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.
Lehigh Valley Academy offers all four IB programmes: the Primary Years Programme for grades K-6, the Middle Years Programme for grades 7-10, the Career-related Programme for grades 11 and 12, and the Diploma Programme for grades 11 and 12. LVA is one of forty-one schools in the world and one of three schools in the United States to offer all four programmes, which is known as the IB Continuum.
Collaboration is at the center of the model for professional development at PA Distance Learning Charter School. School leaders are committed to developing their staff through a culture of personalized growth by celebrating collaboration, reflection, and sharing of best practices in teaching and learning. While various technical and content-specific trainings occur annually, a continued focus each year is to allow the staff to learn from one another.
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.
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.
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.
UPDATE! Check out this video is featuring Charter School of Excellence’s new food truck – Food For Thought at the Charter School of Excellence in Erie, PA. This project is an extension of the Culinary Arts and Workforce Development Programs. It will teach kids real world application to culinary arts, hospitality, customer service and other soft skills to be employable citizens after high school.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 2019-2021 Innovation Conferences 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.