The focus of Nasha Shkola, a free, choice public school, open to all MN students is to meet the unique educational needs of Slavic immigrant students, students of Russian descent, students interested in Russian language and culture and any other student choosing to enroll. This K-12 school (starting as K-5) will utilize the Core Knowledge Sequence as a solid foundational base for the educational curriculum and a program in Russian Language, Heritage and Culture where all students will become proficient in both Russian and English. These opportunities are both new and unique for the Russian speaking community and also a unique opportunity for non-Russian speakers. There are currently no other schools in the seven-county metropolitan with this focus.
The Core Knowledge Sequence has a heavy emphasis on Language Arts. Nasha Shkola will use Balanced Literacy as its reading, writing and language arts program. Balanced Literacy is a research based and content-rich approach that provides high-interest, developmentally appropriate instruction for each student. Harcourt Achieve’s Literacy by Design uses a Balanced Literacy approach by providing instruction for guided reading, phonics, large group reading, writing, spelling and has many fiction and non-fiction books that have themes in social studies or science. Reading is divided into two areas – the Core Knowledge content that all students will have which includes the pre-determined stories, books, and poems for each grade level; and guided reading, which is the selection of books for students at their reading level. (When the proper books are selected, students are able to read with approximately 90% accuracy.)
In line with the Core Knowledge philosophy, the knowledge that students gain each year builds on the knowledge gained in prior years. Singapore Math stresses students' foundational skills, teaching concepts verses process. Teaching conceptually lays a foundation, thus enabling all students to progress through advanced mathematics. Students as young as second grade begin learning multiplication and division and are performing simple pictorial algebra by fourth grade. There is a lot of student discussion about solving math problems. Quick mental calculation is stressed.
The Singapore approach teaches math concepts and encourages greater problem solving skills and creative thinking. Singapore Math takes on fewer concepts, about 10 each year, but children are expected to master them. The strong point of Singapore is the way basic concepts are presented, as there is always more than one approach. Singapore Math is an effective mix of drill and practice, word problems and mental calculation instruction connected to all important concepts. Singapore Math addresses the core math curriculum in a way that better prepares students for higher math.
The Core Knowledge Sequence will be used as the basis for the Social Studies curriculum (History and Geography). The Core Knowledge Sequence provides rich content in both World and American history at each grade level. The History textbook series by Pearson was specifically developed to support the Core Knowledge Sequence for students in grades K-6. The Pearson texts are classical in approach and historical periods serve as the framework for discussions of art, science, literature, philosophy and politics. Key vocabulary is reinforced and students are encouraged to make connections across the disciplines using history as a starting point. Students will possess a solid base of knowledge of both American and World history, understand and be able to discuss the cause and effect of historical events, and demonstrate an understanding of how historical events have influenced the world. The History and Geography content are aligned with the MN Academic Standards.
The Core Knowledge Sequence aligned with the MN Academic Standards will form our Science program. Nasha Shkola will use FOSS kits (Full Option Science System) by Delta Education in a lab style that allows students access to scientific lab environments not always found in elementary school. FOSS is a method of teaching science that uses investigative equipment and activities in a hands-on learning process. Students take the role of the scientist as they observe the environment around them: asking questions; determining the important issues; and conducting experiments. The FOSS program is designed to provide a diversified and meaningful science education for all students. It has a focus on 21st century education and is structured to align with how students think and learn. It is a system that follows the logical scientific process by engaging learning from observation though the synthesizing of new ideas. Delta Education has aligned the FOSS program to the Core Knowledge Sequence and to the science standards. These “kits” provide a systematic approach to Scientific Theory, discovery, measurement and reason that is appropriate, challenging and of high-interest to students. Science skills and concepts will be taught using experiments, manipulatives, surveys, research, and technology. Students will learn the scientific method in the classroom, community and in the environment.
Music and Art
Music and art are prominently included in the Core Knowledge Sequence and integrated whenever possible with history and literature emphasizing an interdisciplinary approach. Students are expected to gain an appreciation for the interpretation of music and art, issues and viewpoints about music and art, understand the styles of music and art, influences and themes in art and music, and the historical and cultural contexts in which the music and art were generated. Studies have shown the connection between participation in art and music education and success in academics. Participation in music and art education during the formative school years brings countless benefits to each individual throughout life.
The Physical Education program encourages personal fitness through individual activities with team games. Participation and good sportsmanship is emphasized. There will also be instruction on health and wellness.
Russian Language, Heritage and Culture Program
Studies have shown that the study of a second language promotes a better understanding of other cultures and a unique perspective on the world. Second language instruction has been shown to improve listening skills, enhance memory, and develop creativity, mental flexibility and higher order thinking. In addition, students who learn a foreign language in elementary school demonstrate higher scores on standardized tests in language arts and math than those who do not. The Foreign Language program is for students to maintain and continue learning Russian or to begin learning Russian.
The Russian Language, Heritage and Culture Program will provide all students the opportunity to experience and learn about the rich culture of the Russian people. The goal of these intercultural classes is to preserve the Russian language, heritage, identity and help all students become bilingual - proficient in Russian and English.
Nasha Shkola District has developed systems designed to identify pupils with disabilities for pupils with disabilities attending public and nonpublic schools, and pupils with disabilities who are of school age and are not attending any school.
Finally, all staff will be trained in the Responsive Classroom approach that will enhance the overall climate of the school and give teachers/staff techniques to help students solve behavior problems (school-wide plan). Responsive Classroom is a way of teaching that emphasizes social, emotional, and academic growth in a strong and safe school community. This approach consists of practical strategies for helping children build academic and social emotional competencies day in and day out. Using these strategies increase student engagement and academic progress, along with fewer discipline problems.
The following research supports the remainder of our curriculum.
Russian Language, Heritage and Culture – There is considerable research in the US and other countries that consistently shows that both English Learners (EL) and native English speakers benefit from instruction through two languages:
- In contrast to what we typically hear in the media, 20 years of scientifically based research and evaluation studies are consistent in showing that ELs who received extended instruction through their first language (at least through elementary school) were able to catch up to or surpass the achievement levels of EL peers and English-only Latino peers who were educated in English-only mainstream classrooms. These results were based on or taken from a variety of student indicators: standardized achievement tests, course grades, school attendance/dropout rate, and student attitudes.
- Forty years of scientifically based research and evaluation studies in the US and Canada demonstrate that native English speakers in one-way immersion and TWBI programs develop proficiency in a second language and gain cultural awareness, and they perform as high or higher than English-speaking peers in English-only classes on standardized tests taken in English.
The research shows that simply adding more English instructional time does not yield higher achievement measured in English for English Learners; rather, the students who achieve at the highest levels in English are those who achieve at the highest levels in the home language. Thus, research shows that providing a solid foundation in the home language yields higher achievement in English. ("Dual Language Education" In the STARlight, Issue 4, Written by: Kathryn Lindholm-Leary, Ph.D. San Jose State University Prepared by: Nenette Adelson-Rodriguez San Diego County Office of Education, July 2007)
“The Social and Emotional Learning Study, completed in 2004, yielded important findings from schools using the Responsive Classroom approach: Children scored higher on math and reading tests, felt more positive about schools, teachers, and peers, and had better social skills and fewer behavior problems. In addition, teachers felt more effective and more positive about teaching, offered more high-quality instruction and collaborated more frequently with other teachers. This and other studies confirm what good teachers have always known: When children are explicitly taught social and emotional skills in a positive classroom climate, behavioral problems decrease and academic engagement and achievement increase.