Going to School with Emelia*

A Day in the Life of a Compass Academy Student

“When I started in sixth grade, I would sometimes stop trying because it was too hard, but teachers would tell me not to give up,” says Emelia, a member of the founding class at Compass Academy, thinking back to how she felt three years ago.

Today, just a few months away from starting high school, she’s looking forward to the next step in her educational journey. “Now that I am in the eighth grade, Compass has given me the confidence to take on challenging classes … even in high school.”

A typical day at Compass Academy might look different from student to student, since every student benefits from the school’s personalized, whole child approach, which engages students with academically rigorous content, development of social-emotional competencies, and biliteracy skills (the ability to understand and engage in coursework in both English and Spanish). Read about a typical school day for Emelia.

Personalizing Learning Time to Meet the Needs of Students

Each morning, Compass students start their day with 45 minutes of Personalized Learning Time (PLT), which gives students small-group support in content areas depending on their unique needs. PLT could be designed to accelerate a strength or help a student catch up in an area of challenge, and the content is regularly adjusted based on students' evolving academic and social-emotional learning needs throughout the year.

  Emelia’s Personalized Learning Time class displays a heart-shaped collection of “Acts of Kindness” to honor the students of Parkland, Florida.

Emelia’s Personalized Learning Time class displays a heart-shaped collection of “Acts of Kindness” to honor the students of Parkland, Florida.

At the beginning of the year, PLT provided Emelia with small-group, differentiated instruction in areas of math and English Language Arts where she needed support. Recently, her PLT focused on building skills to prepare for the CMAS, an annual state assessment in English Language Arts and math - for eighth grade it's also for science. "I used to be nervous when taking the CMAS because I was afraid of getting wrong answers," says Emelia.

In PLT, Emelia has learned test-taking strategies, such as eliminating obvious wrong answers or coming back to challenging questions. "All of us will be better at tests now," says Emelia with a smile.

PLT is also focused on developing social-emotional skills of students. “Recently, we learned about the victims of the school shooting in Parkland, Florida and came up with ways we could show kindness to others in response,” adds Emelia

Building Biliteracy in Spanish and English

Compass Academy’s emphasis on biliteracy, or having access to both Spanish and English content in different classes, has also helped develop Emelia into the confident student she is today.

  A Spanish dictionary of important vocabulary words adorn the walls of Ms. Paula’s Spanish classroom.

A Spanish dictionary of important vocabulary words adorn the walls of Ms. Paula’s Spanish classroom.

“Ms. Paula reminds us that being fluent in two languages will give us more opportunities in the future, and I believe that’s the best part of learning in both Spanish and English,” says Emelia about teacher Paula Chaparro, her Advanced Spanish teacher.

During Advanced Spanish, Ms. Paula pushes students to improve their critical thinking and writing skills. Students who are native Spanish speakers also learn to analyze texts and build their vocabulary.

“Spanish has helped me improve my writing and speaking because I've always had language classes only in English,” says Emelia.

Emelia continues her day with Algebra, taught in both English and Spanish. Teacher Rafael Velez teaches the class with three goals: to help students learn algebra, strengthen students’ linguistic proficiency in another content area, and engage students with course content in a more complex way.

  Mr. Rafael responds to an algebra question with more questions, encouraging our students to work towards the answer.

Mr. Rafael responds to an algebra question with more questions, encouraging our students to work towards the answer.

“It took some time, but now I am able to understand algebra as well in Spanish as I would in English,” says Emelia.

To build her English language skills, Emelia attends English Language Development (ELD) classes at Compass. Teacher Louise Campbell says that differentiating classes based on proficiency helps her better serve her students’ varied learning needs, whether the focus is reading, writing, listening skills, or speaking.

Emilia continues building her English skills in science class with teacher Kyle Forsyth. Through lab-based activities and investigations, students are challenged to use scientific inquiry to solve problems, rather than simply read and memorize facts from a text book.

Preparing Learners and Leaders for High School

In order to support their transition to high school, eighth-grade students like Emelia engaged in a special course to help them apply to and select their high school of choice. Students paired up with teachers to explore high school options and work through the application process.

“Before Compass, I didn’t really think about different high school options,” says Emelia. Her advising teacher Kareem Kalil pushed her to apply to a school that would challenge Emelia to grow further as a student, looking at factors like graduation rates and college success data.

Recently Emelia found out she was accepted to a high school where 100 percent of students were accepted to college and allows her to participate in internships to gain experience in her fields of interest, like medicine or law. “I was so excited and proud!” Emelia says about getting into the school.

 “I couldn’t be prouder of what she has accomplished and where she is headed in life,” says Mr. Kyle about Emelia’s academic journey at Compass. “Emelia is finishing middle school with a sense of excitement and looking ahead to high school.”

Compass Academy offers a unique and rigorous academic environment for both students and educators. For more information about joining the Compass Academy Team, please contact: jobs@compassacademy.org.

*Names have been changed to protect the identity of our students.