by Georgia Charter Schools Association
The State Board of Education approved a new five-year charter for Wesley International Academy during a board meeting held earlier this month. According to the Georgia Department of Education, the school has consistently surpassed the average CCRPI score for Atlanta Public Schools. In its new charter term, Wesley International seeks to build on its current record, by working to “Beat the Odds” and meet the state CCRPI average.
Wesley’s board of directors and Executive Director Jason Marshall are hoping to increase the percentage of students who have a strong knowledge of core skills and concepts. To meet that goal and boost school-wide achievement, Wesley International and its board have created a leadership plan to address staff retention, recruit a new middle grades principal, purchase a new curriculum and hire a data coach to implement a greater focus on data-driven curricula and instruction.
Marshall came to the K-8 public charter school after serving as principal of Fernbank Elementary, a successful traditional elementary school in DeKalb County. During the 2015-2016 school year, he was named Principal of the Year for DeKalb County Schools.
Under his leadership, along with the assistance of Wesley’s board, the school has already started to enact a number of the proposed changes for its middle grades students and teachers. The new approach, particularly the strengthened focus on data-driven instruction, will be fully implemented at all grade levels during the upcoming school year. As part of the increased focus, students will receive pre-and-post tests with every unit. The benchmarking efforts will allow the school to chart progress and highlight areas where review and support are needed. Marshall said Wesley’s middle school students are already making progress as a result of the adjustments made during the current school year.
“We’ve seen across the board increases in our monthly benchmarking for middle school students,” said Marshall. “Benchmarking and looking at student data on a daily, weekly and monthly basis really leads to differentiation and that’s what we want to see in all of our classes. It helps teachers witness student growth and reteach concepts that students do not understand.”
The school also plans to have principals walk through classrooms and observe instruction more frequently in order to ensure they are receiving continual feedback on a weekly basis. Teachers will also receive pacing guides as part of the school’s new curriculum so there are clear expectations about what should be taught and students are required to learn.
“We want to make sure that our teachers feel empowered, supported and have the ability to make sound instructional decisions in the classroom,” said Marshall.”
The changes under the new charter are intended to enhance the school’s current strengths, particularly its International Baccalaureate (IB) program. Wesley is an official IB World School and provides daily Chinese instruction for all of its students as part of its core curriculum. Students are given numerous opportunities for Chinese cultural immersion and exposure to assist them as they gain a solid foundation in a second language and knowledge of a world culture. Those opportunities include a summer immersion program in Nanjing, China for 20 Wesley International’s middle school students. A group of students also traveled to Peru during Spring Break.
“Our students receive 30 to 50 minutes of Chinese instruction daily, and we’re very proud of that,” said Marshall. “We want our children to know that there is a world outside of Atlanta and the United States that they need to be exposed to and learn more about.”
Wesley’s mission is to develop in students the discipline of learning and a lifelong desire for knowledge through a world-class International Baccalaureate education. The school also seeks to develop students who are global citizens and are academically competitive by international standards of excellence.
“Ultimately, we want to improve the learning outcomes for our kids,” said Marshall.
The state charter renewal comes after the Atlanta Board of Education approved a new charter for Wesley international in December. The school’s new charter term starts on July 1, 2018 and stretches through June 30, 2023.