Q&A: Clear View Charter School
Faculty, administration, and a community combine efforts to create an outstanding school.
What is Clear View Charter School?
Clear View Charter School, located close to California’s southern border, has been recognized with numerous awards for its innovative efforts to support the needs of its multilingual student population through the use of technology-enhanced, project-based learning. Approximately 60 percent of Clear View’s 550 K-6 students speak English as a second language. In a unique collaboration with the State of California, San Diego State University (SDSU), and Cox Communications, a cooperative fiber link project was created to provide new and experienced teachers with technological support and training.
The Clear View Professional Development Center was established to house a technology laboratory where novice and experienced teachers were provided with the opportunity to interface with professors at SDSU and technology experts around the world using the Internet. This unique design has made Clear View an important resource for SDSU and has given Clear View students and faculty access to new technological innovations, resources, and support that help to sustain their vision of teaching and learning.
For more information about Clear View Charter School, visit its Web site at clearviewcharter.org
How did Clear View get started?
The first hurdle was finding the best time for planners -- essentially faculty and administrators -- to meet as a group. Before arriving at their preferred option of meeting after school and having dinner catered, then-Clear View Principal Dr. Ginger Hovenic and faculty tried two other approaches: (1) meeting on Saturdays; and (2) having substitute teachers work with the students while faculty members met. (Meeting on Saturdays was problematic because of family considerations and other issues. The second option didn’t work well, since only half of the faculty could be released to meet at a time, and the group wanted full faculty planning meetings.)
What was Clear View’s planning process?
Planning began with the school's faculty and administration first defining their vision, mission, and goals for their school, which took about ten days. The first questions they asked themselves were: "What kinds of things are really important to us? What do we want each grade level of our students -- K-6 -- to have?" The faculty then collaboratively planned the K-6 "spiral of learning," for each subject area plus technology.
After much discussion, they decided that the primary focus of education at their school should be teaching students how to develop the thinking skills they needed to gather, interpret, and analyze a wealth of information accessible via a variety of sources both inside and outside the classroom. The faculty concluded that these "critical thinking" skills were essential to live and work in the Information Age.
What would learning at Clear View look like?
The faculty had to devise a way for their vision -- cooperative learning, complex instruction, technology enhanced project-based learning, and a variety of traditional and non-traditional teaching methods -- to be effectively applied to hold students more accountable for their own education. The faculty decided to base their curriculum on the TLC (Teaching and Learning with Computers) model, where the teacher/student ratio is decreased during part of the day.
The TLC model was patterned after a program IBM developed. Three centers are set up in the classroom: one group of students works on targeted skills on computers; one group works independently or with parents or volunteers with manipulatives, paper and pencil, task sheets, etc.; and one group works with the teacher. The same concept is addressed in each group using the materials at hand. For example, if "telling time" is the concept, then the computer group uses software that lets them practice with analog and digital representations of time, the hands-on group builds paper clocks and tests each other on what time the clocks say, and the teacher introduces a refinement, such as quarter hours, to her group. By having students rotate through the groups, all students cover all aspects of the lesson, and teachers can fully utilize their limited technology resources.
Assessment of student learning at Clear View underwent a change as well. Starting in kindergarten, student teams make presentations of their work. They explain the project, they relay what they have learned, and they explain how they will use their new information or knowledge in the future. In this model, assessment becomes a function of performance, including thought, observations, exhibitions, student-led conferences, student-generated rubrics, holistic scoring, and anecdotal records.
How did the staff at Clear View learn to use technology?
Part of faculty planning included assessment of how technology could be used, as well as gaining familiarity with technology tools. Teacher and Media Specialist Jim Dieckmann recalls, "When the planning process began, there was no technology and a significant number of our teachers had only a limited background in the use of technology for teaching and learning. We reviewed different types of software that could enhance reading, writing, and math, as well as how to access networked software, and how to incorporate its use into daily teaching and learning routines." Most important, teachers identified the kinds of projects they wanted to do and how technology could help facilitate student learning. Jim continues, "Teachers progressed to using multimedia production software tools with students, and created a four-day summer institute to train other teachers in the implementation of multimedia production for enhancing project-based learning."
What was the role of the principal at Clear View?
At Clear View, teachers worked together to come up with ideas for project-based learning. Former principal Dr. Ginger Hovenic recalls: "The faculty would approach me and say, 'if only we had this, we could….’ My job became clarifying ideas such as what do we want to do, how can we do it, and what kinds of resources could I bring to the situation? It became my job to go out into the community and find the answers and the resources."
Where did Clear View find their funding?
After the initial planning sessions, everyone agreed that technology would be an important tool, but how would they equip their school? A key component in Clear View’s ability to buy equipment, train teachers, and solidify their instructional program was the $450,000 SB 1274 restructuring grant which they received from the State of California over a five-year period. In addition, their partners, Cox Communications and San Diego State University, provided expertise and equipment.
Who were Clear View’s professional development partners?
The Director of Teacher Education at San Diego State University (SDSU) was asked to join the planning team because the Clear View faculty and administration wanted to develop the idea of linking into the learning cycle for teachers. They knew that a university partnership would be critical.
As planning continued, it was decided that Clear View should house a Professional Development School, created as a joint venture of the Chula Vista Elementary School District and SDSU. The Professional Development School at Clear View would provide professional development for student teachers enrolled at SDSU, new and experienced teachers in the District, and aspiring and current administrators. The partnership required that Clear View have two university classrooms equipped with audio and video recording technologies, as well as observation areas separated from elementary classrooms by one-way mirrors. This set-up made Clear View an important resource for SDSU.
How did Clear View manage to get a fiber optic network?
The video conferencing link (fiber optic network) was established for use by SDSU Master's program students at the Clear View Professional Development Center. The first cooperative fiber link project was between the history department at the university and a combined fifth-and sixth-grade Clear View class, which did research and wrote a book on the life of Supreme Court Justice John Marshall. Dr. Steve Barlow, SDSU entomologist, who appears in the Learn & Live film, initiated a conversation about linking the Electron Microscope Facility with Clear View when he read an article in the SDSU Daily Aztec newspaper about the history project.
What role can businesses play?
Developing ongoing, sustained relationships with business partners meant that acquiring financial support was only a part of the school/business partnership. For example, the fiber optic link to San Diego State University was an opportunity for Cox Communications to test a new technology and find out what worked and what didn't. Cox technicians spent a tremendous amount of time at the school or on the phone problem solving with teachers. The time Cox spent at Clear View was valuable to that company in working out the bugs in the system.
Dr. Hovenic, Clear View’s principal, found that business people provided very valuable input into the planning process. "In talking with them, the question wasn't how much money can you give us, but rather what should we be thinking of next? I'd share what we were thinking about, and how the ideas related to educational standards. I'd present the kinds of things our students were working on and ask the business people what they thought about all of this. Their responses included such comments as 'Here are some other things you may want to think about in the learning process and have your students ask these sorts of questions about these kinds of things. That will make learning look a little different in your classroom.'"
Dr. Hovenic would also ask business people what kinds of skills they felt students should have to be more productive citizens and workers. This kind of dialogue, between educators and business people, helped to establish an ongoing partnership where businesses had a real role and emotional investment in planning at Clear View.
Can schools really get access to an electron microscope?
Since the time the Learn & Live documentary was made, new technological advances make it feasible for more schools to have access to equipment such as a scanning electron microscope.
One of the most exciting projects is Bugscope, a new educational outreach project of the World Wide Laboratory. The primary goal of the Bugscope project is to demonstrate that relatively low cost, sustainable access to an electron microscope can be made available to K-12 classrooms.
Participating classrooms have the opportunity to control the microscope to view insects at high magnification. Students and teachers control the microscope using web browsers from their classroom computers. The microscope is housed at the Beckman Institute at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.