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Civitas

 

Designed as a CES small school and part of the Los Angeles Smalls Schools Center, Civitas School of Leadership (SOL) pursues high quality student learning through a variety of means, including data-driven instruction, project-based learning, interdisciplinary curriculum, and vertical planning.  These methods allow the school to reach the widest range of students while still personalizing the educational experience for all.

Civitas School of Leadership characterizes itself for implementing opportunities for students to learn beyond the traditional standards of education.  As a project-based learning school, Civitas SOL pursues a curriculum that emphasizes inquiry and real-world application.  Project-based learning is most obviously supported through the interdisciplinary project that students complete each year.

Through interdisciplinary inquiries, students are provided with the opportunity to research relevant topics by answering essential questions. In the ninth grade year, students investigate, “What is justice/injustice?” Our freshmen explore issues such as equity, racial profiling, human trafficking, clean fuels, food safety, etc. In the tenth grade, students answer, “Why war?” Our sophomores explore topics like gang wars, military wars, racial wars, and war against discrimination. In the eleventh grade, the question is “What is the American Dream?” Our juniors find examples that embody the American Dream, such as becoming a professional athlete or obtaining an education; they also study topics that might prevent the American Dream, which include unemployment or legal status in the United States.  

In addition, seniors develop their own essential questions as part of their senior projects, which are also required to include evidence of content mastery.  In addition, it is necessary for seniors to seek the help of community experts on their topic in order to ensure success in their project as well as a way to use community resources. Interdisciplinary units are standards-based, and they involve the use of primary and secondary research. At the end of each academic year, students exhibit their work to peers, parents, and the community.

Content-area courses simultaneously pursue projects in addition to gauging student learning through standardized assessments. In Physics, each student works on their own project ranging from the aerodynamics in the curve of a soccer ball to crushing a soda can through changes in internal pressure.  In English 11, students create their own newspaper from the 1920s based on The Great Gatsby.  Students created and presented their family trees in Spanish class. These projects build upon students’ interests and develop important skills.  They personalize the learning experience for students and make real-life connections to what they learn in school.  Projects are often collaborative, which builds students’ interpersonal skills.  They are evaluated using the school’s Habits of Mind, an alternate assessment of skills, which include, expression, connection presentation, evidence, reflection, service to the common good, and the aforementioned collaboration. 

Another way in which students at Civitas SOL participate in experimental learning is through their Gateway presentations in their sophomore year.  For the first three semesters of high school, students collect assignments and projects through their content classes. By the second semester of their sophomore year, students prepare a presentation that demonstrates students’ growth as learners using the Habits of Mind. We believe that if students acquire the Habits of Connection, Presentation, Collaboration, Evidence, Reflection, Expression, and Service to the Common Good, they will be able to be successful in any field they choose to pursue after graduation.  On the day of presentation, students must form an audience committee that includes two teachers (advisor and other education professional), a parent, and three other students. By doing this, we believe students are able to reflect on their learning and present to a true audience, making Gateway more meaningful and relevant to the students’ learning. The standards for each grade level increase in difficulty, so that as the students progress, they must improve year over year in order to pass. The projects must include connections to their coursework and service to the community.

The school offers honors and Advanced Placement. Additionally, each teacher differentiates the curriculum so that the students can learn the material at the level they are able as shown in the collected evidence.  Teachers also use multiple assessments to allow the student to demonstrate mastery in whatever way works best. Resource specialists assist the teachers either in the classroom or by discussing how to best help the student learn.  As part of the regular professional development, teachers in each department discuss how they assess students and they work together to ensure the students are being assessed consistently and fairly.