Middle and High School Courses with General Course Descriptions
The reading and writing courses at MAS utilize the Reader’s and Writer’s workshop model, which is a research-based literacy model. The model includes a balance of daily reading and writing instruction where there is a focus on reading a variety of materials from different genres and explicit instruction is provided in writing, namely teaching students how to write. The model is implemented on a daily basis by providing TWO 90 minute blocked periods, which total 180 minutes of daily instruction in reading and writing. This is approximately three times more instruction for reading and writing compared to what is provided in traditional middle and high schools.
Within each blocked period we embed an independent reading time where students read self-selected books from a variety of different genres within their independent reading range to ensure they are getting the most out of the reading experience. Between the two reading/writing blocks, independent reading time equates to 40 minutes of per day, ﬁve days a week…this is 200 minutes of independent reading per week! Following the independent reading, students receive rigorous standards-based instruction in reading and writing geared toward college preparation.
Our mathematics curriculum was developed utilizing the Five Steps to a Balanced Math Program. The five steps included in the program design are modeled after the recommendations of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) and implementation of the program supports MAS teachers in building mathematically powerful students. The ﬁve steps program emphasizes supporting students to not only solve mathematical problems, but to effectively communicate their understanding to others. The curriculum is designed so that teachers provide “balanced” instruction to support students in learning more than “procedural” or computational mathematics. The curriculum is deliberately created to support students in gaining a deep understanding of math so that they can apply their math skills and reasoning abilities to solve real-life problems requiring mathematical solutions.
In middle school, students receive math instruction, ﬁve days a week, for 90 minutes each day from one math teacher, where they receive direct instruction in the Common Core State Standards for their respective grade level. In addition, they receive a second math class from another math teacher every day, for 90 minutes, where they receive direct instruction in MATH 180 which is designed as a math intervention program, but is also used effectively to provide math acceleration. With this instructional model, students receive 900 instructional minutes of math per week, compared to a traditional middle school’s model of providing 300 minutes of math instruction per week, based on a model of providing sixty minutes of instruction, ﬁve days per week. On average, middle school students at MAS receive three times the amount of mathematics instruction compared to traditional public schools.
High school students at MAS receive one core math class for 90 minutes per day, five days per week. High school students receive additional math support through classroom based math intervention if it is determined through multiple data points that they are not proficient in mathematics.
MAS’ science curriculum was developed utilizing an inquiry-based, experiential approach to learning, and includes components of the Full Option Science System (FOSS) to supplement the teacher developed curriculum. The curriculum incorporates an investigative approach or inquiry-based learning, which allows students to constantly pose questions and seek answers. Through this investigative, inquiry-based process, students apply scientific skills and process to everyday experiences. The teacher is the facilitator of student learning and guides students to make detailed observations, formulate predictions-based on their observation, develop habits of the mind including curiosity and critical thinking, test for verification, keep data, make generalizations, evaluate findings, and ask questions to provide solutions. Students build meaning out of their investigations by applying the scientific method. The science curriculum includes consistent opportunities to experience laboratory work and extensive and purposeful inclusion of project-based learning opportunities using real life scenarios to support student mastery of the standards for the course. The curriculum also includes multiple opportunities to read from textbooks and primary sources, as well as ample opportunities to write. These increased reading and writing opportunities support student development of core academic skills.
Middle school and high school sciences provide a laboratory component to deepen student understanding. At the middle school level, science is integrated into mathematics for grade eight and is a stand-alone course in grades six and seven. At the high school level, the curriculum design includes, at a minimum, the required laboratory component that makes up at least 40 percent of course instructional time.
In our middle school program, Social Studies is not offered as a stand alone class. Instead, the Social Studies standards are incorporated into the literacy classrooms. In sixth grade, the Social Studies curriculum includes extensive coverage of ancient civilizations; in seventh grade, extensive coverage of New Mexico history, and in eighth grade, extensive coverage of United States history.
At the high school level, Social Studies classes are offered as stand alone courses.
The physical education and health curriculum are designed to provide students with the necessary skills needed to learn about, and improve their fitness and health, while having fun through activities that allow the utilization of fine and gross motor skills. The physical education curriculum allows the opportunity to teach active participation in group games, develop the habits to maintain physical well-being, focus on conflict resolution and team building skills, and provide opportunities to challenge students both mentally and physically. The health education curriculum allows students to learn more about their bodies, including healthy choices that will improve the quality of their lives. Performance-based/project-based learning activities are utilized for both physical education and health education. In addition, the curriculum is rich in opportunities to read and write in order to support student attainment of the learning standards for the content area, and to improve their abilities in reading and writing.
The foreign language curriculum is designed around the offering of Spanish as MAS’ foreign language course. However, MAS intends to make every effort possible to offer at least one additional foreign language outside of Spanish, particularly to meet the needs of students who are already bilingual with Spanish, as their first or second language, and who wish to learn an additional language. The foreign language curriculum is sequentially designed with interdisciplinary topics to enable students to see connections within and across various subjects. In addition, the foreign language curriculum has a communicative approach where the students will use the target language in class a great deal through communicative activities such as games, role-playing, and problem-solving tasks. The curriculum also includes opportunities to demonstrate their knowledge through performance-based/project-based learning activities.