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.

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 2019 PCPCS Annual Conference Innovation Strand 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.

The Importance of Asking “Why Not”: As educators, we often become bogged down with what we “must” get done and what the data shows. We reflect on our practices as efficient or not, but do we often indulge our creativity and ask “why not” to new ideas?

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World-Changing Innovators: Together, we can teach our students to become innovators; innovators that will change the world. We can give our students the tools they need to create the future they deserve!

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Collaboration: The Key to Success: Capital Area School for the Arts Charter School’s (CASA) Integrated Arts curriculum culminates each year with the students’ end-of-year performance known as CASALive! – the signature production for CASA students in all disciplines. Each Wednesday, students from all six (6) arts disciplines collaborate to explore a theme that they have chosen for the school year. The initiative encourages students to develop critical collaborative and problem-solving skills in the arts context, and in the process, develop an appreciation for each other’s chosen arts concentration. Over the course of nine (9) months, approximately 100 students break into small groups reflecting CASA’s six (6) arts disciplines; dance, theatre, music, film and video, visual art, and creative writing – to discuss and create scenes, music, dance and dialogue that later develop into fully realized components of the CASALive! performance. This proven method of teaching not only develops skills that all students need but it bolsters their academic performance as well. CASA Charter School has seen tremendous academic growth and success over the past six years and the future looks exciting!

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Hands-On Science in an Online Classroom!:How can you get your students to be hands-on with science in an online teaching environment? Get them involved, give them ownership, create science citizens from your students, and facilitate your lab projects like an interactive “cooking show!” Tips, best practices, collaborative ideas and actual science lab implementations will be showcased, discussed, and shared.

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JAG-PA: Helping Pennsylvania’s Youth Build the Nation’s Strongest Workforce: JAG-PA’s mission is to help Pennsylvania Build the Nation’s Strongest Workforce by bridging the GAP between Classrooms and Careers. The JAG program teaches all the skills necessary for students to become college, career and workforce ready as well as meeting all of the requirement of the Future Ready PA Index’s College and Career Readiness indicator.

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Success Is the Only Option: Building Systems of Quality Schools for All Students: Many people say public schools and school systems are “broken”. Not True! Most current public schools and school systems were never designed to maximize the probability of academic and post high school success for all students. Learn what it will take to re-imagine and redesign high quality and effective schools for all youth in the 21st century where “Success Is the Only Option”.

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Teaching the Unexceptional: Even “geniuses” floundered in school. So why are we so focused on their lifelong achievements over that which led them there? The struggle! It is really their character, curiosity, and stick-to-it-ness that yields the most useful information for educators on planning and delivering instruction. The struggle IS real, and it is also the key to unlocking kids’ potential.

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Creating and Maintaining a “H-app-y” Culture in Your School: Adding a piece of technology into your classroom is easy, but fully integrating it to be a flawless part of the curriculum is the secret to an engaging and personalized learning environment for teachers and students. To create and maintain a culture where creativity is encouraged and risk-tasking is celebrated, it’s important to provide vetted apps and quality professional development. Join the Instructional Technology Coach at 21CCCS to learn about the best practices in place that have resulted in a true team approach to fostering successful students.

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“Community” becomes “unity” through sustained inquiry learning:What is happening in your community? What interests you? What can you explore with your family and friends? What adventures will you embark on? Community will become unity as you explore new worlds and become inspired through inquiry learning.

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Using Video to Make Connections and to Build Community:Do you want to make connections with your students? Build community? And reduce your workload? This presentation will provide a practical tools and tips on how to create a podcast.

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