Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Common Core Based Curriculum at Sorenson's Ranch School

A new teacher, new books, and a new Common Core-based curriculum have been welcomed to the Language Arts department at Sorenson’s Ranch School. While school is year round at Sorenson’s Ranch and a new school year comes more often than once a year (because students work through classes at their own pace), the current changes at Sorenson’s have been notable for students and staff. Christy Parrish, recently of Monument Valley High School on the Navajo Reservation, has relocated to Koosharem, Utah to fill the post of Language Arts Teacher here at Sorenson’s Ranch. She trained to become a teacher at BYU in Provo, Utah. During her training, she took specialty classes in ESL which prepared her to scaffold her lessons based on students’ understanding and unique needs. She also studied languages extensively and is thrilled to be able to share her love of language and love of reading with all students she comes into contact with. Additionally, Christy has completed the coursework for a Reading Specialist. Understanding how students develop in their reading as they progress through school has helped her to carefully select and recommend engaging and interesting reading assignments for her students. She is becoming an integral part of both Sorenson’s Ranch School and the Koosharem community. Christy is currently writing new Common Core-based curriculum for the Language Arts classes. While it is no easy feat to concurrently teach and prepare courses for 6th through 12th grade, she is thrilled to have 2012 WriteSource books as a guide to her preparation of writing projects, reading assignments and formative assessments that align with the Utah Common Core. Christy is using the Utah Core to guide all aspects of the Language Arts courses and will continue to create lessons and activities that will meet the unique needs of Sorenson’s Ranch students. As students study the writing process and learn to revise and edit their own work, their own problem-solving and cognitive processes will be strengthened. As students use the Six Traits of writing (ideas, organization, voice, word choice, sentence fluency and conventions) to tailor their writing for specific audiences, they will be prepared to write for many real-life occasions. Sorenson’s Ranch School graduates may choose to apply for college, prepare for a technical school or present themselves as the best possible candidate for employment. In all of these potential futures they have to choose from, the burgeoning curriculum at this school gives students the skills and information needed for them to succeed in their future learning or employment opportunities.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

New Accreditation under AdvancED

Sorenson’s Ranch School will be going through the accreditation process during the next year. Our accreditation team visit is scheduled for April of 2014. During the last year, the Utah State Office of Education (USOE) has decided to have all schools accredited by AdvancED, an organization which, with the addition of the states in the old Northwest Association, currently accredits schools in forty of the fifty states. Under the old system, a school could earn a maximum term of six years if the visiting team felt that the school was doing a very good job, a 3 year term if the team felt somewhat less confident about the schools performance, or a one year term if the team had significant reservations about the academic environment. The new system allows for only two outcomes: either accreditation is renewed for a five year term, or accreditation is denied. The criteria for accreditation have changed somewhat under AdvancED, and as a result, we will be changing the ways that we do some things in our school. One third of our faculty attended a workshop sponsored by the USOE last fall which was designed to acquaint school personnel with the new standards and indicators. In addition, our principal was able to participate in three accreditation team visits during the month of April. He reported that this experience was very helpful, not only because he had the chance to go over the standards and indicators in depth with the other members of the visiting team, but also because he was able to see how other schools with a mission similar to ours are implementing reforms and gathering data to comply with the new standards. As part of this process, a new stakeholder survey will be conducted within the next few months which will give respondents an opportunity to give us feedback on our performance and make suggestions about how we can better serve our students and their families. Along with implementing suggestions from our stakeholder surveys, we will be setting up some new assessments to help us better measure where our students are academically when they come to us and how much learning has taken place while they attended our school. The visiting team consists of a representative from the USOE (representing AdvancED) and other education professionals from similar schools. Together, these members conduct classroom observations, faculty and support personnel interviews, stakeholder interviews, and a documentation review in an effort to accurately assess whether or not the school is adequately performing its stated mission and complying with the stated objectives of AdvancED and the USOE. This process allows the school to be commended for “powerful practices” and to be given “required actions” in those areas that the team feels need improvement. We welcome the chance to work our way through the process of self-evaluation and the formal team visit in the coming months.