Our Methods (how we promote Independence, Mastery, Belonging, and Generosity)
All of our students will have an online personalized learning plan (PLP) tailored to their unique learning goals, competency, needs and style. Orenda has partnered with Illuminate Education, Inc to provide a unique, web-based online tool that students, parents and teachers are able to access at all times. Because of the PLP, students and parents will have clear goals and can track outcomes in all learning areas in real time.
In addition, our teachers load their lessons and additional instructional resources on the Blackboard web-based teacher instructional learning platform (TIP) for 24/7 online access that allows our instruction to be personalized for each student. Our students and parents utilize the TIP to access their teacher's content, plus additional instructional resources, submit work and track their progress 24/7.
Because of our unique PLP and TIP platforms, our students have ownership over their learning, the ability to move at their own pace, can access instructional resources at anytime and utilize what works best for their learning style.
Orenda teachers conduct their classes in what is referred to as a “blended or hybrid learning” environment. Blended learning combines face-to-face interaction with a teacher in a school classroom, with additional instruction -- whether live or recorded – conducted in an online environment. Orenda incorporates blended learning within a fully integrated web based teacher instruction platform (TIP) that allows our teachers, students, and parents to access the very best instructional content 24/7.
Orenda has chosen the Blackboard TIP. There are many advantages to this technology. Teachers load their syllabus, curriculum, course content, lectures, other instructional resources, assessments, tests, grades, etc. into Blackboard. Our students and parents can access the teacher’s course content and resources 24/7 through Blackboard wherever they have an internet connection. This allows students and parents to have immediate access to assignments, content, instructional materials and academic progress. Students can review the instructional resources as often as needed outside of school. The teacher can vary the instructional resources they place in Blackboard and the student can chose the resources best suited to their learning style.
Teachers can occasionally “flip” their classrooms so that the students access instructional resources outside of class and move “homework” into the classroom. The value of a flipped class is in the re-purposing of class time into a workshop where students can inquire about course content, test their skills in applying what they learned, and interact with classmates through hands-on activities. During class sessions, the teacher functions as a coach or advisor, helping those students struggling with the lesson and encouraging other students to move on to new or more challenging content.
Rigorous College Advanced Placement (AP®) Curriculum
We believe the best preparation for admission and success in college is for our students to receive a rigorous college preparatory curriculum. We have chosen the American College Board Advanced Placement (AP) curriculum for our students. Research consistently shows that students who complete the AP course and participate in the AP exam typically experience greater academic success in college and improved graduation rates than their non-AP student peers.
All high school students attending our college preparatory schools are going to take a minimum of four AP classes and take at least one AP college entrance exam. Our core courses will be available as AP credit courses to those students who want to take even more AP level courses and take additional AP exams for college credit. Orenda elementary students will be exposed to a breadth of materials and classroom experiences to learn the fundamental skills necessary to complete this level of college level coursework as they enter secondary school.
AP® is a rigorous academic program built on the commitment, passion and hard work of students and educators from both secondary schools and higher education. With more than 30 courses in a wide variety of subject areas, AP provides willing and academically-prepared high school students with the opportunity to study and learn at the college level. Taking AP classes will help our graduates stand out in the college admissions process and earn college credit while in high school.
Through AP courses, talented and dedicated AP teachers help students develop and apply the skills, abilities and content knowledge they will need in college. Each AP course is modeled upon a comparable college course, and college and university faculty play a vital role in ensuring that AP courses align with college-level standards.
Through the AP Course Audit, AP teachers submit their syllabi for review and approval by college faculty. Only courses using syllabi that meet or exceed the college-level curricular and resource requirements for each AP course are authorized to carry the “AP” label.
AP courses culminate in a suite of college-level assessments developed and scored by college and university faculty members as well as experienced AP teachers. AP exams are an essential part of the AP experience, enabling students to demonstrate their mastery of college-level course work.
Strong performance on AP Exams is rewarded by colleges and universities worldwide. More than 90 percent of four-year colleges and universities in the United States grant students credit, placement or both on the basis of successful AP Exam scores. Texas colleges must award college credit for an AP score of 3 or above. But performing well on an AP Exam means more than just the successful completion of a course; it is the gateway to success in college. Link to College Board AP
Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID)
Orenda schools offer the AVID College Readiness System to provide our students with the skills needed to be independent learners. AVID is a systemic tool our faculty and students utilize as a foundational structure to build a college readiness culture.
AVID's proven learning support structure known as WICR incorporates these teaching methodologies: Writing as a Tool for Learning, Emphasis on Inquiry, Collaborative Approach and Reading to Learn.
- Writing as a Tool for Learning: Writing is basic to thinking, learning and growth. It allows students to think in complex ways, contributes to self-knowledge, helps clarify and order experience, helps students to be better readers and enables students to "do better" in school. The AVID note-taking system is an adaptation of the sophisticated Cornell System. Students take detailed notes from class lectures and texts in a wide right-hand margin and develop clarifying ideas or questions regarding those notes in a narrow left-hand margin. Not only do the notes help students clarify thought, but as students engage in writing for learning, their writing and language skills become better and better. Their reading skills develop as students have experience in using language. AVID students are required to take binders to all academic classes and to use them to take notes.
- Emphasis on Inquiry: Students are trained in the inquiry method based on levels for questioning (Socratic Method) rather than on lecture. This engages students in their own learning, resulting in student ownership for enlarged understanding of concepts and higher order thinking skills.
- Collaborative Approach: Research shows that students learn best when they are actively manipulating materials through making inferences and then generalizing from those inferences. Collaborative groups encourage this type of thinking. Students are responsible for their own learning. AVID teachers are guides, facilitators and coaches in a learning community of teachers, students and tutors working together for the success of the group.
- Reading to Learn: The AVID curriculum emphasizes critical reading, with academic reading instruction built so that students develop and become more confident in their comprehensive skills. Three factors most helpful for insuring comprehension are connecting to prior knowledge, understanding text structure and using text-processing strategies during and after reading.
Project -Based Learning (“PBL”)
Project-Based Learning encourages an instructional approach built upon authentic learning activities that engage student interest and motivation. PBL is generally done by groups of students (normally 4 - 6 students) working together toward a common goal and PBL activities are designed to answer a question or solve a problem and generally reflect the types of learning and team work people use every day in the real world.
Performance is assessed on an individual basis, and takes into account the quality of the product produced, the depth of content understanding demonstrated, and the contributions made to the ongoing process of project realization. PBL is synonymous with learning in depth. A well-designed project provokes students to encounter (and struggle with) the central concepts and principles of a discipline.
The furniture and technology equipment in each Orenda school is arranged to support a PBL environment. When you walk into an Orenda school you will see areas designed to feel like you are coming to work for a high tech or creative arts company with multi-functional space and open areas for group collaboration. PBL areas are arranged to support small group collaboration with casual furniture, circular tables, a smart white board or other digital equipment.
Project Example: Robotics Competition Rube Goldberg Projects
Renaissance Festival (KXAN-TV in Austin,
May 2013 broadcast).......click here
Orenda Charter Schools offer numerous extra-curricular opportunities for students to get involved in small groups to connect to other students. Every Orenda student is encouraged and recruited to join a smaller school sponsored “connection group” that interests them the most.
These connection groups are extra-curricular opportunities that include social clubs such as Key Club, Student Council, Karate, Robotics, Young Americans for Freedom, Gardening, etc., athletic teams or a fine arts group. Within these smaller connection groups a faculty sponsor will seek to foster a closer sense of belonging felt by each participant. Students can join more than one group. Each connection group will offer numerous opportunities for socialization, camaraderie and leadership opportunities.
One of the core values of all Orenda Charter Schools "Generosity." All students are encouraged to be involved in community service and extra credit can be achieved based on hours of service. Service projects are selected and promoted by the students both to enhance the school and to give back to the community. Eight (8) hours of service learning is the minimum required to graduate. Students earn various awards and recognition based on the demonstrated generosity.