Standardized Testing is a Celebration!

Somehow charter schools have acquired a bit of a reputation for being soft on testing. That’s not true for us!  As a tuition-free public K-8 charter school, we actively test and assess every Almond Acres Charter Academy student. AND…we celebrate testing itself! 

Test-taking is a skill. It’s something we do throughout our lives. By celebrating this achievement — the test-taking itself  — we purposefully shift the dynamic from a pressure-filled event to one of inclusivity and shared experience. We introduce the idea of learning in our classrooms together as practice and testing itself as the ‘game’ — or our chance to show our stuff!  With preparation and practice, every opportunity to take a test can be a positive experience. And worth celebrating! 

Almond Acres Charter Academy and students in PE sweatshirts for volleyball and cross country

Standardized Testing: Our POV

Standardized testing is an important experience. When we prepare to test our AACA students, we spend quality time and energy in our classes sharing about and appreciating the opportunity for California standardized testing. 

Testing results matter and help us plan and grow as a school and as teachers and administrators. As a school leadership team, testing is only one way we define our success and make our plans for next level learning. 

Our team of credentialed teachers uses the Common Core State Standards to teach English Language Arts (ELA) and mathematics, while using the State Content Standards for social studies, and the NGSS (Next Generation Science Standards) for science.  Our AACA teachers also administer state-mandated testing annually in grades 3-8.

Further, our Curriculum Coordinator has established metrics she uses to track every unique learner — and ensure we meet their learning needs. By using our Formation of Learning and Multi-Tiered System of Support (MTSS), we ably and creatively recognize each AACA student’s academic, behavioral and social-emotional foundation. 

MTSS allows us to balance support levels. For example, some students do their best in a traditional classroom setting, while another child may need to have supports in place to help them focus.  For some students access to flexible seating allows their body to use excess energy.  For another child, it may be having the ability to turn text into speech.

The Science of Gum Chewing

Rooted in both celebration and science, our students can chew gum and enjoy candy on testing days. Our “grading” is a 1-4 system rather than A-F. We infuse joy into this shared testing experience — and we gain valuable details from it, too.  We celebrate every kid’s ability to be tested! This is truly a life skill.  

Almond Acres Charter Academy students with laptop

Individual Student Gains

Testing is only one way we measure student progress. At Almond Acres, we want to track and connect to each student’s individual gains. Testing does not encapsulate all the ways every student is smart.  In fact, our scholastic mission is to help students succeed in life by educating the whole child: heart, mind, body and soul. 

This mission is embedded in our academic DNA and informs how we grow together every school day. It truly sets us apart from other K-8 learning environments. We believe an education that addresses all aspects of a child’s life creates balanced, happy learners. And balanced, happy learners deserve joy and fun in their classroom environments — hooray for chewing gum and candy as we celebrate test-taking skills! 

About Almond Acres

Almond Acres is relocating to Paso Robles. Almond Acres Charter Academy is a public, tuition-free K-8 school that employs credentialed teachers and administers state-mandated testing to provide families in northern SLO County an additional choice in public education. Open to all students in all communities, the school is currently located in San Miguel and moving to Paso Robles for the 2021-22 school year. AACA’s mission is to help students succeed academically and socially by educating the whole child: heart, mind, body and soul. We grow great kids!

3 Things to Know about Habits of Mind

By teaching kids how they’re smart, we teach them to develop their thinking skills. We call them habits of mind. What are my habits?  What are the things I’m going to get good at, because I’m going to practice? These personal and intellectual character traits are what make us smart, happy, and successful. They are the mental frameworks that all of our knowledge and skill sit upon.

One of our primary focuses at Almond Acres Charter Academy (AACA) is teaching kids to think about what’s important, so they’ll act on it. When we act on things that are important, we create habits. When we create habits, it becomes our character. Our character becomes our destiny. For us, it’s all about developing thought processes; developing smart, intelligent, thinking. Thinking triggers action and the cycle begins again —  habits, character, and destiny.

Almond Acres Charter Academy students sitting on the floor in a circle

How we teach Habits of Mind at Almond Acres

  1. We use a variety of tools — thinking tools — to help us teach our kids how to think and develop their thinking skills. The first is terrific. It’s an acronym TRRFC that includes these citizenship traits: Trustworthy, Respectful, Responsible, Fair, and Caring. These citizenship traits involve key principles that grow strong citizens. By thinking in these terms and modeling these behaviors — you are terrific. You’re being a better version of yourself.
  1. We encourage and ascribe to The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. This is a very well researched and proven approach to help people become better versions of themselves. The Seven Habits are shared, encouraged and expected in our school on a daily basis.

Our kids grow to know each of the seven habits that also develops into an Almond Acres leadership system. It’s our way for kids to be leaders in their classroom, the school, our community, or at home. 

An Almond Acres alum shared this feedback about their time at our middle school,

“ I enjoyed the amount of one-on-one attention and education I received since the classes were so small. I felt like I could create deeper connections with my peers and teachers. I found it beneficial in my older years to have thoroughly learned the Habits of Mind and the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.”

  1. Leadership gives every human confidence. We expect all of our kids to experience leadership roles whether they stem from an official leadership group or they are a leader in their classroom. Our students glean leadership opportunities every day by being the light monitor, or the person who  opens the door when somebody knocks. Our student leaders might direct a guest or act as an  ambassador to the school and give tours to prospective families.

There are tons of different jobs to promote leadership in every classroom, and we believe there’s a leader in every student. We try to provide every one of our K-8 students with opportunities to be empowered. 

Students that are confident citizens is another way to describe what’s at the core of our school mission — to grow great kids! We holistically celebrate each unique learner  — heart, mind, body and soul. Get to know Almond Acres. We’re enrolling tuition-free K-8 today! 

About Almond Acres

Almond Acres Charter Academy is a public, tuition-free K-8 school that employs credentialed teachers and administers state-mandated testing to provide families in northern SLO County an additional choice in public education. The school is located inSan Miguel and is open to all students in all communities. AACA’s mission is to help students succeed academically and socially by educating the whole child: heart, mind, body and soul. We grow great kids!