STEAM, PSAPs and Paragon: Muskegon Heights Charter Operator Explains New Curriculum

Andrew Trzaska | August 13, 2012

Monday’s Muskegon Heights Public School Academy System board meeting included a presentation by Mosaica Education executive vice president Donn Tignanelli on Mosaica’s curriculum plans for the fledgling charter district.

Tignanelli detailed the Mosaica Model and its pillars, which he stated all teachers and staff need to constantly be thinking about: student achievement, professional development, integrated technology, parent involvement, extended learning time, community support, secure environments, and the Mosaica-developed Paragon curriculum.

The K-8 curriculum will have a core with four main areas: Students will receive 90 minutes of math, 120 minutes of reading and writing, 60 minutes of science, and 90 minutes of the Paragon humanities curriculum.

“120 minutes does not mean 75 minutes,” said Tignanelli. “It means 120 minutes of reading and writing.”

The Paragon curriculum will have each school learn about a region of the world in unison across five-week units, and after each unit parents will be invited to Paragon Nights, which are presentations or open houses that celebrates what they have learned.

Mosaica’s curriculum implementation specialists will assess data and queue up the next set of objectives so teachers can focus on teaching and less on planning.

Tignanelli also spoke to Mosaica’s STEAM integration. Whereas the more commonly known STEM model focuses on science, technology, integration and mathematics, Mosaica integrates arts as well and enriches beyond it with foreign language, which will start with Spanish in elementary school.

The high school model is focused on relevance to the same STEAM ideas plus all state requirements, but at a higher level of intensity.

Tignanelli claimed that one of the largest problems with students especially in high school is their individual confidence levels in math, critical thinking and other areas.

“We begin [the high level of intensity] in the early grades to work with that.”

A PSAP, or Personal Student Achievement Plan, will be reviewed with each student plus teachers and parents every 10 weeks through the year to see what goals are being met adjustments should be made.

For 2012-2013, 192 days of instruction with an extended 7.5 hours of instruction will include “bell to bell” teaching. Mosaica is looking toward year-round teaching for 2013-2014 and beyond.

“We don’t have a minute to lose, so we make sure our school day has every opportunity to learn,” said Tignanelli.

Part of Mosaica’s organization is the use of PowerSchools, a scheduling system that Mosaica uses nationally to build and structure schedules and report grades. Classes are set for 25 students, according to Alena Zachery-Ross, regional vice president for Mosaica who will locally oversee the new Heights system.

“We’re building our schedule so our students can get the classes they need to be on track for graduation,” said Tignanelli.

Teachers reported for their first day of professional development today, including an overview of the history Muskegon Heights Public Schools, meeting the practicing football team and marching band, and learning the Paragon model.

Zachery stressed that teacher education comes first for students to be educated in this model:

“It’s not just saying ‘I’m going to do something’ but it’s about understanding it enough so you can implement these things.”

Board president Arthur Scott lauded the Mosaica curriculum: “You’re going to be the envy of this town when this gets going. We’re going to have students from all over the county coming here.”

Andrew Trzaska

103.7 “The Beat” – local government beat reporter and political analyst