Pathways at Woodland Hills Academy / Turtle Creek, PA
oodland Hills Academy in Principal: Reginald Hickman Turtle Creek, Pennsylvania, School schedule: 8:45am–4:15pm opened in 2008 as part Additional time compared to of a series of changes to surrounding district: 60 min/day improve the Woodland and 15 days/year Hills school system which was plagued by low test Student Population scores and violence. In Grades served: K–7 its first year of operation, Number of students: 300 Woodland Hills posted Qualify for free/reduced lunch: 64% the highest test scores in the district, and the Students Scoring At or Above Proficient school continues to do on the Pennsylvania System of School so. According to Reginald Assessment in 2010 Hickman, principal of (difference compared to surrounding Woodland Hills Academy, “Extra learning time is district) one of the major reasons ELA: 69% (+17%) we performed as well as Math: 86% (+26%) we did, particularly in math. Plus, it has given us enrichment time, giving our students a more rounded education.” One way in which the Academy is giving students more educational opportunities is through its enrichment electives, called “Pathways.” Developed by the school’s faculty, the Pathways engage students in subjects beyond the standard curriculum. Students can choose to take a Pathway course, over and above the two specials they already have each day, as long as they do not require remediation— remediation and Pathways take place at the same time. Students interested in taking Pathways must decide at the beginning of the year which Pathway they will take and stay enrolled in that class for its duration—with some courses meeting the entire year, while others, like Community Theater, ending after a final performance. The Pathway offerings range from kindergarteners learning about the origins of the food they’re eating, to third-graders exploring
Woodland Hills Academy
world health issues, to fifth-graders developing strong public speaking skills, among many other courses designed for each grade level. While each grade level has its own unique offerings, Pathways are taught by teachers from across all the grade levels. Throughout the school day, each teacher has essentially three open periods: two planning periods and a period in which Pathways are taking place for the grade level that they teach. During any one of their three open periods, teachers may choose to lead a Pathway if it overlaps with any grade levels’ Pathway period. For instance, the school’s seventh-grade English teacher leads the public speaking Pathway for fifth graders, because she has an open period during the fifth-grade Pathway period. Choosing to teach a Pathway during this time, the teacher can use the seventh-grade Pathway period for her own planning. Though many teachers choose to teach a Pathway, it is not currently a requirement. However, most teachers who are not currently involved with a Pathway usually teach an intervention class or lead a structured study time in which students who do not require remediation and are not enrolled in a Pathway are given advanced work in one of their core subject areas. To give students a clear sense of what they will be learning throughout the course, each Pathway has a “central focus” based on “big ideas.” For example, the central focus for the Pathway “Money” declares: “Economic systems of barter and exchange have developed over time for use within communities.” The big ideas that students will learn about in this course include: “How money systems have developed through time”; “How bartering and exchange are related to trade and work”; and “How we can be responsible in our spending habits.” Such clearly defined statements help students to appreciate a Pathway’s academic framework and to engage with the content and direction of the course.
Community Theater Pathway
An energetic seventh-grade English teacher named Kelly Moreno is exposing students to the world of performing arts in her community theater “Pathway.” Students taking this course read a variety of screenplays, learn acting techniques, and perform short theatrical skits in Pittsburgh. “This was such a fulfilling experience,” says Moreno, “and I am grateful for the opportunity to have worked with this 51 great group of kids!”
TI M E WEL L S PENT TIME WELL S P E NT
for the school. This past year, Moreno’s students were able to showcase their talents in the Shakespeare Monologue and Scene Contest