Our ApproachEPACS' unique program ensures students receive the education and attention they require while exposing them to activities and opportunities they otherwise would not experience. We enhance our students' learning with exposure to technology, diverse cultures, environmental education, community service and character development both inside the classroom and out. Our approach includes:
- A rigorous standards curriculum for every grade level
- A teaching philosophy that involves constant progress monitoring and making data-based decisions
- Mandatory parent participation
- Longer School Year
- Elective Classes
- Longer school day and after school activities
- Family support services
CurriculumOur curriculum is structured around the academic needs of each age category and focuses on teaching all California State Standards. We start by creating Comprehensive Pacing Charts for each grade and converting grade standards into learning objectives, which are then posted in each classroom and assessed as often as every two weeks.
For grades K-5, we use Harcourt Math and the Aspire Math Instructional Guidelines to teach mathematics in K-5. The Aspire's guidelines include, but are not limited to, teaching a math mini-lesson, pulling groups for guided math while the students are working in math centers, practicing math facts, problem solving and student led solutions. In grades 6-8, we use College Preparatory Math curriculum and focus on the explicit, direct teaching of the math standards for the middle school grade levels.
We are a Reading First School in K-3, which means that we have a grant that provides our school with a full time reading coach to support the teachers and their instructional practice in reading language arts. We use Open Court curriculum in K-5; in grades 4 and 5 we start to integrate independent reading, novels and social studies to prepare the students for middle school humanities.
Our Middle School Humanities program is novel based. The students are expected to read at least six novels per year as a class, and several of the novels are aligned with their social studies standards. Each student is also expected to read from an additional book of her or his choice independently everyday, and write a summary. The students take an Accelerated Reader Quiz after finishing each book in order to receive credit for their independent reading. Students also learn vocabulary through daily word work, practice writing conventions through mini-lessons and publish pieces of writing between 500-700 words in length on a weekly or biweekly basis. Finally, students study Social Studies through the History Alive curriculum.
In K-5 we collaborate with Environmental Volunteers and Collective Roots Garden Project to teach standards-based science lessons. We also use Foss Kits to teach science and plan science units that are aligned and integrated with English Language Arts. In middle school, the science classes are lab based. The teachers develop labs based on the standards and the students are expected to conduct experiments, work in groups and write lab reports.
All students in grades 4-8 are required to participate in our annual science fair in June. It is a great opportunity for our students to exhibit their work and practice speaking skills, while they present their projects to various volunteer judges who range from Stanford Graduate Students in the Sciences, to Scientists working for local companies and foundations.
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At the end of each trimester, all students are given report cards based on these standards. To instill in our students a sense of responsibility for one's own performance, we designed a reporting system which includes input and evaluation by the student. The first and second grading periods are accompanied by a student-led conference with parents, where each student presents his or her work for each subject area and shares individual goals for the next trimester.
Data Driven Instruction
We use standards testing to assess our students' progress and make decisions according to data. The assessments include curriculum based assessments as well as evaluations created by Aspire. Teachers also create regular assessments to measure the learning objectives they teach.
Teacher Collaboration and Professional Development
Every week, there are several opportunities for teachers to collaborate at EPACS. We have weekly meetings for grade-level and all-staff meetings to evaluate performance data and design improvement plans. Ongoing professional development is also critical for maintaining motivated and well-prepared teachers. We employ several coaches who work with teachers to implement teaching programs and model lesson plans.
On a bi-weekly basis, our teachers share their teaching plans and grade-level data in brainstorming sessions and create new learning objectives and short term action plans. We consistently differentiate instruction using small workshops and reading groups to increase the achievement of all students.
For each school year, we use STAR data to identify a subgroup of students who need additional support. Teachers select five focal students out of this "target" student population and create individualized plans to increase their achievement. Teachers continue to work with all students in their class while utilizing the focal student plans to improve student achievement.
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Mandatory Parent ParticipationParental involvement has been instrumental to EPACS' success. The school was founded with the help of East Palo Alto parents and it continues to bring quality education with their ongoing commitment. We believe that parental involvement is one of the most important factors to a successful education.
Parents are required to participate in their children's education by attending parent-teacher conferences and contributing to school events. Each EPACS family must earn a total of 40 units for each school year.
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1st Trimester Conference
2nd Trimester Conference
5 School Site Council Meetings (1 unit per meeting)
Total Mandatory Units Required
Classroom Time (1 hour)
Time spent at school (1 hour): recess/lunch duty, cleaning, office work, participation in school fundraisers
Parent committees or lead a fundraiser
Additional School Site Council meeting
Total Additional Units Required
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Longer School YearEPACS has a longer school year than most other schools. In addition to meeting more days per year than most other public and private schools, we have changed our school year calendar to better serve the academic needs of our students. Rather than taking 3 months off every summer, we integrate those breaks in throughout the year, so that the summer is only 4-6 weeks long.
Throughout the rest of the school year, we meet for 10 weeks, followed by a 2 week break in the fall, winter, and spring, and ending with a shorter summer. We have found this to be tremendously helpful in maintaining continuity and consistency in the lives and academic pursuits of students. When school starts back up at the beginning of the year, much less time is spent on review, as a result. In addition, the 2 week breaks give students and teachers an opportunity to recharge and refocus, returning to school ready for new material and accomplishments.
In the future, we would love to provide programming for students during those two weeks off, that could include academic support, but also music, athletics, community service, arts, and more. Until we receive the funding for this, students attend camp put on by the local YMCA at EPACS.
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Elective ClassesAll students in grades K-5 have two days of Spanish and two days of PE. In grades 6-8, all students take PE and two additional elective classes per year. The additional elective classes include a Garden/Nutrition Class, Library, Information & Technology class, Art class and Young Interpreters.
The Young Interpreters program was developed by Stanford Ph.D. student Noah Borrero, and East Palo Alto Charter School teachers Laura Ramirez and Martin Escobosa. The purpose of the program is to increase students' English and Spanish literacy by refining their skills of translation and interpretation.
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Longer School Day and After School ProgramsIn order to best provide rigorous academic opportuniites to our students, the school day at EPACS is longer than most other public and private schools in the area. Students are in class from 7:45 - 3:30 everyday, followed by after school programming that is available to all.
Our after school programs are a critical part of our mission to create literate, motivated and confident individuals with a love of learning and a strong sense of respect and community. With tremendous generosity and involvement from our community partners and volunteers, we have been able to extend the school day by offering a diverse set of activities, from dance and community service, to tutoring and homework help.
While offering a fun environment for children K-9, these programs enhance classroom learning, reinforce reading proficiency, aid in the acquisition and mastery of English, and help troubled students with academic performance and behavioral issues. To help build our students' confidence, these programs include a public performance or public speaking component. As in all of our programs, we work to instill in our students trust, respect for self and others, responsibility, compassion, and a sense of community.
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Family Support ServicesEPACS is committed to finding ways for the school to support the whole family. We have come to recognize the signficance of a parent's well being, in his or her ability to invest in a child's education. There are a number of areas in which we provide support for our parents. Historically, we have offered English classes, which are returning in the fall. Also, Friday morning "Cafecito" meetings started out as a social gathering for parents, and has now grown into gathering of support and empowerment to address many different topics including ongoing issues in the community related to neighborhood activities, immigration, legal, healthcare, employment, finance, housing, and more. We are very grateful to many volunteers who have run workshops on these topics for parents.
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