition to the school.
Q: Are middle and high school students kept separate?
During classes most students find that middle schoolers and high schoolers fall in different classes based on their performance levels. So, they are typically segregated for academic classes. However, for advisory classes, interims, breaks, lunch and passing times, the middle and high school students are together.
Q: How are students taught the required curriculum within their time in the Performance based model?
Students learn in different ways. At a performance-based school, the focus is on student learning. Teachers will follow Best Teaching Practices providing the most effective instructional strategies for students. Students are engaged in direct instruction, practical application, interactive simulation, and real life connections – the Balanced Instructional Model.
Q: How are students graded on their classwork and homework?
Teachers use many different types of assessments including contextual assessments measuring skills applied in real world situations; analytical assessments, which measures the application of learned skills; and skill assessments, which demonstrates knowledge through recall. Students work in their classes to understand the provided content area rubrics and also to create project or product rubrics which set the acceptable parameters for group projects. Students who are developing or emerging on a standard may revise and rework a project until it meets the proficient criteria. Teacher and peer feedback are often used to help the student identify areas to improve.
Q: What letter grades appear on cumulative records and transcripts? How will GPAs and class ranking be computed?
All levels are converted into Carnegie Units and reported on the student transcripts the same as traditional classes. Students who do not complete a level with a score of proficient or higher receive a “no grade” (NG). Credits are awarded for each level and are reported with the student grade. Students who receive a grade of advanced have their level reported as an A grade, whereas students receiving a proficient score receive a B. These conversions are also used to compute GPAs and class ranking, which can be reported for scholarships, college admission, etc…
Q: How will the school help students with special need or having difficulty passing a level?
Each student will be assessed to determine if they need additional time for learning. Re-teaching and practice may take place in after school tutorials, or during part of the project/workstation time. Students may work with “specialists” in a content area to help them with specific skills.
Q: What if my child is in sports and wants to continue?
RCA students are allowed to participate in sports and extra-curricular activities through their declared school, as per KPSAA and AASA regulations.
Q: What if the student is already enlisted, or has been, in a credits based high school?
All new students at RCA have the chance to placement test into their performance level in reading, writing and math. Credit transfers are accepted for science and social studies only, as there is not placement testing for these areas. All students begin in their first levels of PECC, Careers and Technology.
Q: Will attending a standards based school effect receiving scholarships?
No. On a transcript, standards are converted to credits. A transcript from RCA will appear no different from a traditional high school. However, students from RCA complete a portfolio, which could be utilized for potential scholarship interviews or college applications.
Q: What food services are available?
As in any other school we have the district school lunches provided through the cafeteria at Skyview. Also, open campus lunches are offered to any high school student who has proficiently completed the first high school level of Personal Expression and Community Connections (PECC) and obtained parent/guardian permission. The passing of the level demonstrates that the student is capable of handling themselves in the community in a respectable manor.
Q: Will the diploma from River City be any different than at a credit based school?
A diploma from RCA is a KPBSD district awarded diploma, the same as other local high schools.
Q: How will I (the parent) be connected to the school?
Parents have their own Educate accounts where they check their student’s progress in Educate. Just like students, this access is open all the time. Since it’s a real time database, as soon as a score is entered, it shows in Educate. Parents are also kept in contact via emails, inquiries, phone calls, and regularly scheduled student led conferences. In these student-led conferences there are goals set for the student to follow up on for the next SLC (Student Led Conference) and a percentage is usually set that should be completed. The school hosts SLCs to make sure that the parent and the student are monitoring the progress more so than the teacher will with the parent. This student led approach often times will lead to a better timeframe for graduation.