“I continue to be excited about our choice and opportunity to be a part of the McAuliffe community. The teachers and staff are AMAZING and it seems that along with being incredibly dedicated and capable, they all enjoy being together and with the students.“
-Courtney Edman, alumni parent
Welcome to the Christa McAuliffe Charter School EL Education portfolio! After 15 years of building our “expeditionary learning” program, we are thrilled to be considered for credentialing. As EL has evolved since 2003, so has McAuliffe. As EL has grown clear in its core practices and dimensions of academic success, so has McAuliffe. We greatly appreciate the support of school designers who have worked with us from the very beginning and who, over time, have helped us build our curriculum, instruction, assessment, culture and character, and leadership practices: Steven Levy, Jill Mirman, Mark Conrad, Emily Lichtenstein, and Jenny Henderson.
Our portfolio starts with an introduction to the school, our demographics, and profile as an EL Education and public charter school in the state of Massachusetts. The buttons at the bottom of each page will help you navigate the following three sections of our portfolio: Mastery of Knowledge and Skills, Character, and High Quality Work. Each section has an overview to preview the claims and then one page for each claim. For each claim we have crafted a narrative with supporting evidence to illustrate our progress toward each dimension of achievement.
We are extremely proud of our progress and hope that you enjoy learning our story!
The mission of the Christa McAuliffe Charter School is to cultivate within each member of a diverse student body, through the expeditionary learning design, an intense commitment to self and community, the courage and insight to set high standards for academic and personal success, and the knowledge, skills, and attitudes to achieve those standards
McAuliffe as an EL Education School
Michael Delman first dreamed of founding the Framingham Community Charter School because he believed that with the right mission and educators, it was possible for school to be a place kids would want to be. Especially for those exciting but challenging middle school years, he wanted every child to have at least one adult who knew them well, not just as a student but as a person, and who was one hundred percent invested in their success. He also was passionate about engaging scholars in curriculum relevant to the world around them. His personal quest to make the dream come to life was Michael's own learning expedition. His first step was identifying founding Executive Director Rob Kaufman. Where Michael brought insights into the children, teachers, and curriculum, Rob brought knowledge of how to run an organization effectively when the only real certainty was that conditions would shift, change, and require adaptation.
“Michael and I bonded over a few simple ideas. That kids could be trusted to resolve their own conflicts, trusted to wrestle with complex social and intellectual challenges, trusted to take more responsibility for their learning, trusted to be guardians of a community that cared about one another. We bonded over an idea that a school could be a unique community, and contribute to larger community.” ~ Rob Kaufman, Founding Executive Director
Together, their warmth, humor, and commitment to making the world a better place resulted in the successful acquisition of the much-coveted charter to build the Framingham Community Charter School, a school designed for 306 scholars in grades six, seven, and eight. It wasn’t long before actual students arrived, who were so invested in the mission that they insisted on changing the school’s name through an engaging, collaborative process. In a community meeting with scholars in sixth, seventh, and eighth grades, a number of ideas for the school name were proposed. The idea that stood out above all others was the proposal to name the school after teacher-astronaut Christa McAuliffe. McAuliffe was a Framingham native and a humanities teacher in Concord, NH who valued exploratory and hands-on lessons. She was selected by NASA to be the first teacher in space. However, the Challenger crew, including Christa McAuliffe, perished in an explosion following take-off. A McAuliffe scholar suggested that the EL charter school in Framingham could pay tribute to Christa McAuliffe by honoring her name and legacy. With McAuliffe’s legacy effectively pairing with the mission of the school, there was minimal debate and so the school was named Christa McAuliffe Charter School.
Every year, our eighth graders participate in a science-anchored space learning expedition which -- for now -- keeps our scholars on earth, but guides them to consider such as:
How has human desire changed our understanding of the universe and shaped our exploration of space?
What is our place in the Universe? How can we use space research to improve life on Earth?
Are we alone? Could life exist outside our planet? Where is there water, essential elements, or energy in the solar system?
As with all McAuliffe learning expeditions, there are academic and character targets for this expedition. Scholars build their background knowledge, ask questions, conduct research, and develop expertise on topics in collaborative pairs or small groups. They interview experts to refine their knowledge, understanding, and skills; they synthesize their learning and present it with a sophisticated written and visual display; they revise their work based on critique from peers until it is publishable, and they present their learning during a culminating event titled: Christa McAuliffe Remembrance Event. The event has become an annual tradition held in January near the anniversary of the Challenger disaster.
The slideshow to the left showcases the space expedition over the last four years.
You will learn more about this and other expeditions and products as you journey through our portfolio claims and evidence. Currently, each grade level of core teachers engage our scholars in at least two learning expeditions per year and in other units or case studies that incorporate some elements of expeditions. Over the last four years, we have focused on increasing the complexity of thinking and sophistication of writing; aligning the instruction and assessment of habits of work and learning with expeditions; guiding scholars to use models, critique, and revisions to make beautiful work; and making learning and projects accessible to all scholars including those with disabilities. Our strategic five year goal set in 2013 was to become a credentialed EL Education school by 2018. Click here to view the strategic plan and click here to view SY14-SY17 annual reports.
Demographics - Overall Student Enrollment
McAuliffe currently enrolls 396 scholars in grades six through eight, approximately 132 scholars per grade. We are a regional charter public school serving scholars from eight towns in MetroWest Boston: Ashland, Framingham, Holliston, Hopkinton, Marlborough, Natick, Southborough, and Sudbury. As the chart below illustrates, the majority of our scholars live in Framingham, the largest and most diverse of the eight towns. The school’s enrollment increased after 2012-13 because the school received approval to expand enrollment from 306 to 396. In 2014-15 and 2015-16 the school was slightly overenrolled.
Demographics - Selected Population Enrollment
As a charter public school in the state of Massachusetts, our scholars are accepted by a blind lottery with preference given only to scholars of siblings who are currently attending the school at the time of the lottery. While we cannot be selective in our admission process, it is our job to ensure that our pool of applicants reflects the demographics of our sending districts. In particular, we annually set recruitment and retention goals for the following sub-groups: students with disabilities, English learners, economically disadvantaged scholars, scholars at risk of failing, scholars at risk of dropping out.
This is the link to our current recruitment and retention plan that we submit to the DESE annually. The plan includes a report on 2016-17 demographics (also illustrated below) that measures McAuliffe demographics against a “comparison index” defined by the DESE and includes middle schools in our region. Both the report and the data indicate that McAuliffe has populations of students meeting or exceeding the regional comparison index for the following subgroups: students with disabilities, English learners, and economically disadvantaged scholars. In fact, McAuliffe has a slightly higher percentage of scholars identified with disabilities compared with Framingham and the state of Massachusetts. This has been a historical trend, in part, because scholars with disabilities have experienced more success at McAuliffe than in their district public schools. See Mastery of Skills and Knowledge Claim 2 and High Quality Work Claim 3 for more information. Families who send their children to McAuliffe appreciate our EL Education program including the attention to both academics and character development, the instruction of habits of work and learning, the Crew and team-building culture, and our full inclusion co-teaching model.
McAuliffe has enrolled a student body that reflects the demographics of the regional district for each of the last four years. For each of the subgroups that comprise the school’s recruitment plan, the school has met the goals set by the state. The charts below illustrate the school versus comparison index for four of the demographic subgroups. The only year and subgroup when the school was not exceeding the regional district comparison index was 2012-13's low income subgroup with a 2.2 percentage point gap. The following year, McAuliffe’s low income subgroup increased by 8%, exceeding the comparison index by 5.5%.
As illustrated above, McAuliffe has historically served a greater population of students with disabilities compared with regional middle schools. In order to meet the needs of our diverse learners, McAuliffe provides service delivery according to scholars’ IEPs, 504 plans, and according to their English language development. The vast majority of our scholars (99%) participate in full inclusion programs; 1% (four scholars) receive substantially separate instruction for English language arts and/or mathematics. Our inclusion classes are facilitated by a co-teaching pair of educators (general education and special education) or a general educator paired with an inclusion assistant. Currently, 62 out of 75 core classes (83%) are inclusion classes. This allows for each class to be heterogenous and for educators to differentiate lessons for all scholars as well as provide accommodations and modifications for those with 504 plans or Individualized Education Programs (IEPs). Two of our nine portfolio claims are related our students with disabilities’ academic successes: Mastery of Knowledge and Skills, Claim 2 and High Quality Work, Claim 3. When reading these claims, you’ll see examples of instructional materials, student work, and outcome data.
Demographics - Enrollment by Race/Ethnicity
McAuliffe has grown more racially and ethnically diverse over the last four years. As the graphic illustrates, our population of scholars who identify as Hispanic and Latino has increased substantially from 2014 to 2017. Our Bilingual Outreach Coordinator translates and interprets for families who speak, read, and write Portuguese or Spanish as a primary language. Our English learner teacher engages in outreach and relationship building with her scholars’ families, and our receptionist speaks Portuguese and Spanish. We are proud to provide a welcoming learning environment for ALL McAuliffe families.
Parents and guardians are important members of our McAuliffe CREW. We nurture family involvement in their scholar's learning through student led conferences, culminating events, passages, the annual 5K road race to benefit our EL Education program, and many volunteer opportunities. Families are also involved in the school through the Parent Teacher Group and by serving as Crew Parents who assist in the coordination of out of school crew activities.
We are proud of our high level of parent/guardian attendance at student led conferences and culminating events. We set accountability plans with the DESE that included scholar and parent/guardian participation in these activities. The tables below indicate high levels of parent/guardian participation in both activities. Note: Prior to 2015-16 we did not track parent/guardian participation at culminating events.
These quotes are from comments parents/guardians made on our 2016-17 family survey.
McAuliffe's annual 5K Fun Run brings together families, faculty, scholars, alumni, and other friends of the school to celebrate health, wellness, and raise funds for fieldwork.
We have gathered data supporting our claims for each dimension of student achievement in a spreadsheet that you can access by clicking on the image to the right. There are 5 sheets in the workbook; you can move between them through the tabs at the bottom of each page: Table of Contents, EL Implementation Review, Mastery of Knowledge & Skills, Student Character and Engagement, High Quality Student Work, and Demographics.
Please note the following about our MKS data: Over the last four years, McAuliffe has used three different standardized tests to assess end of year student learning: MCAS (2013 & 2014), PARCC (2015 & 2016), and MCAS-Next Generation (2017). Because of the changing tests and different rating scales for proficiency, McAuliffe’s credentialing data for Mastery of Knowledge and Skills uses a measure called Composite Performance Index (CPI). The DESE has provided a CPI for each grade, subject, and year so that schools can compare their performance year to year and compare performance with other schools, districts, and the state. To further verify the use of CPI as a proficiency measure, we have received an explanatory email from Alison Bagg, Director of the Office of Charter Schools and School Redesign.
The data for 2017 Next Generation MCAS was released publicly on October 18, 2017. We have included the 2017 MCAS results in a separate tab of our credentialing data and show the school’s proficiency (percent meeting or exceeding expectations) instead of a CPI. We show this data as proficiency and in its own tab because a) the DESE is not reporting any CPI for 2017 data, b) the DESE has made it clear that the 2017 results should not be compared with any previous MCAS or PARCC results.
McAuliffe is proud of have outperformed the state and Framingham on 2017 testing for the aggregate as well as the subgroups: students with disabilities and economically disadvantaged students. Because we only recently received the full results, we have not integrated full analysis into the mastery of knowledge and skills claims in our portfolio. However, we will be happy to answer questions about the results at our portfolio presentation.
All EL Education schools set strategic implementation and student achievement goals that complement the annual work plan, which govern the collaborative work that we do together as a faculty throughout the year. Performance benchmarks provide McAuliffe with a road-map toward our longer term objectives. During the course of the year, we monitor and reflect on progress toward benchmarks and make mid-course adjustments to our work plan as needed. The image to the left links to our current performance benchmark document that has been translated into EL Education's most recent template for performance evaluation.
EL Implementation Review
As an EL Education school we participate in an annual implementation review. This process helps us monitor progress toward implementation of EL Education’s power core practices. Teachers, leaders, and our EL Education school designer give input to the annual implementation review. Below we have provided links to each of our Implementation Reviews for the last three years. Our credentialing data also includes a sheet with historical implementation review data that allows for easier annual comparison. We are proud of the substantial progress we have made toward showing strong implementation of the majority of EL Education’s power core practices. Since 2013-14 we have made aggressive growth in our implementation of core practices.
In 2016-17 McAuliffe’s overall score increased from 100 to 108 points; we rated at “high levels of implementation” on 25 of the 26 power practices (up from 21 in 2015-16). We also received five ratings of “5” for Fostering Character, School Vision, Positive School Culture, Professional Learning, and Supporting Planning, Assessment, & Instruction. This equates to the school demonstrating high levels of implementation on 96% of the EL power core practices. The one area rated lower than “4” is “Culture of Mathematics”. The School’s math/science department has established a 2017-18 work plan goal related to this core practice. Our aim is to bring this score to a 4 by the end of the current school year.
MA Department of Education Review & Charter Renewal
“CMCS is highly faithful to its mission to cultivate a commitment to self and community in its students, and implements the expeditionary learning model with fidelity.” ~ DESE site visitors, fall 2016
In 2017, the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) renewed McAuliffe unconditionally through 2022. The renewal process included a thorough review of the three areas of charter school accountability: Faithfulness to the Mission of the Charter, Academic Success, and Organizational Viability. In addition to reviewing substantial programmatic documents including curriculum, assessments, educator evaluations, financials, and board of trustee meeting notes, members of the renewal team visited the school for a renewal inspection. They observed classes and met with teacher, leader, and board member focus groups. (A team met with students and parents in a 2014 planned site visit, so this wasn’t required during the 2016 visit.) Here are links to McAuliffe’s Renewal Inspection Report and the letter from the Commissioner of the DESE announcing the school’s renewal through 2022.