Clark Street Community School is a small charter school “founded by local educators, community members, students and families who were interested in developing a school that works for educational innovation in our school district.” This is a high school without designated freshmen, sophomores, juniors and seniors, but instead learners who are supported wherever they are academically, socially, and emotionally throughout their Clark Street experience.
In Clark Street’s community-based learning environment, parents, students, and educators work together to support all learners’ special needs. The school’s special education students, many of whom are on the autism spectrum, are fully integrated into every class with teachers and specialists team-teaching classes. Teachers and students find multiple entry points for students to engage in the array of project-based courses and community-based, experiential activities.
Although most of Clark Street’s students graduate in four years, the school allows for flexibility so that students, including a large number of students with Individual Education Plans, can approach learning at their own pace. This has paid off with greatly improved graduation rates and strong student learning.
Students and parents are enthusiastic about Clark Street’s innovative approaches to learning. The competency-based, authentic curriculum is responsive to students’ interests and backgrounds, with a series of interesting cross-aged thematic seminars developed from students’ interests and linked with community partners.
Instead of using grading systems where students compete and compare themselves to others, Clark Street has developed a comprehensive set of assessments that include well-conceived rubrics, portfolios, and public demonstrations of learning. Designed to provide frequent feedback to students, authentic assessments link to instruction based on “learning partnerships” and personal learning plans that students develop with each other and adults in the school.
The collaborative learning environment extends to the school’s welcoming and supportive culture. The school is genuinely committed to restorative practices that address behavior issues, and it also provides mental health supports for students. Teachers engage in book studies on topics such as culturally responsive teaching, blended learning through equity, and nonviolent crisis intervention.
As a School of Opportunity, Clark Street Community School’s proves that innovative, democratic approaches to teaching and learning benefit everyone in an environment where all of its students—with their diverse set of needs—can thrive.