National News
May 10, 2013

Taos County charters emphasize school choice during National Charter Schools Week
Substitute teacher Dan Nova, left, talks with Vista Grande High School students during their April 10 “Occupy High,” a student-inspired and run after-school program.

By Matthew van Buren

Taos’ charter schools are among those celebrating National Charter Schools Week by touting what they have to offer.

President Obama signed a proclamation declaring May 5-11 National Charter Schools Week. It says the American education system should provide “ladders of opportunity” for young people.

“We need to equip all our students with the education and skills that put them on the path to good jobs and a bright future — no matter where they live or what school they attend,” the proclamation states. “Charter schools play an important role in meeting that obligation. These learning laboratories give educators the chance to try new models and methods that can encourage excellence in the classroom and prepare more of our children for college and careers.”

The proclamation states that many charter schools offer important opportunities and calls for public schools to take lessons from charter schools that “demonstrate success and exceed expectations.”
Six charter schools close to Taos took the opportunity during National Charter Schools Week to share a bit about what makes them different with The Taos News.

Anansi Charter School, now in its 12th year as a Taos School District-authorized school, was recently approved for expansion. Currently a K-5 school, Anansi will add a sixth grade in the fall of 2014, a seventh grade the following year and an eighth grade in the 2016-17 school year.

Anansi Director Michele Hunt shared some thoughts about what charter schools offer. “Charters support the believe that school choice empowers families to seek the school model that will best suit their children as learners,” she wrote. “A charter school is a site-based management model, which means that parents, educators and students have a role in the decisions that are made that affect them.”

Hunt said Anansi is known for a “positive school climate, early intervention strategies, academic rigor, creativity and competent, effective and caring staff.”

“Anansi takes a child-centered approach to drive a highly academic curriculum and focus,” she wrote. “Equally important is the social and emotional development of each student, and Anansi takes time every week to deliver instruction in social emotional skills development.”

Taos Charter School serves 213 students in grades K-8 and aims to provide students with an academically challenging school experience. According to a statement from Director Deidre McAdam, the school accomplishes that mission in several ways:

“We are a full-inclusion school, so learning-disabled students learn alongside their peers, and the teacher of our gifted students frequently presents his lessons to the entire class,” she wrote. “We identify our lower-performing students early, analyze their progress and provide teacher-driven interventions or software to help students close learning gaps.”

McAdam wrote that Taos Charter offers accelerated learning opportunities for advanced students, and the school culture is based on “playfulness, hard work and high expectations.”

Roots and Wings Community School, in the Questa school district, also serves students in grades K-8. According to information from that school, Roots and Wings provides its students with a “quality education and vigorous outdoor adventures in an attempt to give them a transformative experience — one that will stay with them the rest of their lives.”

“Roots and Wings is an Expeditionary Learning school, which is a project-based model of teaching with hands-on learning as its focus,” the statement reads. “We also incorporate experiential learning with outdoor adventure.”

Roots and Wings noted its small class sizes, highly qualified teachers and focus on “expeditions,” which it describes as “thematic-based, long-term projects.”

The Taos Integrated School of the Arts (TISA) is now in its fourth year and has full enrollment and waiting lists for lottery application spots for grades K-8 for the 2013-14 school year. According to information from TISA, the school is unique in Taos for its combined arts-integrated and social-emotional emphasis.

“TISA is like other charters in giving options to parents through clearly defining our school mission and goals,” a statement from the school reads. “At TISA, art is the lens for learning; we teach content through the arts.”

Taos Academy serves students in grades 5-12. A statement from that school emphasizes its challenging core academic curriculum, its GROW agriculture program, 21st Century Learning courses, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) Institute courses and College Link, through which students can earn college credits.

“Through the use of innovative curriculum, leadership training and enrichment opportunities, we foster a community of self-motivated, independent, lifelong learners,” the statement reads.

According to information from the school, it seeks to promote academic achievement, strong leadership skills and social responsibility in its students through a variety of strategies.

“In Leadership class, students complete a service learning project of their choice in the community,” the statement reads. “In Global Studies, students study geography, languages and current and historical events, debating about issues in a global society. In SmartLab, students use state-of-the-art hardware and the software to create films, music, animation, robotics and engineering projects of their choosing.”

Vista Grande High School is now located in a “permanent home” on Paseo del Cañon East. A statement from Vista Grande highlights its diverse student body and full-inclusion model.

“We have 100 percent college acceptance,” a statement from the school reads. “Our curriculum makes standards come alive for students by connection learning to real-world issues and needs. We have long-term, in-depth studies that inspire students toward higher levels of academic achievement. Learning expeditions involve students in original research, critical thinking and problem solving, and they build character along with academic skills.”

The Presidential Proclamation calls for parents, teachers and citizens to provide students with the tools they need to keep the country moving forward.

“This week, we recognize charter schools that are advancing those goals, and we recommit to helping our nation’s children go as far as their talents will take them,” the proclamation states.

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