About Atlanta Charter Middle School
For the 2010-11 school year, ACMS will enroll approximately 197 students in grades six, seven, and eight. Though the school is still growing, the student body will remain small by design, with maximum enrollment limited to 240 students or less. Coming from all over Atlanta, the student body reflects the diversity of the city. We are a Title I school with 43% of our students in the free and reduced meal program. The racial makeup of the students in 2009-2010 was African-American 50%, White (Non-Hispanic) 33%, Multiracial 11%, Hispanic 4%, and Asian American 1%.
The teachers and staff at ACMS possess a wide range of skills and talents useful to working with middle school students. Most hold advanced degrees, and several have served in leadership capacities in other schools and non-profit organizations. The ACMS faculty works collaboratively over the summer and throughout the year to create the unique educational program offered at the school. Teachers pursue ongoing professional development both individually and through organizations like the National Council of Teachers of English, National Council for the Social Studies, National Science Teachers Association, and the National Council for Teaching Mathematics. As well, teachers participate in a “critical friends group”, facilitated by a coach trained by the National School Reform Faculty, working together to improve their practice and student learning.
The Common Principles of the Coalition of Essential Schools guides teaching and learning at ACMS. Specifically, curriculum and instruction emphasize practices that embody the following ideas:
- Learning to use one's mind well
- Less is more--depth over coverage
- Goals apply to all students
- Student-as-worker, teacher-as-coach
- Demonstration of mastery
Students at ACMS develop intellectual skills by actively working through meaningful questions and problems rather than passively memorizing disconnected information. Students are coached by their teachers towards the demonstration of mastery of higher-order concepts and critical-thinking skills. Beginning in the sixth grade, students compile portfolios of their work as a means of making their learning visible and to show their competency in certain essential skills and habits.
The curriculum at ACMS does not rely on textbooks; rather, it is driven by rich and interesting learning experiences that help students to show understanding and analysis. Teachers develop the curriculum in disciplinary and interdisciplinary teams to reflect both the Georgia Performance Standards for each grade level and the standards of national discipline-specific organizations. As well, experiences which take students away from the school to support their learning occur on a regular basis, such as exploring Georgia's coastal biology on Jekyll Island, comparing different artistic movements at the High Museum of Art, and getting to know more about our national history by visiting Washington, D.C. for a week.To support teaching and learning, the daily schedule at ACMS rotates through three different blocks of approximately 2 hours each: one block of math/science/technology, one block of humanities (language arts and social studies), and one block of visual or performing arts, Spanish, and/or Fit for Life. As well, there is daily reading and work time and a weekly block of support and enrichment opportunities. Classes at ACMS are heterogeneously grouped, with students of the same grade level in classes together
ACMS Portfolio Assessment System
As a way to gather a wider array of information about student performance throughout the school year, the ACMS faculty has developed a student portfolio-based assessment system through which students demonstrate their competency in essential performance areas in each of the major academic domains. The criteria for each of these performance areas were designed to align with the Georgia Performance Standards, as well as standards from national discipline-specific organizations, such as the National Council for Teachers of English (NCTE). The performance areas are:
- Mathematical & Scientific Thinking and Problem Solving
- Artistic Expression
- Formal Presentation
- Communicating in Another Language
- Personal Wellness
- Beyond the Classroom
Another important component of the ACMS experience is advisory. Each teacher at the school also plays the role of an advisor to a small group of 10-13 students to help meet the developmental needs of middle school-aged students.
Advisory meets daily, and once a month there is an extended advisory time. The central purposes of the advisory program at ACMS are:
- To learn to understand and appreciate people who are different from us.
- To participate in activities that build group spirit and cohesiveness.
- To support and be supported by other advisory members in discussing and facing academic, social, and community issues.
- To work together on common projects which benefit others through service to the community.
Meeting the Needs of Students
Using a series of interventions, ACMS provides a number of supports to students with exhibited learning needs, including, but not limited to:
- using a student support team (SST) to identify struggling learners and assess the effectiveness of various instructional interventions for students
- offering before and after school help sessions with teachers and targeted assistance during a weekly academic support block
- accommodating and/or modifying the curriculum for students with Individualized Education Plans (IEP) and 504 Plans
The student services staff (which includes the student support team and special education) works in consultation with parents, guardians, and/or caregivers to develop individual plans for students. Additionally, a school counselor works with students both in one-on-one and group settings to address social and emotional issues.
Beyond the Classroom
Students at ACMS are presented with numerous opportunities to grow outside of the classroom. Some of these academic, artistic, and athletic outlets include:
- The ACMS Wolves participate in the LUKE Sports League in flag football, cheerleading, basketball, and soccer
- The award-winning drama club which puts on as well as attends theatrical performances and takes part in competitions
- A math team that travels around the state matching their problem-solving abilities against other schools
- A yearbook staff that creates and publishes a colorful hardcover annual
- The "Everyday Leaders" service learning club committed to improving the world beyond the walls of ACMS
- A band program that develops students musical talents
Performance on Outside Measures
As a condition of its charter, ACMS must meet certain measures of financial and educational accountability. The school is required to submit an annual report to the Georgia Department of Education, and every five years, ACMS undergoes a rigorous school quality review by state and local officials as part of the renewal of its charter.
Like all public schools in the state of Georgia, ACMS students are required to take the Criterion Referenced Competency Test (CRCT) in grades six, seven, and eight. ACMS students have performed strongly, ranking among the highest-scoring middle schools in Atlanta and being recognized as a Title I Distinguished School by the Georgia Department of Education for making "adequate yearly progress" under the federal "No Child Left Behind" Act in each year of its existence.
Among last year’s ACMS 8th graders, the number of students meeting or exceeding the Georgia Performance Standards in reading, language arts, and math as measured by the CRCT increased each year students were at the school. As well, on the national norm-referenced Iowa Test of Basic Skills (ITBS), the ACMS 8th grade scored at or above grade level on every area measured. In addition to students attending their zoned high school, ACMS graduates have gone on to enroll at area private schools, such as Pace Academy, the Paideia School, and Woodward Academy, and magnet programs at Grady, North Atlanta, and Carver High School.
The ACMS Governing Board, a body composed of parents, school leadership, and community members, makes decisions about school policy. The governing board meets collectively once a month, and sub-committees such as finance and personnel also convene regularly.
Parent & Family Involvement
ACMS was founded on the belief that the active involvement of parents and family in the life of the school promotes the well being of students, and we ask parents, guardians, and caregivers play a significant role in the ACMS community. Each family, as a condition of enrollment in the school, commits to fulfilling the obligations outlined in the Family Contract.
What is a charter school?
Georgia law grants groups the right (or "charter") to start new public schools that report to the state Department of Education and to their own independent governing boards. By freeing charter schools from the constraints of district supervision, charter school law aims to promote innovative educational ideas. Charter schools, including ACMS, follow all state and federal regulations regarding non-discrimination. ACMS operates under a charter granted by the Atlanta Board of Education, and as such, serves students who are zoned for an Atlanta Public School
What is an Essential School?
Established in 1984 by Theodore Sizer at Brown University, the Coalition of Essential Schools is a national network of over 800 schools focused on restructuring and redesigning schools to promote student learning and more meaningful educational experiences.
Essential Schools are united in a belief in a set of ideas known as the "10 Common Principles" that call for schools to set clear and simple goals about the intellectual skills and content to be mastered by students; to lower the student-to-teacher ratio; to personalize teaching and curriculum; to make student work the center of classroom activity; to create an atmosphere of trust and respect; and to model democratic practices and honor diversity.