Charter School FAQ

What are charter schools?

A charter school is a public school whose operation is based on a contract with an authorizer (in Utah this is the Charter School Board). Charter schools are publicly funded, and may be initiated and run by parents, teachers, educators, business leaders, or community members. The purpose of charter schools is to offer parents and students additional choices in education. Charter schools allow educators the freedom to try new, innovative strategies that are more effective and efficient. Charter schools also allow individuals and organizations outside of the traditional education system to create and run public schools.

A traditional district-school board, along with its superintendent and staff, are usually responsible to govern multiple schools simultaneously. Districts often oversee so many schools that they are unable to intimately focus on each school’s individual needs. In contrast, charter school board members and directors only oversee one school. This allows a charter-school’s governing body to be more responsive and focused on the individual needs of their specific school’s student/parent population.

 

Does a charter school charge tuition?

Charter schools are public schools supported by public funds. In Utah, charter schools are not allowed to charge tuition. Gateway Preparatory Academy is free to attend.

 

How can I get my child into Gateway Preparatory Academy?

Fill out an enrollment packet for each child and submit each application.

In the event that there is limited space available, students will be admitted through a lottery. To be placed in the lottery, parents will need to complete an application of enrollment for each of their children. Each submitted application will then be entered into the lottery, from which the seats will be filled. If one sibling in a family is chosen through the lottery process, all siblings will also gain admittance.

 

Are charter schools accredited?

In the State of Utah,  all public schools (which includes charter schools) granting high school credit are required to be accredited by the Northwest Association of Accredited Schools.

Gateway Preparatory Academy serves elementary through middle school (K-8). We are not required by law to be accredited, but still have sought and meet the requirements established by the AdvancedED Accreditation Commission, and thereby have achieved accreditation through the Northwest Accreditation Commission.

 

Are the students at charter schools assessed for academic performance?

Charter schools have the same standardized testing requirements as other public schools. Results are published through the USOE.

 

Are teachers certified at a charter school?

Charter school teachers are under the same licensing requirements as that of other public school teachers.

 

Do I have to live in a certain area to attend a charter school?

No. Gateway can accept students living in any district in Utah who wish to apply.

 

Does Gateway Preparatory Academy have a uniform?

No, but we do have a very basic dress code that you can find on our website.

 

Does Gateway Preparatory Academy offer Special Education services?

Yes. We have all of the resources needed to serve those with special education needs.

 

Do all charter schools have a “focus”?

No, but many do.

Gateway Preparatory Academy’s approach or “focus” is the Montessori Method.

 

What or Who is Montessori?

The Montessori Method was developed by Maria Montessori (1870—1952). She was the first woman to graduate as a medical doctor in Italy. She began her work with special needs children who were placed in the hospital where she worked. Later she expanded her research to socially deprived children who lived in the slums of Italy, where she achieved world renown for her successes there. She developed a philosophy of education through the observation of these children, and began training others to recreate the success of her first school—The Children’s House. Over the years, the success of her first school has been repeated all over the world and has been found to be effective with all children.

The core of Montessori is respect and support for a child’s inner quest for learning. This requires time, attention, awareness, and the modeling of respect, enthusiasm, and patience.

 

What are the major differences between the Montessori Method and traditional classrooms?

Generally speaking, traditional classrooms tend to be teacher-centered, teacher-directed, large-group oriented, and subjective.

In the Montessori classroom, the teacher is considered a guide, the lessons are individualized to meet the needs of each individual child, the focus is on helping a child develop and maintain intrinsic motivation to do work, and mistakes are seen as learning opportunities the child is able to correct himself/herself.

The Montessori teacher’s training also has a different emphasis than traditional training. Montessorians are trained to educate the “whole child”. This means that learning incorporates not only academics but also social skills, emotional growth, physical coordination, and ways for children to create self-generated knowledge about the world. Students are guided according to individual needs. Subjects are taught in context to each other and there is an emphasis on the interconnectedness of all things.

 

What is the Montessori Method?

There are basically 4 essential components in establishing the Montessori method.

1. Preparation of the Environment:

The classroom feels peaceful, orderly, calm, inviting and interesting. It is full of beauty and simplicity. Everything should be accessible to the children, including child-size furniture. The emphasis of the space is that it belongs to the children—The Children’s House. Montessori designed the educational materials on the shelves to attract children by appealing to their senses. The materials are meant to be used in a specific sequence and are designed to be self-correcting so that children can make their own discoveries.

2. Multi-age Classrooms

Montessori identified four “planes of development,” with each stage having its own developmental characteristics and developmental challenges. At each level, Montessori environments (classrooms) are designed to address the developmental characteristics normal to children in that stage.

Montessori classes are organized to encompass three-year age spans (0-3, 3-6, 6-9, 9-12) which allow younger students the positive example of older children, who in turn benefit from serving as role models. Each child learns at his/her own pace and will be ready for any given lesson in his/her own time, not on the teacher’s schedule of lessons in a one-size-fits-all model. In a mixed-age class, children can always find peers who are working at their current level.

Working in one class for three years allows students to develop a strong sense of community with their classmates and teachers. The age range also allows especially gifted children the association of intellectual peers, without requiring that they skip a grade or feel emotionally out of place.

3. Observation of each child:

Montessorians are trained to understand the developmental stages of children. They are not only taught how to recognize where children are in the developmental process, but are also taught to understand and meet the needs that arise in each of the stages. Through observation they allow for each child’s pace and abilities to unfold naturally and gracefully. They guide each child’s learning according to the observations of his/her mental, physical, and psychological needs.

4. Freedom within limits:

The Montessori environment and method allows for movement, choice and socialization. But with that freedom, there are definite rules associated with respect, good conduct, and self-control. The focus in a Montessori environment is for Montessori Guides to model, teach and reteach proper behaviors that build good character for life.

 

What subject areas are taught?

Language arts and mathematics are fundamentals of the Montessori classroom. These subjects are taught using concrete, hands-on manipulatives. Montessori lessons are designed to span from very concrete materials to more and more abstract materials, until students can fully abstract the concepts without using any physical manipulatives. Students who develop a solid understanding of concrete manipulations are later able to accurately and effectively abstract manipulations mentally because they have a true understanding of how things relate and work together.

Montessori included in her mathematical layout a beautifully sequenced Geometry curriculum. This curriculum focuses on the recognition of shapes — including difficult shapes, like a scalene acute-angled triangle – in ways that appeal to children at each developmental age grouping. The sequence spans from kindergarten (3-6) through the elementary grades (6-9, 9-12). Montessori Geometry introduces two and three dimensional shapes, with presentations that focus on helping students make connections between the materials and the world around them.  In the upper elementary, the geometry lessons are designed to show the relationships between angles, lines, and shapes in preparation for more advanced geometry comparisons, like geometry proofs. Surface area is also shown concretely and then linked to the standard formulas.

The Montessori environment also offers a vast, enriched science/ social studies curriculum that has many facets. Simply called the “cultural areas” in the Montessori classroom, these include: History, Geography, Zoology, and Botany.

Due to the nature of the Montessori environment, where children enjoy the consistency of being in the same classroom for three years, they have the opportunity to more systematically experience presented information and thereby build a more solid knowledge base.

“Practical life” is another specialized curriculum area in Montessori environments. It includes physical coordination skills that children need to become independent in any given subject. Though these activities vary, they often include: learning to tie, button, and zip, as well as pour, polish, and clean. In older students the skills taught become more intricate and can include cooking, measuring, gardening, sewing, knitting, using hand tools, table setting, using a compass, reading a map and carrying out simple to complex scientific experiments.

“Sensorial” materials were created to help children refine their senses. All information is retrieved through the senses so Montessori felt it very important to train the senses. Each sensorial material isolates a quality found in the world such as color, size, shape, smell, sound etc., and this isolation focuses the attention on the one aspect. The child, through repeated manipulation of these objects, comes to form clear ideas or abstractions. What could not be explained by words, the child learns through experience while working with the sensorial materials.

Art and music also enrich a Montessori environment. Students are provided instruction and materials that isolate the fundamental qualities found in both music and art. Students build their artistic abilities through the process of their own explorations and experiences. As part of their art education, they are given lessons on famous artists found throughout the world, and are also exposed to quality examples and artifacts. The arts are woven into and used throughout the Montessori curriculum.

Gateway Preparatory Academy employs a local artist to teach art, as well as a band and orchestra teacher. In the upper elementary grades, anyone wishing to play an instrument or join a choir has the opportunity to do so. Lower elementary students also have many opportunities to participate in musical education and performance. Student art is displayed throughout the school.

Gateway offers Spanish education for grades 1-8.

 

Are Montessori and the Utah Common Core compatible?

The Montessori philosophy includes a systematic approach in presenting information for a comprehensive array of subjects. Well-run Montessori schools produce well-rounded, competent students all over the world.

Check out this article:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-407528/Children-Montessori-schools-better-educated.html

The Common Core lays out a specific sequence of how information should be presented to students in the U.S. states who have adopted its standards.

There is some variation between the Montessori curriculum sequencing and the Common Core sequencing. However, the Montessori curriculum is dynamic and provides the in-depth understandings outlined by the Common Core. There are small modifications in the Montessori sequencing that can be made to make the Montessori curriculum a perfect match in meeting the expectations of the Common Core.

 

What happens in a typical day in a Montessori classroom?

Often after arrival, children sit in a circle for a group meeting. The Montessori Guide (teacher) takes this opportunity to set the tone for the day. The agenda may vary: singing, exchanging news, reminders, birthday celebrations, etc. Next the children typically go to “work”. Work takes place throughout the room: at tables, on small rugs, or at special work stations or areas. Students are free to move respectfully around the environment. Students often carry with them a “tracker”, which is a list of lessons that they have been given along with the accompanying assignments that they need to be working on. Choosing the order of the work required on their tracker consists of self-initiated planning and time budgeting. Children are given the time that they need to accomplish their work. They are also given the time and freedom to more fully explore the subjects that interest them.

The morning consists of a three hour period of uninterrupted work time, meaning that all activities and small group/individual lessons take place in the classroom. The uninterrupted 3 hour block allows students the time to really focus on their work, and thereby build concentration skills.

During lunch, students are taught and expected to use appropriate manners; this includes cleaning up their own eating area when finished.

After lunch students return to work in the classroom and may attend specials classes (music, art, Spanish, library) at various scheduled times. Class Planning/ Conflict Resolution meetings may often occur sometime after lunch as well.

 

Are Montessori children allowed to do whatever they want?

No.

There is a saying that governs the Montessori approach towards children: “Freedom within limits”. This means to allow children choices when appropriate and to restrict choices when appropriate. Children need the security and structure of consistent, firm, wise adult guidance.

“To give a child liberty is not to abandon him to himself.” Maria Montessori

Dr. Montessori did admonish her followers to “follow the child”. She did not mean however to give the child adult authority or to advocate their total free reign. What she meant by this simple statement was that adults should look to accommodate individualized learning. Through observation, she asked that guides assess what a child’s needs are and then to make a plan on how to meet those needs best—through a lesson or through modeling. The focus in a Montessori environment is always on leading a child towards self-sufficiency by designing age-appropriate activities and responsibilities.

“The children in our schools are free, but that does not mean there is no organization. Organization, in fact, is necessary, and if the children are to be free to work, it must be even more thorough than in the ordinary schools.” (The Absorbent Mind p.223)

 

What is the Montessori discipline model?

“Let us always remember that inner discipline is something to come and not something already present. Our task is to show the way to discipline. Discipline is born when the child concentrates his attention on some object that attracts him and which provides him not only with a useful exercise but with a control of error. Thanks to these exercises, a wonderful integration takes place in the infant soul, as a result of which the child becomes calm, radiantly happy, busy, forgetful of himself and, in consequence, indifferent to prizes or material rewards.”

The Absorbent Mind p.241)

“Teach teaching, not correcting” (Montessori) in order to allow the child to be a fully functional member in society.

“The discipline we are looking for is active. We do not believe that one is self-disciplined only when he is artificially made [silent and motionless]. Such a one is not disciplined but annihilated. We claim that an individual is disciplined when he is a master of himself and when he can, as a consequence, control himself when he must follow a rule of life.” (The Absorbent Mind ).

 

Discipline in the Classroom:

In a Montessori classroom, ground rules are discussed and consistently enforced from the first day of school. Students, with teacher guidance, are often invited to be creators of these rules in class meetings. Rules generally can be categorized into two areas: showing consideration and being responsible. Both of these areas are based on the primary rule of respect: respect for the classroom, friends, teachers, visitors and self.

Consequences for breaking the rules usually consist of first re-directing the student toward proper conduct. Next the student will lose the right to choose and move in the classroom. Then the student will be sent out of the classroom to the refocus room on a red card. There a call home will be made to inform parents about a student’s disruptive behavior. Lastly, the teacher may ask for a parent/teacher conference.

 

Why don’t I see the teacher when I come into a classroom?

Montessori teachers are trained to place themselves at eye level with the students instead of creating space and furniture barriers between themselves and the children. You will often see Montessori teachers seated on the floor with their students or in a chair next to them. The focus of the environment is never about the adults in the room, but instead the focus is on shaping the environment to meet the needs of the children. A Montessori Guide is to be a gentle presence that blends easily into the peaceful, calm environment. Montessori Guides are instructed to teach mainly through example.

 

How do Montessori students transition into mainstream classrooms?

Montessori children are problem solvers. They are self-confident and are life-long learners. The Montessori classroom supports the brain’s natural development, leading from concrete thinking to abstract thinking. This support makes future pen/paper activities more meaningful and accomplishable. The Montessori student has had the opportunity to be an active learner, encouraged to seek information regardless of obstacles. This intrinsic construct the student develops in a Montessori environment will promote success in future educational and professional situations.

 

Sources:

http://www.schools.utah.gov/charterschools/
http://www.villagegateacademy.com/about-us/basic-elements-of-the-montessori-approach.html

Common Questions and Answers about the Montessori Method. Lake Hills Montessori – Bee Cave http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=2&ved=0CCYQFjAB&url=http%3A%2F%2Fbeecave.lakehillsmontessori.com%2Fwp-content%2Fuploads%2F2011%2F08%2FLHM_BC_2010_Montessori_FAQ.pdf&ei=DwWrU-KiG839oATD5oLgAQ&usg=AFQjCNFGqxSjLanc9nNyNS3Hhg4GFVBaYQ&bvm=bv.69620078,d.cGU