Voice Charter School
- New York
Mission Statement: The mission of VOICE Charter School of NY is to create a safe and healthy learning environment that will nurture, motivate, and challenge all of our children to achieve the highest level of academic excellence and to develop into mindful, responsible, contributing participants in their education, their community, and the diverse society in which we live. Our program of performance-based instruction in choral singing will guide students through the development of creative and critical thinking and learning skills that they will learn to apply to daily living and the core academic subject areas. Academically rigorous, our standards-driven curriculum will be informed by research-based methods that are differentiated according to the individual needs of each child in our school. We commit to guiding all of our students toward the acquisition of those skills and qualities necessary so that they will be in a position to choose which competitive high school and college they wish to attend and that they learn to become successful, lifelong learners.
Goals: The overarching goal of VOICE Charter School of NY, as articulated in the mission statement, is to ensure that: ". . . they will be in a position to choose which competitive high school and college they wish to attend and that they learn to become successful, lifelong learners.”
- Goal 1: To ensure that all students achieve high levels of literacy.
- Goal 2: To ensure that all students achieve high levels of numeracy.
- Goal 3: To ensure that all students become highly literate in reading and writing musical notation and that they reach high levels of musical performance.
- Goal 4: To ensure that teachers work collaboratively to adapt highly effective and research based teaching methods to the individualized needs of their students.
- Goal 5: To promote scientific, historical, and cultural literacy for all students across all grades.
- Goal 6: To ensure that parents are partners in the education of their children to support student achievement.
Academic philosophy: At the core of our academic culture is the idea that virtually all students are capable of doing well in any school subject. This concept, known as efficacy, does away with the destructive and incorrect idea that some students are simply "gifted" while others are not. For example, if a student has difficulty with addition and subtraction, it is not enough to simply say that student is, "not a math person." It is the responsibility of the teacher and the school to find a better way to help the student understand addition and subtraction. Our unique, collaborative teaching model ensures all children get the attention they need. At VOICE Charter School, we emphasize group learning so that by the time students are ready to go to college they understand the all-important concept of teamwork. We lead by example. Our teachers, administrators, parents and volunteers operate as part of a professional learning community that promotes collegiality and shared work. New ideas are encouraged as members of this community work every day to refine VOICE Charter Schools cutting-edge curriculum. At VOICE Charter School, all students will learn.
Music and the arts: We believe participating in music and the arts makes life richer and helps children with their traditional academics. Music and art help develop problem solving and critical thinking skills and open children's imagination. Students at VOICE Charter School participate in daily art activities and rigorous daily choral training. Our experience has shown that all children are capable of participating in, and learning from, choral training. At VOICE Charter School, all students will sing.
Our core values are what we believe, the procedures and expectations document details what we do, and the text below describes what we then expect to see. VOICE Charter school exists for the success and happiness of its students. VOICE will develop students who:
- achieve the highest level of academic excellence that enables them to choose which competitive high school and college they wish to attend;
- become mindful, responsible, contributing participants in their education, their community, and the diverse society in which we live; and
- apply in their daily life and continuous learning the discipline, joy, critical thinking skills, cultural engagement and creativity gained through an arts-rich education.
Interactions and Relationships in the VOICE: Community Members of the VOICE community enjoy a collaborative relationship that encourages participation, risk-taking, and creativity in the service of deeper learning. We feel safe to extend ourselves intellectually as we experience deep caring and courtesy, pride in the school community, recognition of our own worth, and a sense of joy. Although relationships across the community serve to enhance teaching and learning, they also embody the mutual respect with which community members treat one another-- as ends in themselves.
Students achieve academic success by developing a disciplined and consistent work ethic. All resources, procedures, and attitudes are oriented towards sustaining and modeling hard work. VOICE staff are mindful in negotiating the inherent tensions in our work: striking the right balance between experimentation and stability; encouraging ardent individual curiosity and maintaining the highly intentional and specific conformity that is needed to be part of a caring, cooperative community; supporting and challenging students in their learning; and progressively increasing students’ freedom and responsibility while ensuring their safety and success. At VOICE we value the ongoing process of our daily work: strengthening cooperative relationships as we confront these tensions and constantly transform good to great. Reinforcing our serious work ethic and strong sense of purpose are sincere feelings of enthusiasm and joy. VOICE students and staff communicate regularly as part of the collaborative effort to advance learning. We give and receive precise feedback as a necessary part of improving skills and knowledge. VOICE Staff model this behavior by holding themselves and one another personally accountable for doing their best-- by ‘being the change we wish to see.’ We constantly communicate and reflect, both formally and informally, in order to improve as educators. As with music, genuine engagement requires active listening. When VOICE students and staff speak, it is to add value; when we listen, it is to understand better and demonstrate that everyone’s voice should be heard. Effective communication, the foundation of our relationships in the VOICE community, is based on our mutual understanding, authenticity, and caring.
Discipline: Discipline at VOICE serves two main purposes: to promote students’ moral development and to create a safe environment where students are empowered to learn from their own behavior. In their moral development, VOICE students respect the authority of adults, value their interpersonal relationships, and gain an autonomous understanding of right and wrong that will enable them to make independent moral decisions as adults-- beyond specific rules. Members of the VOICE community are mindful of the values that we wish to nurture. These values are taught, discussed, practiced, and articulated clearly because we believe that true success and strong character are inseparable. We motivate students to take responsibility for and learn from their own behavior. As in academic areas, VOICE staff collaborate with students proactively to prevent challenges from becoming more severe problems requiring discipline. We are attuned to students’ challenges and collaboratively implement plans to help them adapt and learn. At VOICE discipline is primarily proactive: students understand the expectations and rationales for behavior. By connecting content to prior learning, articulating teaching points, modeling what to do (show, don’t tell), and expressing the rationale for activities (why we do it), we give students a sense of agency and purpose (what we do is important) that discourages acting out. Reactive discipline at VOICE (1) shows students what they have done, (2) gives them as much ownership of the problem as they can handle, (3) gives them options for solving the problem (4) Leaves their dignity intact, and (5) is implemented with consideration for the feelings and needs of those affected by the behavior. At VOICE mistakes are forgiven and transformed into learning opportunities. Loving relationships, high expectations, and thoughtful procedures prevent mischief and diminish its effects on our learning community of children and adults. While mistakes and mischief are inevitable realities (these acts are not intended to do harm), the discipline system at VOICE helps to support a community of deep caring and thoughtfulness that precludes intentionally harmful acts of bullying and mayhem. Parallel to increased academic and social responsibility, students enjoy greater leadership in enriching the school climate as they grow older. Self-monitoring, peer mediation, student initiatives in restorative justice, and independent projects on values demonstrate students’ ownership of their community’s discipline and learning environment.
Academics: At VOICE every adult and child engages in the never-ending quest of getting better. For example, grade level and subject teams collaboratively adapt published curriculum to deliver high quality lessons daily. Planning these lessons is only the beginning of the learning process for teachers and students. Teacher teams assess the effectiveness of each lesson by analyzing student achievement data and decide which lessons need to be retaught (and how) so that every child learns. When a teacher comes back to the class to try a lesson again, the repeated attempt is a lesson in itself for the children. Students internalize these attitudes and behaviors of their teachers as they develop their own love for the process of learning: music rehearsal leads to skillful performance (practicing a passage until the rhythm is accurate); scientific experimentation enables discovery (mistakes guide the process of elimination in testing a theory); daily writing practice yields published pieces (multiple drafts lead to richer writing); daily independent reading improves reading skills (reading daily continues to transform us while at the same time reinforcing who we are). At VOICE we believe that reflection and communication are central elements of the learning process. Authentic assessment of student work, reviewing both student and teacher progress regularly, and communicating with precision allows us to design teaching and learning practices so that they are responsive to everyone’s needs. Students are attuned to their own thinking process: cognizant of when they don’t understand, active in taking the steps required to build understanding, and thoughtful about formulating the questions that explore levels of deeper meaning. VOICE students guide their own learning by evaluating the feedback they get from others, applying their background knowledge to new contexts, anticipating learning difficulties and apportioning time accordingly, and judging their progress toward a goal. At VOICE we understand that intelligence is a set of problem solving and reasoning capabilities along with habits of mind that engage those capabilities regularly. It is equally a set of beliefs about our right and obligation to understand and make sense of the world, and our capacity to figure things out over time. By calling on students to use the skills of intelligent thinking— and by holding all members of the VOICE community responsible for doing so— we teach and learn intelligence daily.
Environment: VOICE Charter School is a community of people united by a strong sense of values and purpose. We design our physical environment to reflect this unique culture: student accomplishments are displayed for widespread appreciation; standards, teaching points, objectives, and values are posted prominently; markers of organization and procedures are clearly visible; and our spaces appear bright, inviting, and joyful.