This document allows Ball Charter parents the ability to opt out of having their child's academic performance tracked through the Freshman year of high school for purposes of improving academic programs in preparation of the students.
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Springfield Ball Charter School History
"In Springfield, there has been support from the citizens and the school district. You don't find that combination of circumstances very often. Here we have sort of a blessed moment."
- Carl Ball, Springfield State Journal Register, 1998
Carl Ball, a horticulture business owner from Glen Ellyn, Illinois, established the Ball Foundation in 1975. Mr. Ball was extremely interested in helping schools be more productive. Mr. Ball approached the Springfield School District in 1993 about being a partner district for the School Design Collaborative. The framework for the SDC focused on student achievement using a systems approach, partnering, research and development and productivity models. Soon there were several elementary schools in Springfield partnering with the Ball Foundation. In 1998, District 186 and the foundation created one of the first Illinois charter schools. The Springfield Ball Charter School, currently one of the most successful charter schools in the state, serves 432 Pre-K through grade 8 students.
What is a Charter School?
A charter school is a public school, but it is an independent public school — one that is free from some of the regulations that may stand in the way of achieving educational excellence. A charter school is held accountable for how well it educates its children. It operates under a mandate for high standards and it must deliver. The Illinois State Board of Education must approve the charter school's program.
Who can attend Springfield Ball Charter School?
Any child who resides within the boundaries of District 186 may apply to enroll in Ball Charter School. Ball Charter School is a school of choice.
Is there tuition charged at Ball Charter School?
No. Ball Charter School is a public school that charges no tuition for kindergarten through 8th grade.
How do you get into Ball Charter? Are there entry requirements or exams?
Enrollment is open to all children regardless of ability, race, creed, color, gender, national origin, ancestry, or need for special services. Applications are accepted through the school year until the end of January and a lottery selection follows during the month of February. There is no selection criterion except that siblings of current students receive priority in the lottery in order to keep families together.
How is Ball Charter School governed and financed?
Ball Charter School is a not-for-profit organization that has its own 7-member Board of Directors. Currently, the Ball foundation appoints four of those board members and the District 186 Board of Education appoints three. Ball Charter School receives funds from District 186 (currently 80% of the per pupil expenditure for district students). District 186 provides transportation, cafeteria, and special education services to the school.
What is the purpose of the Ball Charter School's existence?
The mission of the Ball Charter School is to create a safe, nurturing environment that fosters learning through the development of high quality, research-based academic programs, attention to the learning needs of individual children, and the involvement of parents in their children's education. The school was created with the intention of being a laboratory-type school which was given the flexibility to try new instructional strategies, staff development models, and curriculum modifications that could be evaluated for effectiveness and possible duplication in other schools in the district.
Four Focus Areas
Literacy (Reading/Language Arts)The literacy goal of the Ball Charter School is to provide research-based instruction and appropriate intervention, which will result in every student being able to read and write at or above grade level state standards. Teaching students to read and to communicate their thoughts in oral and written form is of primary concern. A strong commitment to early literacy learning is evidenced through instruction that begins with the preschool program. In conjunction with the literacy goal, the Charter School provides foreign language instruction so that all students will have the opportunity to speak, read and write Spanish.
Numeracy (Arithmetic/Mathematics)The numeracy goal of the Ball Charter School is to develop students' ability to use mathematics to solve problems and understand information in mathematical terms. Instruction incorporates the use of hands-on activities using math manipulatives as tools for the development of students' understanding of mathematical concepts.
Multiaged GroupingMultiage grouping is a mixed-age group of children who will stay with the same teacher until the student progresses to the next program level. Ball Charter currently has four program levels ( 1st/2nd grades, 3rd/4th grades, 5th/6th grades and 7th/8th grades) each level has four classrooms of students. Multiage education encourages children to grow as far as their minds and abilities can take them.
Students Are Individuals - Each child is unique. Every student has an individual pattern of academic, physical, and social development. Flexible grouping of children is based on academic needs and interest.
Multiyear Placement With Teacher - Students stay with the same teacher for more than one year. This maximizes their learning time and builds stronger relationships between educators, students and families.
Balanced Classrooms - Average classroom size is 21 students and are balanced according to age, gender, race, academic and social maturity.
A Community of Learners - Students play a variety of roles, such as leaders, problem solvers and critical thinkers.
Professional Development for TeachersTo assist teachers in continually improving their instruction, professional development time is incorporated to provide continuing teacher support, opportunities for teacher collaboration and joint planning, and assessment of the impact of innovations on student achievement.
Standards Based Curriculum
Springfield Ball Charter School teachers create their own curriculum. The curriculum at the school is standards based and reflects what students must know and learn. The curriculum follows the standards and skill-based continuum developed by Bonnie Campbell Hill, as well as the Illinois State Learning Standards. The Illinois State Standards closely coincide with the standards listed in the continuum developed by Hill.
Teachers begin curriculum development by looking at the standards and skills their students need to master or secure to move forward on the learning continuum. The teacher then looks for books and activities that will help teach these standards. Teachers work in teams, by the various levels, to plan and implement best practice strategies that will address the various skills and standards that are to be taught.
The units taught in the middle-level are organized by a central theme. This theme provides the connection between disciplines and attempts to make connections between students and the real world. One such example would be the unit conflict. The essential question that drives the unit is "How does conflict cause change"? Teachers then promote discussion amongst the students through analyzing character traits in novels, studying conflict in history as well as the environment. This type of curriculum planning not only addresses the standards and content but also promotes the necessary critical thinking that the Illinois Student Achievement Test (ISAT) requires of the children we teach. The use of essential questioning and curriculum planning for the middle level stems from the work of Heidi Hayes Jacobs and her book Mapping the Big Picture.
Rather than choose the essential question and topic first, teachers at SBCS look at what students must know and learn first and then choose themes and topics accordingly. This is much different from the way most schools deliver curriculum to students. Textbooks do not drive what we teach, standards do.
Assessing adequate student progress is ongoing throughout the year. In September, students, parents and teachers sit down and set goals for each child in the school. The child's teacher uses the standards based continuum to assess what the student has mastered and what skills still need to be addressed. Goals for mastering the standard based skills are set. Goals are set in the areas of Reading, Writing, Math, Science, Social Studies, Study Skills and Social Skills. These goals are re-evaluated through conferencing in January and June. In June, each student pre-K-8 leads their parents through a student led conference showcasing the skills and standards they have met. The students in the upper grades also evaluate each piece of their portfolio and identify their strengths and weakness and goals for the upcoming year.
SBCS does not use grades and report cards to measure student progress, with the exception of grades 7 and 8. Each child is provided with a learning continuum when they enter Ball Charter. This continuum follows them throughout their school career at Ball Charter. It becomes a running record of all of the skills and standards mastered each year.
Teachers at Ball Charter use a variety of assessments to measure student progress. Bonnie Campbell Hill's book The Developmental Continuum, promotes the use of anecdotal notes. The anecdotal notes provide a running record of progress for each child. Notes are made during large group discussions as well as through guided reading groups and one-on-one discussions with the teacher. These notes help the teacher evaluate who has mastered a skill and who still needs assistance.
Activities and projects that use rubrics as a means of scoring are used. Students are often given the rubrics in advance of the project so they can see what skills and standards they are supposed to meet. At the middle level, teachers use does not meet, meets, exceeds and exemplary as way of labeling the quality of work turned in. Students know the criteria for meets, exceeds and exemplary in advance through the use of the rubric. A does not meet means that the student did not fulfill the criteria of the project and therefore, must redo the project until the student Meets. Many different rubric makers exist on the Internet. One such recommended site is http://rubistar.4teachers.org/.
Pre and post-tests are also used to assess student growth, particularly in the area of math.
When children enter Ball Charter, they receive a learning continuum. This continuum becomes part of their school record. The continuum follows the child throughout their career at Ball Charter. Skills and standards that the students have mastered are highlighted twice a year. Conferencing with parents and students takes place to discuss growth. The continuum lists skills in Reading, Writing and Math (only to grade 6). After grade 6 in math, the teacher creates his/her own continuum for the students.
Teacher created continuum's are made for the subjects of science, social studies, art, music, physical education, Spanish and math for grades 7 and 8. These continuums list the Illinois State Standards covered during that time period and whether or not the child is Beginning, Developing or Secure in each standard. A "beginning" mark means that the student is beginning to understand the skill or standard taught. "Developing" means that the student is not consistent in the use of the skill, but has a basic understanding. A secure mark indicates that the student consistently shows mastery of the skill or standard. Students have multiple opportunities to master each skill or standard.
The current Continuums used at Ball Charter are attached (increase page size to 150% or greater for readability):
While we strive for consistency within our school, it has been difficult because we are growing in student attendance and therefore, new teacher hires. Our philosophy is one that has to be nurtured and taught to new staff. Therefore, you may not see the same type of curriculum development at every level. What you will see are teachers who strive to do their best and embrace change and challenge. One would also see happy and engaged children. At Ball Charter, we believe that learning for both teacher and student is a life-long process.
Lottery Update for the 2013-2014 School Year
Applications for the Lottery for the 2013-2014 school year will be accepted starting January 2, 2013 until January 31, 2013. The Lottery will be held in February and parents will be notified by mail during the first week of March, 2013.
Applications will still be accepted after the January 31st deadline, but will be placed on the waiting lists after those applicants that went through the Lottery. The application is available on our website or you can stop by the office and pick one up.
Vacancies may occur in the summer or even the first week of school. Phone calls will be made to families should a vacancy occur then. Please keep all phone numbers and addresses current with the SBCS office. If you have any questions, call school office at 525-3275.