Northpoint Expeditionary Learning Academy Essentials
The essentials of NELA are based on five core practices, and ELS’s 10 design principles.
The following program elements are essential to the creation of Northpoint Expeditionary Learning Academy, as an Expeditionary Learning mentor school.
The Expeditionary Learning Core Practices:
Our approach to curriculum makes content and skill standards come alive for students by connecting learning to real-world issues and needs. Academically rigorous learning expeditions, case studies, projects, fieldwork, and service learning inspire students to think and work as professionals do, contributing high-quality work to authentic audiences beyond the classroom.
Our classrooms are alive with discovery, inquiry, critical thinking, problem-solving, and collaboration. Teachers talk less. Students talk and think more. Lessons have explicit purpose, guided by learning targets for which students take ownership and responsibility. In all subject areas, teachers differentiate instruction and maintain high expectations in order to bring out the best in all students and cultivate a culture of high achievement.
Culture and Character
Our schools build cultures of respect, responsibility, courage, and kindness, where students and adults are committed to quality work and citizenship. School structures and traditions such as crew, community meetings, exhibitions of student work, and service learning ensure that every student is known and cared for, that student leadership is nurtured, and that contributions to the school and world are celebrated. Students and staff are supported to do better work and be better people than they thought possible.
Our leaders, teachers, and students embrace the power of student-engaged assessment practices to focus students on reaching standards-based learning targets and drive achievement. Students continually assess and improve the quality of their work through the use of models, reflection, critique, rubrics, and work with experts. Staff members engage in ongoing data inquiry and analysis, examining everything from patterns in student work to results from high-stakes tests.
Our school leaders build professional learning communities that focus sharply on student achievement and continuous improvement, use data wisely, and boldly shape school structures to best meet student needs. Leaders celebrate joy in learning and build a school-wide culture of trust and collaboration. Leadership in our schools goes beyond a single person or team – it is a role and expectation for all.
The curriculum is delivered through learning expeditions, which are in-depth studies of a compelling topic incorporating standards, utilizing fieldwork and promoting service, and typically is interdisciplinary.
STANDARDS-BASED GRADING & ASSESSMENT
A standards-based system allows students, parents and other stakeholders to be clear about the LEARNING TARGETS for each course and how the student is progressing toward each target. In each course, students will receive two grades: one for academic achievement and one for character/behavior grade, which is also involves targets and multiple assessments.
At the end of each term, students will participate in intensives, which are extended periods of time dedicated to the study of one topic, subject or may involve assistance in making-up and reaching learning targets not met in previous term.
COLLEGE BOUND ORIENTATION
Northpoint will prepare every student for post-secondary education. Each will be given assistance in researching the best post-secondary option. All students will apply to college.
At Northpoint, everyone is a part of the crew, not a passenger. In this spirit, small crews, or teams of students and an adult advisor, meet daily to discuss academic issues, share accomplishments, problem-solve individual or school issues and organize student work for portfolios or exhibitions. While building relationships, crew time helps establish accountability and foster a culture of caring.
Students are not tracked, or leveled at Northpoint. All students are expected to demonstrate academic mastery in their rigorous studies. Students who require additional intervention, either because of a disability or life circumstance, will be given appropriate support.
EXTENDED LEARNING TIME
Opportunities will be provided for extended learning opportunities beyond the traditional school day and school year, both for enrichment and skill support purposes.
Classes will typically run for 75-90 minutes of time, supporting interdisciplinary, field-based, collaborative learning centered upon expeditions.
Students will work with the same academic discipline teachers for two years, generally during their 9th and 10th grade school years and again in 11th and 12th grade.
All students must successfully complete these high-stakes events before moving on to the next grade or to graduate. The passage portfolio is a collection of the student’s best work that demonstrates mastery of learning and character targets, accompanied by pieces of self-assessment and reflection. During the presentation of the passage portfolio, students articulate with staff and family what they have learned and why their work demonstrates readiness to move on.
Each senior will have the opportunity to design his or her own expedition that allows for a deep understanding of a topic for which they are passionate. Guided by a school or community mentor, accomplished with the assistance of an “expert” in the field, and presented to a panel of students, staff and community members, the expedition demonstrates the ability to be a self-directed learner and respected citizen.
All students will get the chance to spend time in the natural world, exploring, investigating and extending their understanding of the world. The year begins with a one week, required trip.
A variety of extra-curricular activities will be offered at Northpoint that reflect students’ interests and school mission.
Parents/Guardians are expected to be involved at Northpoint in a variety of ways, ranging from participation in student-led conferences to volunteer opportunities.
All Northpoint staff members will be expected to participate in many days of intense professional development, split into 14 days of institutes (Reading Institute 5 days; Writing Institute 4 days; High School Institute 5 days) & 17 days of curriculum development and culture building. The principal and instructional guide will have additional professional development opportunities beyond the required days for teachers.