We are proud to exemplify the instructional innovations that will prepare our students for the 21st century. O.A. Thorp Scholastic Academy was selected by the P21 Foundation as an “Exemplar School”.
Our Commitment to College and Career Readiness
At Thorp our teachers collaborate over the summer and throughout the school year in order to develop instructional units aligned to the Common Core State Standards. The integration of real world problem solving can be seen in projects across the grade levels. There is horizontal and vertical planning that occurs in collaborative conversations and grade level meetings in order to ensure that there are no gaps in student learning, and also that students are engaged in an enriched and rigorous curriculum. Curriculum maps are available for all faculty through the school’s Google Drive, so that staff members can see the overarching concepts and projects that are occurring across different curricular areas. Teachers meet every Tuesday to receive professional development and share project-based instructional strategies that are occurring in their classrooms. Thorp has created an Active Learning Checklist that highlights the 4 C’s and indicates what is needed to be incorporated into planning to ensure that 21st century skills are being taught throughout the school. Teachers must highlight these components in their lesson plans. For support in these matters, Thorp has partnerships with DePaul University and the University of Chicago. We have many instructors collaborate with classroom teachers, as well as student volunteers from these universities come in and help the students. These partnerships help with planning because we are able to meet the the needs of each student, as they receive a more personalized education that stems from the most recent research findings. The sixth grade team has a partnership with the International Museum of Surgical Sciences, where the museum’s staff explains the most current advances in the medical field and promotes careers in medicine. The sixth grade also participates in the Mission to Mars program at the Museum of Science in Industry. Students learn what is needed to create a sustainable living environment on Mars by participating in experiments and collaborating with scientists from across the country and other students from across the state. This opportunity allows students to connect the material that they are learning in the classroom with real life situations and career paths. Students will then be more engaged and create deeper understandings of the core learning objectives. Not only do teachers utilize the school’s Google Drive to collaborate, but students do as well. Students are encouraged to collaborate on school projects through the drive and communicate with the faculty. These skills are taught in the primary grade levels and become an expected task in the upper grades. The outcome of this endeavor is that students are better prepared to enter any school or career and be able to communicate fluently with various forms of technology.
The Use of Data in Resource Allocation and Decision Making
Thorp uses data driven decision analysis as a building block for all of our planning and collaboration. All teachers attend professional development on analyzing the Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA) data, which is a primary data source for our school. Teachers learn how to create lessons that engage and challenge students, as well as how to incorporate technology to address student needs. Through ACCESS, each teacher receives a personalized score sheet, which shows how far each student is progressing toward their end of year goal with language proficiency. Teachers receive updated data sheets at the end of each semester and utilize common planning times to collaborate with their grade level team to think through and optimize their project-based learning activities. Upper grade students engage in goal setting, where they sit down with a teacher and review their scores. Students take part in planning out how they will meet their learning targets and are made aware of steps they can take to achieve their goal. Teachers also use data to group by readiness. Test scores can help in flexible grouping strategies and also provide staff members with another data source to ensure students are working on appropriate content. Thorp has both a Writing committee and a Math committee that meet monthly to address academic needs and analyze data sets. Members from these teams then use the knowledge that they gained to collaborate their grade bands. The instructional systems and supports that Thorp has in place are Common Core aligned curriculum maps and units that are located on the school’s Google Drive. Thorp was also an Early Adopter school for the Common Core State Standards, so teachers have been educated for multiple years on how to create enriched, cross-curricular units. They have received professional development on how to create engaging plans that encourage students to think critically and creatively. For support in creating a 21st century learning environment, each teacher has a technology station set up in their room. This station can consist of iPads, Chromebooks, or laptops. This station is used for both remediation and also for providing students with extension work. It allows for various forms of instructional practices to be used, as many teachers have engaged in a flipped classroom to address student needs and to promote independence. All Thorp staff has received professional development and have utilized flexible grouping strategies by readiness, learner profile, and interest in their units. These different groupings allow for greater student success and provide more support for students who do not learn in the traditional format. Thorp also has Saturday School and Summer School programs. These activities are optional and allow students to receive more individualized attention. There are after school programs that ensure students are applying 21st century skills to challenging tasks, such as Science Olympiad, Math Champs, Computer Coding Club, and an Entrepreneurship Club. In terms of planning, teachers ensure that there are multiple forms of assessment, with a focus on choice of presentation for the student. In mathematics, students are given MARS tasks and Problems of the Day, where tasks remain open-ended and allow for discussion. In Language Arts and Civics, teachers promote a novel-based instructional approach so that students are taught skills in a real-world context. Science instruction is inquiry-based and utilizes investigations. The upper grades use Project-Based Inquiry Science, while the primary grades use National Geographic Science units to engage the students. Teachers receive extensive professional development to ensure proper planning. Through weekly meetings, teachers collaborate across grade bands. Thorp also has monthly technology meetings where teachers can learn about new tools or receive help with the current technology they are incorporating. Thorp encourages teachers to be the leaders of all technology professional development so that all staff is engaged and take ownership in the success of the students. All mathematics teachers received professional development on Eureka Math and Singapore Math to ensure students are are learning concepts with greater depth and understanding. The outcome of all of this professional development is that teachers are continually requesting more technology in their rooms, as well as more support, in order to address student needs.
Engaging Learning Opportunities
Teachers incorporate project-based learning and inquiry-based activities into their unit plans. Afterschool programs offer additional opportunities for students to engage in experimentation and exploratory work. Fifth grade students create a living wax museum project each year as a culminating event for their year long research project into important historical figures. Students in the middle school design their science fair projects around closely researched topics that pertain to their interests and best practices in the field of scientific research. Middle school students also participate in the History Fair each year and are grouped by their interest in this field as well. Technology is the backbone of all learning at Thorp. A laptop, Chromebook, or iPad station is present in all classrooms. Smart boards are available in all classrooms. Students have access and are fluent in using the following programs: Reading A to Z, Compass Learning, Math IXL, ST Math, Mathletics, Khan Academy, Gobstopper, Achieve 3000, ThinkCerca, and National Geographic. Students are also taught how to use all applications on Google Drive in order to collaborate with one another and use alternate forms of media to illustrate their understanding of learned concepts. The outcome of all this technology usage is that students are more engaged, have more individualized learning experiences, and are better prepared to enter the workforce in the 21st century. Thorp thrives to make sure its curriculum is integrated; reading strategies are taught in all subject areas. Writing is also a primary focus across disciplines. Students are taught to pull out big ideas and locate the deeper understanding of all content areas. This act is done through creating stimulating essential questions based on concepts that can cross various subject areas. Document Based Questions are posed in all fields, as primary source documents are an essential tool for students to make connections to unit objectives.
Exemplifying 21st Century Learning
Thorp students have demonstrated the acquisition of 21st Century Knowledge and Skills through multiple measures that indicate student learning and growth over time. Math growth, as measured by the Northwest Evaluation Association Measures of Academic Progress (NWEA MAP) indicated that Thorp students did better than 97% of schools nationally. This is also supported by sub-group growth as well. Hispanic students outperformed 93% of schools nationally, and African American students outperformed 83% of schools nationally. Reading growth showed a similar performance. Reading growth indicated that Thorp students did better than 97% of schools nationally. Hispanic students outperformed 97% of schools nationally, and African American students outperformed 87% of schools nationally. Overall performance, as measured by the Illinois Standards Achievement Test (ISAT) have surpassed the state average by 15 percentage points (74% versus 59%, respectively). The Data Quality Index Score yielded a 97.4% success rate. This type of performance, along with other quantitative and qualitative measures, earned Thorp a Level 1+ rating, the highest rating possible with the Chicago Public Schools. Citizenship skills are taught throughout the school. Thorp has a Student Government Service Club, where citizenship skills and democratic ideals are implemented throughout the school year. Our middle school students participate in a Debate Club that occurs throughout the year and participates in numerous competitions. Thorp has a team building experience every year at Camp Duncan, and our 8th grade students volunteer to tutor struggling students at the younger grade levels. Eighth grade students also volunteer to help the primary age children get on their respective buses every day. Moreover, they provide all of the school tours for prospective parents. Students in sixth through eighth grades partner to support students who have autism. In addition, our fifth grade students partner with the kindergarten students for the Reading Buddies program. Moreover, Thorp students coordinate a food drive every year, in addition to supporting a Mitten Tree where students collect mittens, scarfs, gloves, coats, etc. and then donate these collected clothing articles to needy families in the school and community. Student expertise in the core subjects is measured by a number of assessments. Students are assessed two times per year with the REACH Performance Tasks for the core subject areas. Eighth grade students take the High School Algebra Exit Exam each year. Last year, thirty out of thirty two students passed the High School Algebra Exit Exam and received placement status at their local high schools for Algebra. Students also take the Mathematics Assessment Resource Service (MARS) assessment that is aligned with the Common Core State Standards. Students engage in rigorous classroom activities, such as Math Talks, Problem of the Day, teacher created assessments, and in-depth projects. Our Math Champs Club has also won numerous citywide competitions. Expertise in P21 skills are evident in a number of areas. In science, three group projects won at the Regional level and are now progressing to the Chicago Public Schools City Science Fair Championships. We have an Entrepreneurship Club where students meet with executives from Google and start their own businesses.