On Friday, December 1, the Missouri Board of Education granted City Garden Montessori a second ten-year charter, which will begin July 1, 2018 and end June 30, 2028. Our first charter period will end June 30, 2017.
It is both humbling and exciting to reflect on our first ten years and to think about what the next ten years will hold.
On December 1, our Saint Louis University (SLU) partner, Martha McGeehon, traveled with a couple of us to Jefferson City for the state board meeting, where staff from the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) recommended that the board approve an expedited renewal, which is available to schools that are deemed “high quality”—meaning that we have received an 85% or higher score on the Missouri School Improvement Plan (MSIP5) during three out of the previous four years. We are the first charter school in Missouri to receive an expedited, ten-year charter renewal.
We are extremely proud of the work our students, teachers, staff, parents, and board members have accomplished over the past ten years, and we are grateful for the many parents, neighbors, volunteers, donors, and community partners who have supported our growth along the way. Together, we have created a stimulating, child-centered learning environment and a vibrant community of families and extended partners.
And, as we celebrate our accomplishments, we also reflect on what we have learned, and we acknowledge our shortcomings. City Garden’s charter school was founded with a vision of providing excellent education for children and families of all racial and socioeconomic backgrounds, working to interrupt the deep patterns of segregation and educational inequity in St. Louis. We recognize that, as we begin a new decade, we still have significant work to do to fulfill our commitment to this vision.
You will notice in DESE’s presentation to the state board that, over the past few years, our academic performance in math has faltered. Our academic performance also shows disparities between our Students of Color and White students, and between low-income students and more affluent students.
Eliminating these disparities and ensuring that every City Garden student receives an outstanding, rigorous education are our greatest priorities as we head into our second decade.
Over the past eighteen months, our faculty advisory committee and school leadership have met to analyze each part of City Garden’s structure and programming, working to identify what is working and where obstacles exist. We are committed to understanding where and why we are falling short.
We have developed a five-year strategy specifically focused on eliminating educational gaps and increasing academic rigor. We anticipate that this plan will continue to be refined and updated as we continue to observe our students, hear feedback from our parents, and analyze the data to determine what is working. Our partners at SLU have worked with us to develop a rigorous performance contract that holds us accountable to bringing all of our students up to proficiency level or higher over the next several years, while also ensuring that we do not lose sight of our commitment to educating the whole child, in an anti-biased, anti-racist Montessori school environment.
Our short-term plans to increase academic rigor and eliminate educational disparities include:
- Establishing customized learning plans for all students, specifically in the area of math;
- After school tutoring to provide additional academic support;
- Implementing iXL, a rigorous, personalized online math program that aligns with Missouri learning standards and is compatible with Montessori;
- Codifying our preschool through eighth grade curriculum, aligning Montessori and Missouri learning standards and ensuring consistency across classrooms;
- Articulating completion outcomes, or developmental goals, for each age grouping, which we will utilize to assess students and communicate progress with parents;
- Outlining an assessment plan that measures student progress comprehensively—identifying academic growth as well as executive functioning and social and emotional skills;
- Implementing Conscious Discipline, a child-centered behavior intervention and support system;
- Creating an instructional leadership position at each age level, as well as an organizational leadership position focused on curriculum and teacher training;
- Providing targeted, rigorous professional development for teachers as well as more time for planning, data analysis, and collaboration;
- Increasing and improving communication with parents, parent engagement, and parent education; and
- Establishing a Montessori teacher training program that is designed to prepare teachers to deliver rigorous Montessori instruction in our diverse, public school environment, with goals of reducing teacher turnover, enhancing instruction, and creating a “pipeline” of teachers—particularly more teachers of color—who are trained to implement the City Garden model.
Over the next several years, our plans will also include:
- Facility improvements that support our academic goals;
- Creating a comprehensive technology plan to support eliminating educational disparities;
- Integrating more arts, STEM, and other “specials” programming;
- Creating structures to increase student voice within City Garden; and
- Exploring ways to support City Garden graduates, as they enter high school and beyond.
Every one of these things will require tremendous effort and sharp focus, but we are ready for the task at hand.
We invite your support and accountability as we increase our commitment to academic excellence for all children.
Thank you for your partnership over the past ten years, and thank you for working with us to build a world in which every child is able to flourish.
With tremendous gratitude,
Press about City Garden’s charter renewal:
City Garden exists to redefine education by developing the whole child in an excellent, inclusive, Montessori school; to reimagine community by creating spaces and systems that help to restore our collective humanity; and to reinvigorate our world by creating a culture in which individuals and communities thrive without disparities or barriers to success. www.citygardenschool.org