The clear expectations set forth earlier are empty promises without thoughtful and disciplined execution. A great school must know both what it wants to achieve for its students and how it can do that. Here are the themes that imbue Avenues’ educational operations and affect every aspect of the school:
Too many schools rely on a single leader. Avenues New York has a broad leadership team, including: a head of school, three division heads (for the Early Learning Center, Lower Division and Upper Division), a chief administrative/operating officer and a director of teaching and learning. Though the school head has ultimate accountability for school quality, responsibility is dispersed among a strong core team.
Teachers are the heart of Avenues. What attracts them to Avenues? First, great teachers want to teach in great schools. They look for an exciting and thoughtful educational design. They know the hallmarks of a good educational program and appreciate the careful preparation that has gone into Avenues. Second, teachers care about ongoing professional development, and Avenues is particularly advanced in this regard. Third, teachers are drawn to strong school leadership. They want to learn from those who lead them. Fourth, many are attracted to a school where they can advance in their careers (to lead teachers, division heads or even heads of school). With its plan for campuses around the world, Avenues is uniquely competitive in this area. Finally, as set forth in its mission statement, Avenues plans to align the rewards of teaching more closely with the values it brings to society.
Avenues has a highly developed, coherent, intelligent and responsibly evolving “school design” that lays out the hundreds of important choices that go into the conception and execution of a fine school. The design process started well before the opening of Avenues’ flagship New York City campus in 2012. The creation of that design was a highly collaborative process, and Avenues is committed to maintaining a high degree of fidelity to the design.
Avenues envisions advanced assessment systems not typically seen in private education. The most important of these are not end-of-year tests, which have next to no value in helping teachers adapt instruction to meet the day-to-day strengths and weaknesses of their students. The most valuable assessment systems are real-time, in-class assessments to help teachers monitor the effectiveness of their day-to-day instruction.
Avenues expects students both to be with teachers and students in a traditional school setting and to take advantage of the power and flexibility of new technology. Students enjoy a rich mix of instructional techniques. Part of the day is in traditional classroom settings; other portions are with small teams of students on project-based work; and some time is spent pursuing highly individualized learning, often with the aid of technology. This requires a serious commitment to technological infrastructure, which is imbedded in the Avenues plan.
Avenues expects students to pursue significant independent study. Support for this approach manifests itself in different architecture (for example, “studio” areas within the school where students can work on their own or in small groups); a different schedule (time during every day for students to pursue their areas of excellence); and faculty support (teachers specially trained to facilitate this educational approach).
New York City has a wealth of learning resources available to teachers and students—from Broadway to MoMA, Wall Street to the UN, Columbia to NYU. There are hundreds of media institutions; companies in every imaginable sector; seaports and airports; state, federal and local government entities. All these are classrooms waiting to happen. Moreover, as Avenues opens campuses in other locations around the world, students will have the opportunity to make other great cities part of the classroom. One does not have to be in school to be in class.
Because most private schools are single-site institutions, they rely on external sources for the professional development/training of their faculty, providing teachers stipends/funds to attend this or that course. As Avenues develops its system of campuses, it will provide Avenues-specific development programs for its faculty. For example, Avenues’ art teachers from every campus will come together to share and develop their skills.
A school design should never be finished. Avenues will fund ongoing research and development to ensure increasing quality in its program. Every five to seven years there will be a complete review of Avenues’ design. In between these major design efforts, there are constant upgrades (such as the adoption of new technologies, new courseware, etc.).
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