How advisors support student success

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I recently wrote about how The Downtown School incorporates current research in adolescent development and best practices in education. One way we do that is through cultivating a climate of care. Challenge Success, a nonprofit associated with Stanford University’s Graduate School of Education, shares that a climate of care helps students find success – at school and within the classrooms – by ensuring that students feel that they belong or fit in, and that they have supportive connections with others. Our goal is for our students to have a strong, supportive relationship with adults in the community – a factor shown to predispose children to positive outcomes in the face of adversity.

Similar to Lakeside School, one way that The Downtown School will support students is through an advisory program. Every student at The Downtown School will be part of an advisory group of 12 to 15 students, with an adult advisor who is that student’s advocate and mentor throughout their time at the school. Advisory is a place where students can build and nurture connections with peers and a trusted adult who will be with them through graduation. Advisors will work with students on goal setting, time management, and social/emotional learning. They’ll also have individual conferences with students when grades and comments are posted.  

Advisors will also work with students on big-picture stuff, including helping them discover and explore their passions and find a sense of purpose. They’ll help students understand what types of learning experiences most often result in what positive psychology refers to as “flow.” These are activities when the student is completely and joyfully absorbed in their work – truly energized focus – to the point that they may even lose track of time. With this knowledge of themselves, students will work with their advisor to design a meaningful internship experience.   

We’re hiring!

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We’ve reached a milestone: The Downtown School is launching our search for teachers!

We’ll be hiring five educators, who will focus on teaching English, history, math, Spanish, and science. Learn more about the positions on our careers webpage

In hiring teachers, we’re looking for people who bring a lot to the table: deep content knowledge in their subject area, a passion for teaching high school students, experience in curriculum design, and a collaborative approach to leadership. We are also looking for a diverse group of individuals who bring a variety of perspectives to the classroom. In today’s rapidly changing and interconnected world, it is critical to provide students with role models who represent a broad range of backgrounds and human experiences. 

As educators – as people who live in the world! – we know that diversity is necessary to achieving educational excellence. Students’ learning is enriched by the diversity of their teachers and their fellow students. 

Like Lakeside School’s mission, the mission of The Downtown School articulates a commitment to being a place where “individuals representing diverse cultures and experiences instruct one another in the meaning and value of community.” A wealth of research shows that students perform better academically when they feel able to fully be themselves and when they have a strong sense of self. We want our school to be a place where students and adults can bring all aspects of their identity to school. Because that’s where deep and meaningful learning takes place. 

If you are or know of an educator who might be a great fit for The Downtown School, please check out our careers page. I’m looking forward to putting together the founding team of teachers – this is an exciting time for our school! 

Interviewing for The Downtown School

With the admissions season fully underway, one of my favorite parts of the week is meeting with students and their parents and guardians during the interview portion of the application process. The interview helps me get a fuller understanding of a student and their passions and interests, and it helps the student and their family learn more about our approach and have their questions answered in a personal conversation.

Interviews take place at the KEXP Gathering Space - right around the corner from The Downtown School (which is currently under construction). The student and I spend 20 minutes in an informal conversation, then invite parents and guardians to join us so that everyone can have their questions answered. There’s no need to prepare anything in advance, and it’s fine to dress casually. I’ll come and meet you at the designated time.

Interviews are scheduled online within Ravenna, the online application system - now is a great time to schedule an interview slot! You can learn more about interviews and the application process for The Downtown School on our admissions page.

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Inspired by research and best practices

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Last week was an exciting one: We debuted a whole host of new content on our website including detailed information about the academic program at The Downtown School! If you haven’t seen it already, you can find it on our academic overview webpage. There is also grade-specific information, for grades 9, 10, 11, and 12.

In developing The Downtown School’s schedule and curriculum, I worked with a team of Lakeside faculty. From decisions about the start time to number of classes in the day, and the nature of assessments to using the city as a lab, we looked to current research in adolescent development and best practices in education. One of our inspirations is Challenge Success, a nonprofit associated with Stanford University’s Graduate School of Education. Challenge Success partners with schools and families to provide kids with the academic, social, and emotional skills needed to succeed now and in the future.  

Dr. Denise Pope, cofounder of Challenge Success, recently ran a professional development workshop with faculty and staff at Lakeside School. It was truly affirming to see just how many aspects of The Downtown School are in alignment with her work.

A framework that Challenge Success uses for supporting healthy school design is the acronym SPACE

S = Students Schedule and Use of Time

P = Project and Problem Based Learning

A = Alternative and Authentic Assessment

C = Climate of Care

E = Education (students/faculty/staff/parents/guardians)

Over the course of the new few months, I’ll share more in-depth information how The Downtown School incorporates each of these into our academic program.   I hope that you continue to follow the journey!

If you interested in learning more about Challenge Success and the SPACE framework, check out their website.

 

Accepting applications Sept. 8, 2017

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On Friday, Sept. 8, The Downtown School’s online application will go live on Ravenna, our application management system. Through Ravenna, families can manage their applications online, complete family forms, sign up for interviews and hard-hat tours, and request teacher evaluations and transcripts. Watch this website for more information about admissions!

Things I love within walking distance of The Downtown School

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The lease for The Downtown School started yesterday and I couldn't be more excited about our location near The Seattle Center. Here are a few things that I love within walking distance of the school:

A sneak peek at The Downtown School's 9th-grade theme

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I recently had the opportunity to spend a week with fifty independent school leaders as part of the NAIS Fellowship for Aspiring School Heads. During the week, our cohort worked with a highly-respected group of current heads, learning about many aspects of leading an independent school.

One of my key takeaways was the importance of identity development. For a person to do their best work, they must feel able to be their authentic self; the unique aspects of a person's identity are strengths they bring to their work. This is true for students, teachers, and heads of school.

This was particularly exciting to me, because identity development plays an important role in The Downtown School's grade-level themes. Each year, students will have a theme that will be woven into all curricular content. The school year will start with a three-week interdisciplinary intensive class related the theme. Here's the themes:

Grade 9 – Identity and Learning
Grade 10 – Networks and Complexity
Grade 11 – Leadership and Decision-Making
Grade 12 – Change: Creation and Navigation

Here's a sneak peek of how 9th graders will explore the theme of Identity and Learning through a variety of disciplinary lenses, asking questions like: Who am I? What aspects create an identity? How do others see me, and does my identity affect the world around me?

Students will start the year with a three-week intensive, How Do I Learn?, during which they'll examine the latest research about how our brains work, with a special emphasis on the adolescent brain. They will explore current theories in disciplines such as neuroscience and psychology while working with citywide partners to gain a broad view of learning. They'll explore questions like:

  • What does it mean to learn?
  • How does learning differ from person to person?
  • What are some common myths about the brain and learning?
  • How do I learn, and how does the way I learn change?
  • What do you do when you encounter something challenging, that is not easy to learn?

At the end of the intensive, students will shift their focus to themselves as learners, starting a learning portfolio that they will use and expand upon throughout the next four years. They'll also move into their first semester with some shared core concepts, including a basic understanding of the neuroscience of learning; connections between learning, thinking, memory, and problem-solving; and the necessary role of failure in learning.

Students will continue to investigate Identity and Learning throughout the year. They will read and write about identity through "coming of age" stories in their English class. In World History, they'll study how the definition of citizenship has evolved over time. They learn Spanish through a focus on what defines them at this moment in time, including family, friendships, school life, and youth culture. Biology and math will continue the focus on learning and identity by developing students' capacity to see themselves as scientists and mathematicians.

Finally, an end-of-year intensive on wellness will invite students to continue learning about themselves in terms of physical, personal, and social development.

We're currently putting the finishing touches on our curriculum guide, which we'll share when our website launches next month. Stay tuned! And keep in touch with The Downtown School on our new Facebook page and Twitter feed.

Blending tradition and innovation

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The Downtown School officially has a home and I couldn't be more excited! The historic 16,000-square-foot building on the corner of Warren Avenue and John Street has large, light-filled classrooms, a big multipurpose area that will become our "commons," and lots of flexible spaces for both collaboration and quiet work. And the building is located next to Seattle Center – an area of the city with a special history and importance in our region.

The building and location embody an aspect of what makes The Downtown School special: They blend tradition and innovation.

In The Downtown School's academic program, that blend is seen in classes in traditional core content areas (English, history, math/computational thinking, science, and Spanish) and interdisciplinary courses that blend art, history, science, philosophy, psychology, and religion. Students will have shorter in-class days and an extended school year – and they'll be using the city itself as classroom, both with their teachers and in internships.

The updated building will also balance tradition and innovation: The 1920s-era school will have a modern, open-concept co-working space on the ground floor where teachers and students can collaborate. We're keeping many of the historic architectural details that make the building feel special while adding a brand new biology/chemistry lab and physics/engineering classroom.

Seattle Center itself – one of the city's most treasured assets – is exploring this balance between history and innovation. Last fall, the Seattle Center: What's Next event brought together a diverse group of leaders to envision the center's future in a Seattle that is a global hub for innovation, technology, and creativity. Not to mention the changes coming to Key Arena – which I can see looking out the windows of The Downtown School!

Stay tuned for more updates!

Announcing the name and location of the micro-school!

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We are excited to announce two major milestones in establishing a Lakeside affiliated micro-school: the location and name of the new school.

The Downtown School: A Lakeside School will be located next to Seattle Center in a historic school building updated to serve as a dynamic space for learning.

The building is 16,000 square feet and located on Warren Avenue North off John Street, two blocks from Pacific Science Center. The space includes seven large classrooms, a sizable multipurpose commons area, and flexible spaces for collaboration and quiet work.

"We are thrilled to find a building that meets both our programmatic needs and is financially a great deal," said Sue Belcher, The Downtown School's head of school. "I think students and faculty will love the big, light-filled classrooms, and the proximity to Seattle Center and downtown will make it easy to use the city itself as a classroom – an aspect of this school that I think will be particularly exciting to students."

In finding a home for the new school, the team evaluated multiple aspects of properties, including building quality; accessibility to students and families (including public transportation); community resources; accessibility to partners; and the cost of real estate and renovations. The Seattle Center-area site scored high in each category.

With the lease signed, Lakeside will now move ahead with plans to update the space to be ready to open in fall 2018. The school is working with Public47 Architects, lead architects Kevin Tabari, AIA, and Jeff Boone, AIA, LEEP AP.

 

Additional facts about The Downtown School

  • This new high school aims to provide a more affordable independent school option for academically talented students.
  • It will preserve the fundamental components of Lakeside School: a high-quality academic education, meaningful student-faculty relationships, and a diverse body of students and adults.
  • With full enrollment, The Downtown School will serve 160 students in grades 9-12.
  • Tuition will be set at approximately $17,000 per year (Lakeside School's 2017-2018 tuition is $33,280).
  • The curriculum will combine some of the best aspects of Lakeside School's high-quality academic program with special programs and features that are unique to the new school.
  • The school will be separate from but affiliated with Lakeside, with a different educational model, admissions process, student-life program, and cost.
  • The Downtown School will begin accepting applications this fall for students entering 9th and 10th grade in the 2018-2019 school year. The online application will be available in Ravenna in September 2017.