The School at Columbia

Reflections on our visit

Basics about The School at Columbia

K-8, 500 students drawn 50% from NYC districts (lottery) and 50% Columbia U. faculty

No admissions testing - diverse in every possible way

Housed in an Upper West Side apartment building - 6 floors

Day: 8:00-3:30 (Teachers required 7:45-4:00)

Parents must leave the building at 9:15. Security procedures strict

10-Day Schedule

  • Schedule: 10 day rotation - A week, B week - all created each year by two teachers given extra $ to create based on feedback from teachers. Division heads make the final cuts, changes, compromises. Teachers creating schedule can do this for two years as professional development.
  • 10 day Scheduling - allows for meaningful weekly conversations with everyone who works with the kids about curriculum and kids. Grade level once a week, meetings to honor the integrated curriculum - once in the 10-day cycle all teachers of grade level listen, discuss plans, share student concerns (approximately 25 teachers in the room)
  • Fluidity in the schedule - structure there, but teachers can negotiate for changes
  • iBlock - two-hour block once in a ten-day period when anything can happen, including field trips, collaborations with Specialists or other classes
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K Theme: Self Concepts: Pattern and Discovery

1 Theme: Family Concepts: Connection and Change

2 Theme: Community Concepts: Expression and Structure

3 Theme: City Concepts: Experience and Movement

4 Theme: Country Concepts: Exploration and Justice

5 Theme: History and Ancient Civilization Concepts: Culture and Progress, and What is History? Civilizations: China and Greece

No packaged curriculum (although they use Handwriting Without Tears in K-2)

Most teachers trained with Reading and Writing Workshop but apply it in their own way in collaboration with the literacy liaison

Most teachers trained in Responsive Classroom, but it is applied differently in classrooms in collaboration with the social-emotional liaison

Units in all subject areas are collaborative across teams - integration in all subject areas through larger team meetings

Rubrics for all areas of the program written for each semester - constantly revised, available on the website under “Resources"

Teaching Configurations

Co-teaching takes place in only K-2

Matches are made by the K-2 division director - not marriages, re-evaluated at the end of the year. Evaluate the team (K-2) not the individuals

New matches expected to happen every 2 years. Encourages everyone to teach a range of grade levels

Hiring process allows for success because they have a such rigorous hiring procedure and they attract a large number of qualified applicants. Expectation is a BA and MA for all teachers.

Grades 3-5 have individual teachers in the classrooms with support from Associates and liaisons.

Leadership opportunities for teachers - professional goals considered and supported

Associate program for teacher training - a two year program that does NOT lead to employment in the school, at least not immediately.

Some recess duties covered by “casual employees” who are also Aftercare/SPARC staff, otherwise teachers cover duties. Lunch, served by the school - family style for younger grades, is considered part of the Social-Emotional curriculum, so teachers are on duty

Very rarely use subs - covered by co-teachers, associates, or other staff

Anti-Bias Curriculum

Social-emotional curriculum is taught and evaluated at all levels

The focus of the curriculum is to create:

  • self-awareness
  • self regulation
  • awareness of others
  • relationships management

There is a focus on the community and how to participate as a member - Restorative justice based - conflict is natural, but how you respond in a situation matters

There is no diversity coordinator because it is integrated across the curriculum. Concept that “difference is better” is integrated throughout the school. Example:

"I believe…" and "I stand for…” statements throughout the school grade K-8

The message is to value everyone and see that no one is being de-valued in any part of the community

Justice and equity is studied through all subjects with deeper and deeper focus at the grade levels rise

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Spaces around the school