RC Works!: Capitol Heights Academy

Michelle Flores, lead teacher at Aspire Capitol Heights Academy in Sacramento, California, contacted us last week to share the news that her school had been designated a California Distinguished Elementary School for 2010. This statewide recognition program “honors schools that have demonstrated educational excellence for all students and progress in narrowing the achievement gap.” Capitol Heights was one of only four schools in the Sacramento City Unified District to receive the designation.

The application for this award includes a detailed description of two “signature practices” used at the school, and Capitol Heights included their use of the Responsive Classroom approach as one of their signature practices. Michelle told me that the Responsive Classroom practices that Capitol Heights started using in 2006 have been a key to “amazing changes” at her school, where 85% of students’ families qualify for free or reduced-price lunch, and which is located in a neighborhood struggling with issues of gang violence, drug abuse, and crime. Here’s more from what she told me:

At Capitol Heights Academy, we have a common language, and it creates a sense of common purpose. CHA students, teachers, staff, and parents have shared expectations for student behavior and performance.

. . . the foundation of the strong sense of classroom community at our school is Morning Meeting. Every class at CHA (K5) starts each day with Morning Meeting. It draws in academic content and gets them excited about what they’ll be learning that day, builds community through shared language used in an authentic context, and has created a more positive climate schoolwide. Since these practices have been in place at our school, we have seen detentions, suspensions, and expulsions drop and tremendous academic gains: 200 points in API growth since the 2005/2006 school year.

. . . last year 92% of parents surveyed stated that Capitol Heights Academy was a respectful place, and 97% said the school does a good job of preparing students for college. . . . the atmosphere of respect and success can also be measured by our teacher retention numbers. While many schools struggle to keep teachers, Capitol Heights has an incredible record of retaining talent, largely due to the high expectations for student behavior.

. . . In addition to being named a California Distinguished School  this year, for the past three years we ‘ve won the Title I Academic Achievement Awards. A few months ago we were on the news because of our phenomenal growth, and two of my students received perfect scores on their state tests. CHA has come a long way in its seven  years of existence, and I truly believe that Responsive Classroom is a big reason for its success.”

Congratulations, Michelle, and everyone in the Aspire Capitol Heights Academy school community!

Tags: Building Schoolwide Community, Professional Development

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