Mater focuses on Rigor, Relevance and Relationships in learning within a college preparatory environment. Mater schools meet high standards of student achievement through the delivery of a rigorous and relevant advanced curriculum, with an emphasis on mastery of the content of core academic areas (language arts,math,science,history, and the arts) within a framework of communication (reading, writing, speaking and analyzing) and holistic learning. Teachers and other support staff use data from all available assessments to develop and target instruction in order to meet the needs of all students so that each child can realize his or her highest potential. Units of instruction within and across all grade levels provide a vertically integrated curriculum framework that scaffolds the skills and knowledge required for success, and concomitantly provides teachers with continuous feedback on student progress. By design, Mater’s program is aligned to the Florida Standards and a college preparatory curriculum.
Mater’s Educational Program
At the elementary level, Mater’s curriculum provides a solid academic foundation for students to succeed at subsequent levels. Cognitive science research in mathematics and reading underscores the emphasis on meaning and understanding, beginning in the early elementary grades. Thus, much of the curriculum is centered on this approach as well as remediation when necessary. Instruction emphasizes developmental learning while providing differentiated strategies (supports and interventions for struggling students and students with special needs, as well as enrichment for advanced learners). The curriculum for struggling students at Mater elementary schools is not limited to pullout instruction in reading and math, but is as rich and balanced as the instruction provided to the highest achieving students. While student success at grade level for reading and mathematics is important, such minimal competencies are only a part of the total educational goals and objectives for all Mater students.
Secondary school programs bridge middle to high school and high school to college gaps through a vertically aligned educational program designed by educators working in Professional Learning Communities (PLC) in reading, math and science, while simultaneously integrating college coursework into high school programs. Program elements at the secondary level include SpringBoard, a CollegeBoard curriculum, which provides an instructional loop that begins the CollegeBoard Standards for college success to ensure all students are prepared for AP high school and college level courses – without remediation (and which are aligned to the Florida Standards). This curriculum includes formative assessments and a continual professional development program for teachers. Rigor, Relevance and Relationships serve as the fundamental core of pedagogy and drive teaching and learning within Mater Schools, preparing students for success in meeting the demands of the 21st century.
The Mater Academy School System offers a college preparatory curriculum full of rigor to all students. We are especially proud of the success of our students which are historically underrepresented in college. For us, helping low income students and creating first generation college graduates is a core part of our mission. We work with both students and their families to “raise the bar”. Through our parent academies and CAP advisors, we emphasize that at Mater its not about if a student is going to college but where a student is going to college.
Closing the Achievement Gap
One of Maters core strengths is producing learning gains with our students. This year, with changes in statewide testing,resulting in implementation of a new statewide test(Florida Standards Assessment) there is no means for calculating learning gains, which has traditionally been where Mater schools demonstrate their greatest value. School grades, based upon the results of the statewide assessments, will therefore not factor in learning gains (in the 2014-15 school year) and therefore, although we continue to utilize our own metrics for gauging learner success, the school grades will not reflect all that our students have accomplished nor how much they have grown academically in a year’s time.
Mater must impress with our academic and financial results. Coupled with our success is an implied responsibility to be a model for our surrounding area and all charter schools. It isn’t enough to equal or even to exceed the achievement rate of neighboring schools by several percentage points, but Mater students must instead demonstrate significant learning gains, and in the 2015-16 school year we will again be able to do so.
The Mater Academy School System, offers a college preparatory curriculum program of rigor to all students. But we are especially proud of our students, which are historically underrepresented in college. Becoming a first generation college student remains a challenge for some students because they lack the “know how” of how to be “on track” for college admission due to cultural influences. Most students come from families where college was not an option because the need to work and support the household far outweighed the benefit and delayed “satisfaction” of a college education and pursuit of a career-oriented job. Thus, some parents have great difficulty encouraging their children to pursue postsecondary education, because they often lack the skills to guide their children; lack the financial resources to support this endeavor; and fear the strain of the lost income could provide had their child continued working immediately after high school. For us, the challenge is to work with both students and their families, to shift that paradigm and “raise the bar”. Through our parent academies and CAP advisors, we emphasize that at Mater its not about if a students is going to college but where a student is going to college.