The Knightly News
Kingsman Academy Community Newsletter
March - April 2020
Virtual School Edition
In this issue
Allowing Students to Shine
How we bring student competencies to the forefront in their classwork
Learning at Kingsman Academy involves in-depth, hands-on projects complemented by lessons on basic skills and content knowledge. We use a competency-based grading method in which students and teachers work together to evaluate student progress. For example, in Ms. Ma Brown’s chemistry and physics classes, students work on projects like building solar-power cars, water rockets, and energy-efficient model houses. Throughout each unit, the students have to show competency on a variety of skills.
There are four levels of competency, one through four, with four being the highest. Students can prove they are competent in a skill in many different ways. For example, one student in Ms. Brown’s class showed he had mastered the vocabulary of a unit by drawing diagrams and building small models on an interactive word wall. Mastering the vocabulary put that student at level two for that unit.
He then went on to show level three competency by writing an excellent lab report and solving problems correctly on a quiz. Level four competency means you can apply the skills in other contexts. In one unit, a student got so good at solving the problems that she went up to the board and taught the whole class how to solve them. This allowed her to achieve level four for that skill.
For the energy-efficient house project, students earn level two competency by building the house according to the specifications and then rise to level three by being able to explain why they chose certain materials and the physics behind their choices.
Because students can show evidence of competency in many different ways, students and teachers work together to evaluate students’ skills. For each unit in Ms. Brown’s class, students have a list of skills and a rubric that describes what it takes to achieve each level. When they reach a new competency level, they write the date on the checklist and describe the evidence they have produced to reach this level.
They then discuss these grades with the teacher, and the teacher signs off on the new competency level and increases the student’s grade in the online grade book.
“Competency-based grading is great for Kingsman Academy students because they can show mastery of the skills in so many different ways,” said Ms. Brown. “They can show mastery through personalized projects where students can be creative and collaborative. We also give them tests and quizzes, but we don't pass or fail a student just because of their test scores. This is why competency-based grading is better for our students than traditional grading.”
Bringing Student Skills Into Focus
Competency-based grading is flexible and all about what a student can do
Traditionally, grades in school are based a lot on a student’s behaviors: are they sitting quietly, doing what the teacher asks, turning in homework. These habits are important, but what is much more important is what the student is actually learning and what skills they can demonstrate at the end of a unit. These content skills are the basis of a grading approach being used at Kingsman Academy and many other schools: competency-based grading.
Kingsman Academy teachers and school leaders have selected a wide variety of skills students need to master, both within and across school subjects. Teachers use a list of requirements for each skill to determine if a student is at level 1, 2, 3, or 4, with 4 being the highest.
“You can think of it like a bingo card,” explained Senior Director of Teaching & Learning Jake Fishbein. “Every time a student reaches level 3 or 4 in a skill, they earn credit for showing competency in that skill. They need to master a certain set of skills to earn credit in a class, pass to the next grade, or graduate from high school.”
The approach has three huge benefits. First, we can make sure a student is actually developing the skills we want them to have when they graduate. Second, when a student starts a new course, their teacher can see exactly what skills they were great at and what they struggled with in the previous course. Lastly, if a student has mastered a skill, they can immediately move on to more challenging work or even to a different class.
“Another really cool aspect is that students can show competency at any time,'' explained Mr. Fishbein. “For example, if a student is working on writing skills in humanities class and then they do really great writing in STEM class, they can bring that work to their humanities teacher and earn credit for that skill.”
Right now, Kingsman Academy student report cards still look mostly traditional and feature an average competency level and a letter grade instead of showing competency on each individual skill. Mr. Fishbein explained, “We still have to give the A through F grades because that is a requirement of the District of Columbia. We are applying for a waiver that will allow us to base everything on competency. Then we will be able to utilize all of the benefits of the new and better system.”
Seeing a Unique Perspective
Get to know Director of Integrated Comprehensive Services Katrina Foster
As Director of Integrated Comprehensive Services, Ms. Katrina Foster manages student enrollment, attendance, athletics, social work, and college and career counseling. She has been with Kingsman Academy for three years, having previously served as the program director for our R.I.S.E. and Bridging the Gap programs. Ms. Foster has a big job that requires her to understand students and families in many different ways. Her life and professional experience have allowed her to build this understanding.
Before coming to Kingsman Academy, Ms. Foster had a wide variety of jobs. She taught at the elementary, high school, and college levels and was a special education coordinator. Before working in schools, Ms. Foster directed several group homes for adults with intellectual disabilities and for youth who had come through the abuse and neglect or juvenile justice systems. Right after college, she worked in the department of corrections as an officer and case manager.
“All this experience gives me a unique perspective because when I’m with a student and their family, I can relate to every individual at the table,” said Ms. Foster. “My son had a disability so I went through all that as a parent, then I was a teacher of special education and supported people in the criminal justice, abuse and neglect, and foster care systems, and with mental health issues. I can relate and understand everybody’s perspective and make more informed decisions about how to support them.”
“My heart is always in being an advocate for people who don’t have a voice. That could be adults with cognitive disabilities or youth in foster care or juvenile justice or parents who have been ostracized by the system. I have a passion for supporting families and helping parents advocate for their children and understand what resources are available to them.“
“The most satisfying part of my job is being able to make a difference in the lives of children and families that will in turn benefit our whole community. I think the relationships that staff have with students at Kingsman Academy are very special. Every student has adults they can trust and the staff holds that trust and supports the students in whatever they need. The staff is so involved and connected, and that leads to student success, academically, socially, and emotionally.”
Twelfth-grader Herbert Lee
I am 17 years old and in the Odyssey program. I’ve been at Kingsman Academy for six years.
My classes are going good this year. When I graduate, I’ll be able to say my last year was my best year. My humanities teacher tries to make learning fun. My math teacher is a good teacher who helps me a lot. I need to get here for block 1 more so I don’t miss math class. I love STEM class. My teacher approves of me as a student and is always looking out for me.
I played flag football this year. Outside of school I play recreational basketball or throw a football up and down the alley.
I am the only boy in my family, and I have six sisters. They are between 13 and 23 years old. I look after my younger sisters sometimes. My whole family gets together at my house during the holidays.
My main goal is to graduate and to get better grades than I have in the past. I have a job in construction waiting on me when I leave Kingsman Academy.
New hallway mural from Ms. Richardson and her art students
Student and Family Resources
Kingsman Academy is greatly expanding our college and career readiness programs this school year. For career readiness, that means getting students plugged in to training programs and internship opportunities and helping them build up the soft-skills like teamwork and time management they need to be successful in a workplace.
For college readiness, it means exposing the students to the many different 2-year and 4-year college options, making sure they are prepared for the ACT, and connecting them to every possible financial aid option. “The most important part is for every student to have a plan,” said Ms. Jo-Etta McLamore, who is in her first year as the College & Career Counselor at Kingsman Academy. “With each student, we talk about their goals and then put together a plan for how they are going to get there. We want to make sure they start putting the pieces together now, so when they graduate they are ready for the next steps.”
College and career exposure is a big part of Ms. McLamore’s new program. “We’ve had many people come from different colleges and organizations to talk to the students about what they can do beyond high school,” Ms. McLamore said. This includes training organizations like Potomac Job Corps, employers like the U.S. Army and fire and paramedic departments, and a long list of colleges, including the University of the District of Columbia (UDC), Norfolk State, and Morehouse.”
“We want students to know what’s available to them and start to make moves in that direction,” said Ms. McLamore. “We want them to apply to college, even if it’s not their first interest. Maybe a year after graduation they’ll decide to go to college and that acceptance will still be valid. Job training programs at UDC and the Prince George’s County Skilled Trade Center offer great opportunities to become certified in plumbing, HVAC, automotive, and other careers. There are a lot of opportunities, and we want to make sure each student starts pursuing those opportunities now and has a plan in place that will work for them after they leave Kingsman Academy.”
Kingsman Academy in the News
WUSA9 featured sisters Ar’Dinay and A’Dariea Blocker discussing essays they wrote in their Kingsman Academy humanities class.
Kingsman Academy students and staff are benefiting from several competitive corporate and foundation grants we have won this year. Thank you to these organizations who are supporting teaching and learning at Kingsman Academy!
$5,000 from Lowe’s for STEM lab equipment, including a 3D printer!
$25,000 from the Paul M. Angell Foundation for musical instruments!
$2,000 from the Capitol Hill Community Foundation to build a maker space!
We’re now accredited through 2026, and our charter has been extended through 2025.
Kingsman Academy has recently reached two huge milestones. As of December 2019, we are officially accredited by the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools. This was an intensive process that involved many staff, parents, and community members, and we are very proud to have achieved this goal a full year before our accreditation deadline.
Also in December 2019, the D.C. Public Charter School Board voted to extend our charter through 2025. This is our first charter extension since Kingsman Academy opened in 2015 and shows that we are accomplishing our mission and our goals for our students and for our school.
We extend a huge thank you to everyone inside and outside the school who worked on the accreditation and charter extension processes and who have helped us learn and grow as a school over our first five years!
Key Dates & Information
Our new student application is currently open! Help us spread the word about all the great programs we offer students at Kingsman Academy! kingsmanacademy.org/apply
The deadline to apply for the D.C. Summer Youth Employment Program is February 29, 2020. Apply at summerjobs.dc.gov.
The last day of Trimester 2 is March 20.
There will be no school for students on Friday, March 20, and Saturday, March 21. These are staff professional development days.
The ACT will be administered at Kingsman Academy on March 24. Register with Ms. McLamore email@example.com.
We will host a Celebration of Learning on March 25 from 10:00 AM to 12:00 PM to showcase student work. All families are welcome.
We are accepting donations of food and clothing, especially coats, for families within our school community. Please contact Ms. Foster to donate or to collaborate with Kingsman Academy on a food or clothing drive: firstname.lastname@example.org. If you need food or clothing for your family, please contact Mr. Kemp: email@example.com.
Have questions or feedback? Reach out with the KAPCS contact form.
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