Our Program

Key Principles

The Hirsch Academy: CFA charter is based on four key principles fundamental to the school’s program.

Academic Excellence, Equity, and Higher Literacy

All students at Hirsch Academy: CFA need and deserve an excellent and equitable education to become highly literate and contributing citizens.

We have high expectations for ALL students, ensuring that all students’ needs are met. With the alignment of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), Arizona Academic Standards, Core Knowledge curriculum, Challenge Foundation philosophy, and best instructional practices, students are taught from an interdisciplinary perspective.

Core Knowledge is a classical curriculum with a strong focus on literacy across multiple subjects: English language arts (ELA), math, science, social studies, the visual arts and music. Teacher selection is focused on selecting highly qualified teachers.

We provide on-going support through a continuous improvement model. Regular data analysis, coaching from school leaders and through Core Knowledge Foundation school visits, team mentoring through classroom instructional rounds, and applied professional development ensure effective instruction.

Collaboration between parents, students, and staff is essential for high student achievement and is supported throughout the program at Hirsch Academy: CFA, making connections between content, meaningful understanding, and the effective use of common knowledge in society.

Effective Instruction and Professional Development

All students at Hirsch Academy: CFA deserve to be taught by highly effective teachers.

We support the development of teachers as effective instructors. All teachers and school-level administration will participate in ongoing applied professional development to continue to build teacher capacity and effectiveness. Professional development is an integral part of the school program for adopted teaching and learning programs, for best instructional practice and for analysis and application of student data.

Best practice will be identified, taught, modeled, practiced, observed, and shared as an expectation for excellent and effective teaching through training for Core Knowledge, Singapore Math, Core Knowledge Language Arts (CKLA) Reading and Open Court Reading, classroom instructional rounds, use of student portfolios, Kids at Hope, and Love & Logic. Student achievement data will be used to guide plans for teacher growth and development as well to target classroom instruction.

Instruction is provided with a strong alignment to the standards and collaborative, domain-based curriculum planning and implementation. Individual student needs are met through regular use of data, and use of strategies such as direct instruction, scaffolding, flex-grouping, small group instruction, cooperative learning, and differentiated instruction in the classroom as well as through tutoring and other data-based and tiered interventions using TAP-like and Response to Intervention (RtI)-like models.

Instructionally Focused Accountability

We believe in holding teachers accountable for student learning by gathering and analyzing data to identify and serve student needs.

Student achievement data at Hirsch Academy: CFA will guide instruction for core content and essential learning skills. Data will also guide professional growth and development for teachers. Until the school has the financial ability to provide professional development on the TAP model, TAP-like elements will be implemented at Hirsch Academy: CFA through strategies including the use of Team Leaders to provide and model best-practice for instruction; observation and mentoring through classroom Instructional Rounds; bi-monthly data dialogue meetings and team planning; targeted skill instruction and tutoring; and an end of year financial bonus for student achievement, to be determined by the school’s Board when funding is available.

Teachers at Hirsch Academy: CFA are committed to a model of continuous improvement, using ongoing assessment and evaluation of student achievement and of teaching practice, to effectively guide instruction and learning.

Teacher retention and renewal is determined by an ongoing review of formative and summative student achievement data by school administration and the school Governing Board.

Collaborative Educational Effort for Effective Citizenship

All Hirsch Academy: CFA students deserve the opportunity to participate in committed partnership between students, teachers, and parents where they collectively build a strong culture of expectation, achievement, and results. And, our students deserve to have the opportunity to learn how to become effective citizens in their community.

A core principal of all TeamCFA schools is the belief that “Together Each Achieves More” (T.E.A.M). We work together to build character and self-confidence for our students to make choices that result in a better life. We help our students to learn, progress, and succeed on a path to higher education and effective citizenship. We teach and encourage our students to work alongside one another and to contribute in a positive and civil manner with their community and society at large.

In the April 2012 edition of Educational Leadership, Carol Ann Tomlinson, a well known author on differentiation of instruction and learning recognized a teacher for five points made towards helping her students become more effective citizens: 1) “She respected her students”; 2)”She started with the assumption they were smart”; 3) “She expected them to work hard – no exceptions”; 4) She taught them to work smart”; and 5) “She talked about stepping stones to the future…[T]heir teacher taught them about math, science, literature, and social studies. She also taught them about what it means to build a contributing life – and how to own that opportunity.”

William Damon, professor of education at Stanford University, Director of the Stanford Center on Adolescence, and author of Failing Liberty 101: How We Are Leaving Young Americans Unprepared for Citizenship in a Free Society, wrote, “Informed citizenship and civic purpose grow out of a basic sense of attachment. Young people become motivated to act when three conditions are in place: They identify with the object of concern, they perceive that something needs to be done on its behalf, and they have hope that their efforts can accomplish something. Teaching students to think critically about their society is beneficial because it helps establish the need for action.”

Dr. E.D. Hirsch, Jr., founder of the Core Knowledge Foundation, and University Professor of Education and Humanities and Linden Kent Memorial Professor of English Emeritus at the University of Virginia adds, “A lack of knowledge, both civic and general, is the most significant deficit in most American students’ education.” He goes on to say, and referring to his most recent book, “It is a duty of American schools to educate competent American citizens – hence my theme: The Making of Americans. For the past fifty years we have tiptoed around the idea that the schools should form Americans…Students need to leave school with a good understanding of the civic principles under which the United States operates and with an emotional commitment to making this political experiment continue to work” (Hirsch, 2010).

At Hirsch Academy: CFA we believe in building effective citizenship for all students and we believe that it is the job of all school community stakeholders (parents, staff and community members) to participate in civic education. We will work to build community partnerships to enlist and engage community service learning opportunities for our students. Damon adds, “By participating in community and civic political events outside the classroom, young people gain a sense of their own important roles in the continuing saga of our society’s search for exemplary democracy (Damon, 2010).