C. Teaching and Learning
Rosary Academy provides students with a challenging, engaging, and comprehensive academic program. Our teachers have aligned their curriculum with frameworks including Common Core, the College Board Advanced Placement Subject Standards, and the Curriculum Framework of the US Catholic Council of Bishops. Accessible via the school’s website, the course catalog articulates the scope and sequence of the curriculum including course prerequisites, graduation and UC/CSU requirements, and academic policies. Overall, the data shows that 94.7% of students are satisfied with the challenges presented by Rosary’s rigorous academics. However, we value our students' input when it comes to broadening our course offerings, and student surveys revealed their desire for more electives. So far, teachers have proposed some exciting new courses for the 2018-2019 school year including orchestra, introduction to drama, and Latin!
In an effort to help the faculty stay current and develop improved instructional strategies, the head of school, director of curriculum, department chairs, and AP coordinator often promote professional development opportunities so that teachers can bring back useful techniques to use in their classes and share with their colleagues. As of January 2018, teachers in every department reported receiving additional training in their respective fields. Adopting a modified PLC structure will improve the faculty's ability to implement this new learning. Since only 24% of teachers indicated they review curriculum with their colleagues, and 71% of teachers indicated a need for a more guided process to ensure the most effective scaffolding of their department’s learning objectives, the modified PLC structure will give Rosary Academy teachers a structured format to collaborate purposefully.
The evolution of the mentor teacher role into an instructional coaching position (2017-2018) has especially empowered our new Rosary Academy teachers to experiment with instructional techniques, reflect on student progress, and modify their teaching accordingly. According to their survey answers, 88% of new Rosary Academy teachers feel that having the support of a mentor teacher has increased their confidence, comfort level, and instructional knowledge. Much of this has to do with the self-reflection our new teachers do as a part of their growth (Self-Reflection Form Example). This evidence suggests all teachers would benefit from reflection, and it is a goal to engage both department chairs and teachers in this process as part of their biannual teacher reviews. Since only 31% of students reported understanding the connection between instruction and the ISO's, the self-reflection piece can also help close this gap and lead to a more meaningful learning experience unique to Rosary Academy.
Understanding the rich diversity of learning styles in our student population, Rosary Academy teachers use a variety of instructional strategies ranging from traditional lecture and guided note taking to creative role-play activities and the flipped classroom approach. Whether it’s a real-life pilgrims’ walk to simulate the characters in The Canterbury Tales in senior English or the creation of physical objects using the 3D printer in Computer Graphics III, our teachers continually strive to engage their students in the material. These methods allow teachers to make actual class time a more dynamic and interactive experience.
Rosary Academy teachers use a wide variety of classroom assessments to determine whether students are learning and when to make adjustments. These assessments are consistently communicated to students using syllabi, Moodle, and even the Remind app. Formative assessments include quizzes, guided group discussion, peer review, and exit slips; summative assessments include tests, research papers, group projects, and skills demonstrations in the visual arts. In an effort to empower students to develop agency of their education, teachers often encourage students to invent their own assessment types or work collaboratively to create project rubrics. However, although teachers demonstrate creativity with their assessments, they also need more time and guidance to determine how to best use assessment results to drive instruction; 52% of our teachers say they don’t have enough time to effectively review student data and make timely changes. An annual assessment review, both intra and inter departmentally, would benefit our teachers and students alike. It would allow for instructional personnel to review results from standardized tests and final exams and make curriculum and pacing changes accordingly.
The 2016 additions of the Learning and Enrichment Center (LEC) and the Center for Learning (C4L) have positively impacted Rosary Academy’s academics, especially in the area of differentiation. The C4L partners teachers with learning specialists, including a team of trained clinical and school psychologists to help students understand their learning styles, develop executive functioning skills, and improve their ability to self-advocate. The C4L has helped teachers with strategies to modify instruction for students and to develop plans for their continued success. The adjacent LEC provides a collaborative learning environment with flexible seating and technology friendly study areas. Students are encouraged to use the soundproof study rooms to practice presentations and work out math equations or brainstorm essay topics on the erasable walls. To supplement classroom instruction, the LEC staff also offers enrichment opportunities for both students and teachers including seminars on how to utilize Rosary Academy’s information databases and determine appropriate sources for research papers. The friendly LEC staff also promotes independent reading by encouraging students to check out current fiction and write reviews, which are then put on display for other students to enjoy.
Rosary Academy regularly reports student achievement in a variety of timely ways. The Aeries grade portal allows parents and students to view assignments, grades, completion dates, and student progress. In addition, Rosary Academy teachers send two progress reports home before both semester finals, and school policy requires teachers to contact parents if a student has a C- or lower. Teachers are expected to update Aeries regularly. Finally, the Rosary Academy community honors students at assemblies, Senior Awards Night and graduation, the Scholars Dinner, and through college athletics signing ceremonies. Via the school’s website, e-news, official social media, and student newspaper, The Royal Reporter, Rosary Academy champions the many accolades of its student body.