Mr. John Kaczorek walked around the desks in a classroom at Hiawatha College Prep-Kingfield where pencils were up and eyes were glued to the assignments at hand.

A timer on the wall ticked down as the students worked on their math, giving them a clear time frame for finishing work. Mr. Kaczorek paused at each desk, giving praise and prompts to support students in arriving at the correct answer.

On the board, the day’s learning targets and agenda were clearly posted, anchoring students to the day’s goals and learning activities.

This is what teaching and learning looks like in a Hiawatha Academies classroom, in part due to a  new framework of core instructional practices implemented across all schools in the network. Also included in the alignment process are exciting new curricula focusing on standards-based instruction and inquiry-based learning.

Erin Horst, Director of Teaching and Learning, said the new curriculum and alignment support the mission of ensuring all scholars will be college-ready when they graduate.

“We must ensure that students are working with grade-level curriculum and toward mastering grade-level standards every day and in every class,” she said.

The major program changes for the 2018-19 school year include the adoption of research-based, common core, and NGSS standards-aligned curricula in grades K-8 in English and Language Arts, Math and Science:

The curricula were selected by network leaders and principals based on:

  • Clear alignment to grade-level standards
  • Independent evaluations and research demonstrating the quality and effectiveness of curriculum
  • Expert authors (teachers, academics and researchers)
  • Engaging and relevant tasks and texts
  • Opportunities for students to engage in inquiry, develop critical-thinking skills and build conceptual understandings through application
  • Embedded support for students who are English Language Learners

Horst said the focus in each classroom every day is great teaching that will support students to reach measurable, clear learning targets, which are aligned to grade-level standards. Every day, in every class, teachers focus on what students are learning, she said.

Measurable, clear and aligned learning targets are an important aspect of a culture of transparency, high expectations, self- reflection and self-improvement for teachers, students, school leaders and network leaders.