Renaissance Arts Academy was founded on guiding principles of Expeditionary Learning Schools (ELS) In our four years as an ELS school, we worked closely with a school coach to implement best practices such as arts integrated curriculum, student led conferences, portfolios of “best work,” Crew/Advisory, senior and grade 10 Passages, and Intensives. Although we are no longer affiliated with ELS, and last year worked with Paragon Education Network, we continue to use many of these practices. We are also an AVID National Certified School and have found these elective classes that prepare students to succeed at a four year college particularly effective.
Additional financial and pedagogical support from Employers for Education Excellence (E3) has also been crucial. Their foci on equity, instructional practice, and professional development has enabled us to create curriculum around compelling topics that link our students to national and international issues.
The current RA2 Site Council consists of staff (certified and classified), teacher(s), students, and parents. We meet approximately every 6 weeks, review the implementation of our School Improvement Plan, and other school business. Our primary focus has been advocating for RA2 as a focus school as the high school redesign process moves forward.
- Kaye Johnson, Administrative Secretary
- Fred Locke, Principal
- Paul Ferris, Teacher
- Jesse McGrath, Student
- Mariah Bland, Student
- Kelly McGrath, Parent
- Tandy Holub, Parent
On December 15, 2009, Site Council students and parents, joining principals Fred Locke, Ed Bear (Biz Tech), David Hamilton (Pauling Academy) were interviewed by reporter Rob Manning from Oregon Public Broadcasting. The students and parents did an excellent job making the case for the importance of small schools. Ninth grader Jesse McGrath’s comments were used as she described her preference for Renaissance Arts after shadowing at a comprehensive high school.
Kelly McGrath, concerned over the possible closure of RA2 wrote Superintendent Carole Smith the following letter (used with permission): Letter / December 7, 2009 (pdf)
Kelly and Tandy’s parental support of Renaissance Arts is critical, and I look forward to broaden our parent base on Site Council to include voices from our diverse population.
Professional Learning Community
As a small school, we grapple with issues that affect us. Two lead teachers have a release period to assist the principal with designing and implementing our professional development and other school business. Our professional development is primarily teacher led.
For 2009-10, our Professional Learning Community Team (core content and art representatives), developed a Pattern of Writing Errors and Writing Trait Analysis recording form that will allow us to track by individual student, teacher, and grade level (school-wide writing progress). In addition to scoring content reflections which all students write twice a year for their portfolio of best work, we will also score common assignments and core content work samples. Through collectively scoring student work, we will get to know the writing strengths and weaknesses of our students and build our own capacity to teach writing across content areas. Our goal is to build capacity in teaching writing, share this important work load, and intentionally improve student writing through analysis and practice.
Our lead teachers are continuing to implement proficiency based grading and all math teachers are having students create and use Tool Kits as study guides. As a school, we took 200 students to see the international exhibition China Design Now at the Portland Art Museum. Math, AVID, Music Production, Advanced Art and all grade 10 students attended. In addition to district required student work, we want our students to grapple with current local or world issues using art as a lens.
Employers Advisory Committee
With support from E3, last fall we started our Employers Advisory Committee (EAC). The committee consists of business and arts organizations that agreed to support student achievement through the arts in our school. Guest speakers, a day touring Portland Center Stage, Pacific Northwest College of Art, and Blue Sky Gallery were very successful, and individual summer art scholarships were also made possible by the generosity of committee members.
This year, yearbook students are being mentored by staff from the advertising firm Wieden and Kennedy, and one of our seniors may volunteer with a local graphic designer. All our students will participate in the Northwest Expo which is an employment fair specifically for high school students, and we anticipate that some of our outstanding students will earn summer arts scholarships.