Our vision is to be a dynamic learning community where students become life-long learners, develop self-knowledge, and are challenged to excel.
The mission of the Atlanta Neighborhood Charter School (ANCS) is to use the principles of the Coalition of Essential Schools to:
- BUILD an empowered and inclusive community of students, parents, and educators
- ENGAGE the whole child—intellectually, social-emotionally, and physically
- HELP all students to know themselves and to be known well by their community
- CHALLENGE each student to take an active role as an informed citizen in a global society
- COLLABORATE with the larger community to advocate for student-centered schools
In carrying out our mission, we are guided by the following values and principles that are important to ANCS.
Individual & Collective Responsibility to our School Family
At ANCS, our guiding principles describe who we are and how we are to behave as members of the ANCS school family:
We come to school and every class prepared to learn and do our best
We respect each other, our surroundings, and ourselves
We take responsibility for our actions and learning
We resolve conflicts in a peaceful, thoughtful, and meaningful way
We celebrate our individual and collective successes
These guiding principles help us as a school family—students and adults alike—to create a tone of decency and trust within our school. They provide the basis for clear and consistent expectations about what is acceptable at our school. We make time to acknowledge and recognize students, teachers, and parents who exemplify these guiding principles.
As well, appropriate supports and consequences are given to those who struggle to consistently follow these guiding principles. We also use the practices of Conscious Discipline to support the creation of a school family and a safe learning environment for students.
Hands-On, Personalized Learning & Performance-Based Assessment
ANCS is affiliated with the Coalition of Essential Schools (CES), a national network of schools focused on creating schools that are intellectually challenging, personalized, and democratic. CES is not a charter management company nor does it have a “model” that its schools follow. CES schools are simply united by a shared commitment to ten Common Principles that guide teaching, learning, and decision-making at each school:
Learning to use one’s mind well
The school should focus on helping young people learn to use their minds well. Schools should not be “comprehensive” if such a claim is made at the expense of the school’s central intellectual purpose.
Less is more: depth over coverage
The school’s goals should be simple: that each student master a limited number of essential skills and areas of knowledge. While these skills and areas will, to varying degrees, reflect the traditional academic disciplines, the program’s design should be shaped by the intellectual and imaginative powers and competencies that the students need, rather than by “subjects” as conventionally defined. The aphorism “less is more” should dominate: curricular decisions should be guided by the aim of thorough student mastery and achievement rather than by an effort
to merely cover content.
Goals apply to all students
The school’s goals should apply to all students, while the means to these goals will vary as those students themselves vary. School practice should be tailor-made to meet the needs of every group or class of students.
Teaching and learning should be personalized to the maximum feasible extent. Efforts should be directed toward a goal that no teacher have direct responsibility for more than 80 students in the high school and middle school and no more than 20 in the elementary school. To capitalize on this personalization, decisions about the details of the course of study, the use of students’ and teachers’ time and the choice of teaching materials and specific pedagogies must be unreservedly placed in the hands of the principal and staff.
The governing practical metaphor of the school should be “student-as-worker”, rather than the more familiar metaphor of “teacher as deliverer of instructional services.” Accordingly, a prominent pedagogy will be coaching students to learn how to learn and thus to teach themselves.
Demonstration of mastery
Teaching & learning should be documented & assessed with tools based on student performance of real tasks. Students not yet at appropriate levels of competence should be provided intensive support & resources to assist them quickly to meet those standards. Multiple forms of evidence, ranging from ongoing observation of the learner to completion of specific projects, should be used to better understand the learner’s strengths & needs, & to plan for further assistance. Students should have opportunities to exhibit their expertise before family & community. The diploma should be awarded upon a successful final demonstration of mastery for graduation – an “Exhibition.” As the diploma is awarded when earned, the school’s program proceeds with no strict age grading & with no system of “credits earned” by “time spent” in class.
A tone of decency and trust
The tone of the school should explicitly and self-consciously stress values of unanxious expectation, of trust, and of decency (fairness, generosity, and tolerance). Incentives appropriate to the school’s particular students and teachers should be emphasized. Families should be key collaborators and vital members of the school community
Commitment to the entire school
The principal and teachers should perceive themselves as generalists first (teachers and scholars in general education) and specialists second (experts in but one particular discipline). Staff should expect multiple obligations (teacher-counselor-manager) and demonstrate a sense of commitment to the entire school.
Resources dedicated to teaching and learning
Ultimate administrative and budget targets should include student loads that promote personalization, substantial time for collective planning by teachers, competitive salaries for staff, and an ultimate per-pupil cost not to exceed that at traditional schools by more than 10 percent. To accomplish this, administrative plans may have to show the phased reduction or elimination of some services now provided to students in many schools.
Democracy and equity
The school should demonstrate non-discriminatory and inclusive policies, practices, and pedagogies. It should model democratic practices that involve all who are directly affected by the school. The school should honor diversity and build on the strength of its communities, deliberately and explicitly challenging all forms of inequity.
ANCS’s academic and organizational innovations—including performance-based portfolio assessment, interdisciplinary teaching, comprehensive sustainability initiatives, an advisory program, and extensive support for teachers’ professional development—reflect the CES Common Principles, and these innovations benefit students during the critical years that begin in kindergarten and extend through middle school. Numerous studies have shown that students in CES schools demonstrate a high level of progress academically and personally.
Diversity & Equity
ANCS believes in the power that comes from students learning with and from classmates of different backgrounds. Our school is affiliated with the Diverse Charter Schools Coalition, a collection of schools with racially, culturally, and socioeconomically diverse student populations with the following shared beliefs:
- Diverse schools provide greater opportunities for students to learn from one another.
- Diversity is a cost-effective method of boosting student achievement.
- Diverse schools promote the celebration and understanding of other cultures and viewpoints.
- Diverse schools invigorate and strengthen urban neighborhoods by bringing community members together.
- Charter schools can and should contribute to solving the historic challenge of integrating our public school system.
- Achieving diversity often requires deliberate efforts through recruitment, admissions policies and school design.
- Diverse charter schools promote equality by ensuring that students from different backgrounds have the same high quality educational opportunities.