Goal 1: 21st Century Education and Diversity

The mission and core values of the Academy provide the framework for focusing on the needs of students both for today and for the future. Because the world our children will live and work in is becoming ever-more complex and challenging, our mission requires that the school provide a stable knowledge-base (“what we believe students need to know”) integrated with the teaching and intentional practice of skills they will need to be successful in school and later in life.

These skills include:
  • Critical Thinking and Problem Solving
  • Collaboration
  • Entrepreneurialism
  • Written and Oral Expression
  • Intercultural Competency
  • Creativity
  • Adaptability and Resilience
See Appendix A for Definitions of These Skills

Continuing to deliver the core program rich in appropriate, relevant content while providing an environment in which skills can be learned and practiced will ensure that students graduate with broad and deep knowledge of both traditional and developing disciplines. This approach ensures that students will have both the knowledge and the ability to use what they know in new circumstances that will be critical to their future growth.

Further, because educational research has shown that learning in a diverse environment and working with diverse groups leads to better academic results and outcomes, and because of the increasing need for students to be able to interact across borders, both far and near, students must be educated in a diverse environment and provided opportunities to develop cross-cultural competencies to maximize their opportunities for success both in the classroom today and in the workplace of the future.

Objectives & Outcomes

List of 8 items.

  • Objective A

    Building on the initiatives of the past five years, continue to attract, retain, and develop an outstanding faculty, administration, and staff. [See Appendix B for description of recruitment and retention process]

    OUTCOME: Those who work with our children are the best educated, best trained, and best supported individuals we can find and retain.
  • Objective B

    Building on the assessment, coordination, and implementation of outstanding educational programs, integrate 21st century skills [defined in Appendix A] with the Academy’s mission and core values in all programs within and beyond the classroom, and regularly evaluate progress Pre-K-12.

    OUTCOME: Knowledgeable, skilled graduates of character who are prepared for the challenges of the future.
  • Objective C

    Engaging the well-developed, cross-divisional curriculum committee structure as well as faculty leadership, create a curriculum map of all aspects of the Pre-K-12 educational program of the Academy. [See Appendix C for description of curriculum mapping]

    OUTCOME: Faculty at all levels of the Pre-K-12 academic program will continuously align content, instructional methods, and assessment strategies with 21st century skills and Academy mission and core values.
  • Objective D

    Continue to build and sustain an inclusive and diverse community through intentional recruitment and retention, educational programming, equitable policies and practices, and the development of intercultural competency for students, parents, faculty, staff, administrators, and trustees.

    Note: At Sewickley Academy, diversity embraces all manner of differences, including but not limited to race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, age, gender, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, family structure, physical ability and learning differences.

    [See Appendix D for further description of diversity and intercultural competency]

    OUTCOME: Leaders—students and adults—equipped with the educational tools, the interpersonal strength, the intercultural skills, and the commitment to civic engagement that will enable them to influence others in the service of the greater good.
  • Appendix A - Definitions of Terms - “21st Century Skills”

    Appendix A - Definitions of Terms - “21st Century Skills”

    Critical Thinking and Problem Solving
    Critical thinking and problem solving are interrelated skills that require the individual to be able to analyze a problem, break it down into its constituent parts, understand the relationships among those parts, and then determine the best solution.  Such skills may appear discipline-specific, but they are transferable to a wide-range of problems across a range of domains.  Thus, the analysis of a poem that begins by identifying the poem as a sonnet, uses form as a starting place for understanding theme, which is very much the same approach a mechanic might use when noting that a particular engine is air-cooled rather than water-cooled, leading in one direction of problem-solving rather than another.
    Collaborating with others towards a shared or collective goal demands the commitment of the individual to the collective good and the balancing of individual strengths and weaknesses in order to capitalize on the strengths of the group.  Negotiation, give and take, appropriate allocation of responsibility: these are the necessary skills to successful collaboration.  Studies have shown that groups have a powerful advantage over individual problem-solvers, so teaching students the skills they need to work well in groups will place them in a position of advantage for future.
    Entrepreneurialism is a disposition towards activity that provides the impetus to move from the conception of an idea or project through to its successful implementation, i.e., bringing into existence something that had not been there before.  The essence is not economic in the sense that many may see this term, but rather descriptive of the passion engendered by true engagement and a desire to see a project through to completion.  This entrepreneurial spirit may manifest itself in a service learning project, in an independent study, or in any activity in which a student has a vision and initiates a process and carries it through to the realization of that vision. 
    Written and Oral Expression
    The ability to choose and use a variety of rhetorical forms to communicate appropriately and effectively in writing and the ability to prepare and deliver remarks orally in front of individuals or groups: these skills are the sin qua non for any educated person.  They are essential to success in virtually any field human endeavor.
    Intercultural Competency
    Intercultural competency is the ability to use knowledge, awareness, and skills to achieve effective interactions between and among different individuals, groups, and institutions.  Effective interactions are those that result in respectful, inclusive, and equitable relationships, treatment, and systems.  Intercultural Competency requires the self-awareness that each individual is a multicultural being with biases and prejudices that effect decisions and actions.  It further requires a willingness to challenge one’s own knowledge-base and perspective to foster empathy for others and maintain competence in an ever-changing environment. 

    All children are naturally creative, and the goal of identifying creativity as a 21st Century skill is to highlight the increasing importance of this skill or disposition in an age when so much routine work can be done by machines.  Creativity cannot be outsourced, so it must be nurtured at every level and in every discipline by fostering an environment that encourages and supports divergent, creative, independent, and original thinking.  Supporting classrooms that are student-centered and pedagogy that allows students to learn by doing is an essential step in creating environments that nurture and support students’ innate creativity.
    Adaptability and Resilience
    The ability to respond fluidly and constructively to changing and even chaotic conditions is the central element of adaptability.  Because not all adaptions will necessarily be successful, the twin element of resilience must be developed in students by creating an environment in which appropriate risk-taking is encouraged, where real success brings a possibility of real failure.  True resilience can only be developed by experiencing setbacks or failures and then learning how to move constructively forward from them.  The elimination of obstacles, of opportunities for failure and the consequences of failure, undermines the development of resilience and may have the additional outcome of producing risk-averse graduates who are unable or unwilling to attempt new or different challenges.  
  • Appendix B – Recruiting, Retaining and Supporting an Outstanding Faculty

    Appendix B – Recruiting, Retaining and Supporting an Outstanding Faculty
    Sewickley Academy is committed to hiring and retaining the best possible faculty.  Each search for a new teacher begins by developing a job description and then casting as wide a net possible.  We post our positions with a highly regarded national placement firm that has access to thousands of resumes and often several hundred for any given position. 
    Hiring at Sewickley Academy is a collaborative process, so several people, including Division Heads, the Assistant Head of School for Academic Affairs, the Head of School review resumes, looking for individuals whose credentials match our needs and whose experiences suggest they have been successful in a variety of educational settings.  Candidates are interviewed by phone by two senior administrators, and candidates receiving support from both interviewers are invited to campus.
    Campus visits involve meeting with Department Chairs, faculty, staff, students, and administrators.  In the case of teaching positions, the process also involves teaching a demonstration lesson.  References are checked carefully, and our rule is that we need to speak with at least three people before an offer can be made.
    Hiring a new teacher is only the beginning, however.  Once a new member of faculty is hired, they become part of our New Employee Mentoring Program (NEMP), a program that has been recognized nationally for its excellence at supporting people who are new to our school.  This formal program continues for the first year of service, with mentors assigned to work with the new person.
    In addition to NEMP, a robust program of professional development and evaluation is in place to support the ongoing growth of faculty, both those new to the school and seasoned veterans.  Each member of faculty develops a personal professional development plan that ties his or her goals to those of the department and division.  Thus, all professional development is strategic in nature.  The school underwrites all the costs associated with professional development because we know that investing in improving and supporting the skills of our teachers will have an immediate and lasting benefit for our students.
    Finally, Sewickley Academy uses a banding approach to compensation that aligns compensation with the overall goals we have for the school.  Thus teaching practice, advising, support of students beyond the classroom, collegiality, leadership, and overall contributions to the school are all considered when considering compensation.  A clear rubric of skills and expectations is included in our Professional Development and Evaluation Plan, so faculty understand what the expectations are.
    This multi-pronged approach to recruiting and retaining faculty is driven first and foremost by the needs of our students.  Sewickley Academy does not have a system of tenure, and each member of faculty understands that meeting the needs of our students is the core responsibility of their employment.  Because we are mission-driven and child-centered, all adults at the school are focused on one goal: providing the best possible educational experience for our students that we can.  This begins by hiring, retaining, and supporting an outstanding faculty. 
  • Appendix C – A Description of Curriculum Mapping

    Appendix C – A Description of Curriculum Mapping
    Curriculum mapping is a procedure for collecting data about the actual curriculum in a school.  Data are gathered in a format that allows each teacher to present an overview of his or her students’ actual learning experiences.  The fundamental purpose of mapping is communication.  Each map in a particular discipline provides efficient access to a PreK-12 curriculum perspective, both vertically and horizontally. Mapping is not presented as what ought to happen but what is happening during the course of a school year.  Curriculum mapping is an extremely useful tool for creating a “big picture” for curricular decision-making.
    Integration of curriculum is about vertical as well as horizontal planning.  Without a context for looking at students’ experiences over time, decisions can be isolated and disconnected.  Curriculum mapping addresses these challenges by providing a mechanism for teachers, teams, and administrators to make informed decisions about what should be taught, at what levels it should be taught, and how learning should be assessed.
    Because the Academy is a mission-driven school, the principles that drive curriculum design are: Mission; Core Values; 21st Century skills (the 7 noted in the strategic plan); content standards, which answer the question “What should students know and be able to do?” (these may be written by teams or drawn from state or professional organizations such as NCTM, NCTE, etc. or from a combination of all three); performance standards, which answer the question “How well must students do their work?”; and design standards that educators use to distinguish sound from unsound units and are particular to the Understanding by Design template used by Sewickley Academy.
    Curriculum mapping can be done using a number of tools, including paper and pencil, but the most effective way currently available is to use interactive software designed for the purpose of mapping. Sewickley Academy has selected Atlas Rubicon as its mapping tool.
    How does this work?  In practice, the mission, core values, 21st Century skills, and discipline standards are loaded into the Atlas tool so that when a teacher goes to the data entry page for a particular discipline, each of these elements will be visible in drop-down menus. The teacher will select those aspects of the mission, core values, 21st Century skills, and standards which apply to the particular lesson being mapped so that an accurate picture of how the lesson aligns with the categories noted above will be created. 
  • Appendix D – Definition of Diversity

    Appendix D – Definition of Diversity
    Diversity at Sewickley Academy is actually fairly simple. It means that every student, every member of faculty, staff, or administration, and every parent gets to be who they are and who they will become.  Period! They also get to be who they are in a community that supports and celebrates who they are. The school is not a place where people are tolerated (I know of no person who wants to be tolerated!); rather it is one where they are appreciated, respected, and validated.  While our community embraces many different people representing different backgrounds, talents, and interests, the common commitment is to equity and justice for each and every individual, whether a person is Christian or Jewish, black or white, male or female, gay or straight. Diversity at our school is not political; it is personal. By embracing the idea that each person gets to be who he or she is, we are building a community where, while we are not blind to differences and we take time to explore and understand them, we are ultimately concerned about unity rather than division, about how we work together, about how we complement one another’s skills, and about how we are all richer for the contributions we each make to the whole.  
"Sewickley Academy is a great school, but we refuse to rest on our laurels. By keeping children and their needs at the center of all we do, we continually strive to achieve the highest expectations for our school and the students we serve."
~Kolia O'Connor, Head of School

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