Innovative Practices In Charter Schools

Innovation Spotlight

The PCPCS Innovation Spotlight provides charter schools the opportunity to tell other charter schools about a program, project or initiative successfully implemented that involved change, innovation, or the enhancement of academic or administrative excellence and effectiveness.

Community Academy of Philadelphia (CAP) recently celebrated its 40th Anniversary of service to the community. This institution was at the forefront of the charter school movement and has thrived due to innovative practices related to its mission to effectively serve urban youth in search of a positive school experience in a supportive environment.  Three innovative programs form part of the much-needed support system central to their work:  the Daycare, the Health Clinic/Nurse’s Office, and the Emotional Support Team.

Click here to read Innovation Spotlight: Community of Academy Philadelphia

Maritime Academy Charter School prides itself on its rigorous academic program with a maritime studies theme. The students are the cadets and they are treated as such. Cadets learn through hands-on projects, interdisciplinary classroom lessons, and computer supported curricula in an atmosphere where every member of the school, its community and parents are focused on supporting learning. Students work with the latest technology to learn maritime content such as nautical science and maritime business while achieving to high standards in English, mathematics, science, social studies and the arts. These topics serve as the core of student learning with additional classes in maritime areas.

Click here to read Innovation Spotlight: Maritime Academy Charter School.

The Charter School of Excellence (CSE) was opened in 2003 in Erie, Pennsylvania, to meet the needs of students who had not found success in their previous schools. Since that time, CSE has been committed to a focus that includes academics, soft skill work development, and social emotional learning. The Workforce Development Program at CSE is designed to usher students through a series of instructional and practical activities centered on developing work acquisition and retention skills. By participating in the program, students can develop immediately transferable skills that will prepare them for workforce, while simultaneously gaining credit towards achieving a high school diploma and earning an income.

Click here to read Innovation Spotlight: Charter School of Excellence.

Gillingham Charter School opened its doors in Pottsville, PA in 2011 and serves 250 K-12 students from all over Schuylkill County. Gillingham is the only school in the United States that offers a Charlotte Mason education in a public school setting. It combines Mason’s philosophy with the best current research and resources to create an environment where children retain their natural love of learning and build lifelong relationships with big ideas, great books, the local community, and the larger world around them.

Click here to read Innovation Spotlight: Gillingham Charter School

One of the unique programs that Spectrum has introduced to better connect with their students is pet therapy. The therapy dogs come from the Thera-Paws program of the Westmoreland County Obedience Training Club. The club has 54 highly trained therapy dogs, who throughout the school year visit schools across Westmoreland and Allegheny counties. The program offers a wide variety of therapy dogs-small dogs, large dogs, boisterous dogs and calmer dogs, and each dog interacts differently with students and teachers.

Click here to read Innovation Spotlight: Spectrum Charter School

On April 5, 2019, Agora Cyber Charter School announced that it had officially been designated as a Trauma-Informed School by the Attachment & Trauma Network, Inc., the first such designation for a cyber school in the country. Trauma Informed Care is defined as practices that promote a culture of safety, empowerment, and healing. In a trauma-informed school, the
adults in the school community are prepared to recognize and respond to students who have been impacted by traumatic stress.

Click here to read Innovation Spotlight: Agora Cyber Charter School

When CCA purchased the building that now houses its Capital Campus in Harrisburg, it was faced with the question of what to do with a large atrium filled with sunlight. Since the Harrisburg location is central to the agricultural community, CCA had an idea to create a space to house a living, learning laboratory to teach and train students for careers in various fields, including agriculture; environmental science; electrical; plumbing; heating, ventilation and air conditioning; supply chain management; business management; engineering; STEM; computer programming; robotics; and information technology. From here, AgWorks at CCA was born.

Click here to read Innovation Spotlight: Commonwealth Charter Academy

Nittany Valley Charter School has been committed to helping the environment since inception. Environmental Education is a vital component of their mission and goals and is directly tied to the Pennsylvania Standards in Environmental and Ecology Education. NVCS’s Environmental Education Program is based on their mission of providing opportunities for students to interact with a variety of instructional materials, as well as to stress the importance of learning from each other, from adults, and from community resources.

Click here to read Innovation Spotlight: Nittany Valley Charter School

The innovative concept of MicroSociety was created in 1967 as the result of Dr. George Richmond’s effort to restructure his New York City classroom into an academically challenging and interactive place to motivate students to want to learn and succeed. Dr. Richmond introduced the idea of creating a functioning miniature society in his classroom as a tool to bring relevance to learning and to teach individual responsibility. The MicroSociety program at Penn Hills is designed to be a hands-on, engaging program designed to bring entrepreneurial and economic concepts to life for students.

Click here to read Innovation Spotlight: Penn Hills Charter School of Entrepreneurship

Three years ago, Dan LaSalle, an English teacher at Olney Charter High, saw an opportunity offered by The Philadelphia Academy of School Leaders for school-based teams to apply for a one-year grant to address a school-specific challenge to student learning, and inspiration struck. LaSalle’s idea was to create a financial literacy program that would teach students from high-poverty backgrounds critical financial skills such as how is money earned, how it gains interest, and how it should it be saved for college or retirement.

Click here to read Innovation Spotlight: Olney Charter High School

Innovative Practices from Our Schools

PCPCS believes that sharing ideas between our charter schools is a key way to cultivate true innovation within education. Check out the videos below from the 2020 Innovation Conference where our schools shared information about a program, project or initiative that they had successfully implemented that involved change, innovation, or the enhancement of academic or administrative excellence and effectiveness.

Click here to view presentations from our 2019 Innovation Conference.

Wednesday’s Wisdom-Weekly Professional Development Teachers Want to Attend: When you are sitting at a Professional Development meeting, have you ever thought, “If I taught my students the way you are presenting the workshop, I would be fired?” This presentation will provide you with some strategies and resources to engage your teachers and enable them to take ownership of their learning.

Presented by: Diana Perney, PA Virtual Charter School

Click here to view the presentation

Classroom Connections to Student Workforce Development Opportunities: The Charter School of Excellence (CSE) started Culinary Arts and Workforce Development Programs in 2010 focused on the local hospitality industry. The combination of these programs creates training and work experience opportunities for soft skill development in areas such as customer service, hospitality, culinary arts, and event management. The CSE programs focus on job readiness and positive student outcomes while contributing to the school and local community through the new “School to Work” food truck expansion.

Presented by: Dr. Renee Gordon, Charter School of Excellence

Click here to view the presentation

Let Reach Show You How Students Can Do Hands-On Stem in a Virtual Setting: How can cyber students possibly do hands-on STEM? Reach Cyber Charter School has figured it out. Learn about our STEM coaching program and how we engage students in project based learning.

Presented by: Amanda Casteel, Reach Cyber Charter School

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Aquaponic Education – It’s Not Just Agriculture!: STEM? STEAM? What does that really mean? For CCA, it truly is a K-12, interdisciplinary approach to science, technology, engineering and math by leveraging aquaponics, a living ecosystem, to build and expand upon individual student interests.

Presented by: Samantha Johnson, Commonwealth Charter Academy

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Certified! An AHCCS Innovation Academy Student Initiative: AHCCS has an ongoing, enlarging initiative to help our students develop the interest in, learn the necessary skills and to sit for a variety of certification exams in areas such as the IC3, Microsoft Office Specialist, JavaScript and Web Development. We are excited to share our story – perhaps it will spark interest for you at your school!

Presented by: Carmela N. Curatola, Achievement House Cyber Charter School

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Distance Learning in an Arts Inspired Classroom: Does your curriculum need a little creative inspiration? Do you want to increase engagement in your classroom? Get ready to fill your bucket with distance learning tools that integrate the arts into your lessons!

Presented by: Eileen Keller, Renaissance Academy Charter School

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CTE Coding & Game Design Pathway: Online, Accessible, & Fun: Imagine taking CTE education to students all over the commonwealth (and country!)… That is what we are doing with our online CTE Coding & Game Design pathway. Throughout our online pathway, students develop the skills and knowledge they need to pursue a great career and we believe other pathways can do the same.

Presented by: Benjamin Leskovansky, Insight PA Cyber Charter School

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Aggression Replacement Therapy/Character Development: Through using Aggression Replacement Therapy and Character Development at Tidioute Charter School we have seen drastic improvements in our students discipline and social skills. The students overall discipline numbers have decreased and they are more willing to participate in school wide activities.

Presented by: Maggie McMahon, Tidioute Community Charter School

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Co-Teaching in the Virtual Elementary Model: This presentation will share the personal experiences of a classroom teacher who has successfully implemented co-teaching as a mode for providing intervention to her students on a daily basis. The good, the bad, the ugly, and the best lessons learned!

Presented by: Katie Barnett, PA Virtual Charter School

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Project-based Learning in the Online Classroom: Solving Real-World Problems through Virtual Collaboration: With online learning becoming more common than ever, some may wonder how to implement meaningful Project Based Learning in a virtual environment. Jessica Vernouski will share how she implemented collaborative, authentic, project-based learning online, by taking on an Innovations Challenge from PennDOT.

Presented by: Jessica Cordaro, Reach Cyber Charter School

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Teaching World Languages in a Virtual Classroom: Teaching world languages in the virtual classroom can be challenging because of the asynchronous setting and the fact that your students aren’t physically in front of you. Using the available technology-based resources, we’ve created a curriculum where it’s possible for students to have asynchronous conversations with each other and with their teacher in the target language. We capitalize on wherever students are by designing an engaging and collaborative curriculum that is easily applied to their real world setting.

Presented by: Debbie Parvin, 21st Century Cyber Charter School

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Charter School Leader Rule of Five: Time is our most precious resource and is the only way we are all equal. Because the principal’s job is one of the most difficult and interrupted jobs on the planet, they need to be crystal clear on what daily tasks they are required and bring the organization the greatest return. This session will build awareness for any leader to start living your school day by design, not by default.

Presented by: Dr. Tom Miller, Leaders Building Leaders

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Panel Discussion: Don’t miss our virtual panel discussion composed of industry experts who can share their thoughts on education, innovation, collaboration, and how we can best prepare our students for the future we can only imagine.

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Meeting Specific Needs in a Flipped Virtual Classroom: The presentation will be on using a flipped classroom in a virtual school, where the teacher acts as the facilitator. Our presentation will also deal with developing a schedule that allows students to learn important skills of time management but also developing a schedule to fit the needs of the students. The presentation will deal with supporting the needs of students, specifically in instances with high proportions of students with specific needs.

Presented by: Dr. Ryan Wolcott, ASPIRA Cyber Charter School 

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Building Toward Student-Centered Accountability Frameworks: Our district, Propel Charter Schools, has created a Computer Science Integration program with the intention of providing our scholars valuable CS skills. Through co-taught skill-based lessons, students work on collaborative projects in all content areas. Students are taught how to create and solve real-world problems. Students are also taught coding skills, and other related computer programming skills. Learn how valuable this program can be for the the scholars in your district!

Presented by: Jeff Kwitowski, K12 Inc.

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Making IEP Meetings a Partnership: Special Education terms are like another language. We created videos for all special education paperwork to ensure our families understand the paperwork they are signing.

Presented by: Nancy Giagnacova, 21st Century Cyber Charter School

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Learning is Nonlinear: The learning process is beautifully non-linear. Yet many students enter schools believing the learning process should follow a straight, uninterrupted path when really it can feel more like navigating through a maze. How do we create spaces for students and teachers to partake in the learning process in a way that debunks the myths, works through the challenges, and equips both with strategies for growing through the learning process?

Presented by: Nathan Dilworth, Institute for Student Achievement

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Daily Nurturing the Young Person’s Innate Soft Skills, Self Direction and Curiosity, the Skills and Mindsets that Employers Long For: Employers are pleased that today’s young adults come to the workplace with the necessary credentials, knowledge and hard skills. They are displeased, however, that they do not come with the equally necessary soft skills and mindsets. Employers lament that they cannot teach the soft skills, so it is on educators to develop school-based strategies that nurture the young person’s innate soft skills, self-direction and curiosity so that they become habits and mindsets as the young grow to adulthood.

Narration is such a strategy. This practical, daily approach incorporates research-supported “retelling,” “Student Talk” and the “Grand Conversation.” This strategy is natural and true to the way human beings learn, thus it is successfully practiced at all grade levels, K-12, and in all subject matter.

Presented by: Nicolle Hutchinson, Gillingham Charter School

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Mentoring With a Focus on Relationships: Join me as I walk you through a mentoring session with tips and best practices to create and maintain meaningful relationships with learners.

Presented by: Barbara Dikum, Central PA Digital Learning

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That’s Not My Job….Or Is It? – Teaching Classroom Expectations to Students: Reduce misbehavior without using gimmicks or bribing students. Win back more time to do what you love – teach – while empowering your students to make better choices and achieve success.

Presented by: Bill Bechtel, Carlisle High School

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The Importance of Sports…Then, Now, and Forever: In a Charlotte Mason school, educators see the student as a whole person. Sports play a major role in our students’ lives at Gillingham because sports and physical fitness affect them in so many different ways for the rest of their lives.. Just as all students are required to learn to read and to calculate algebraic algorithms, all students at Gillingham are required to compete in a sport. In this session, our coach explains two innovative approaches to PE instruction and sports: 1.) PE is core curriculum, not an elective or a “special,”and 2.) every student at Gillingham is required to play one season of a competitive sport to graduate. These innovative ideas expand and mold our students just like the other Charlotte Mason approaches we use at school everyday.

Presented by: Leonard Martin, Gillingham Charter School

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If You Build It…They Will Come! Building Your Online Learning Community: Building your online learning community might sound challenging, but with a few tips and wise advice, you can master this art! Starting with a strong foundation of connecting with your students first, will lead to engaging them in your online, remote, hybrid, or in-person classroom! This session will give you ideas and choices to increase engagement and interaction no matter what your school setting might be this year!

Presented by: Cindy Willits, PA Virtual Cyber Charter School

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