Cypress Junction Montessori Mission
Cypress Junction Montessori encourages the development of the whole child by providing a comprehensive Montessori education.
We do this through:
- Cultivating independent thought, foundational skills, awareness of their environment, empathy for others, social ease, and high self-esteem in every student.
- Establishing within each child the intellectual, emotional, and physical rigor needed to become a self directed learner, flexible thinker, and creative problem solver.
- Supporting each student’s ever-increasing curiosity about the world in which they live.
- Instilling the values and skills necessary to help our students to grow up to be successful global citizens.
- Bringing academic standards and student passions together to fuel a desire to learn.
Cypress Junction Montessori sets children on a path that embraces creativity, builds self awareness and helps them develop the academic skills, physical tools and personal confidence necessary for lifelong success.
Our Guiding Principles
Cypress Junction Montessori, as a public charter school in the state of Florida, utilizes the guiding principles found in section 1002.33(s)(a) of the Florida State Statutes.
High Standards of Achievement
Cypress Junction Montessori will meet high standards of academic achievement in the following ways:
- By creating a Specialized Education Program using the Montessori Method for student instruction. The Montessori Method uses multi-aged, multi-grade classrooms that provide students with a noncompetitive, developmentally appropriate and inspiring environment. Within daily blocks of time (3 hours), students work on an individual as well as community basis. This type of diverse instruction provides an environment that builds both an independent and collaborative education; providing developmentally necessary interaction and empowering self-directed and focused learners. Students work at their specific skill level, use their own work as baselines for student achievement and are only comparable to themselves for success. This non-competitive environment builds self-esteem and encourages continued success. The Montessori Method has been shown to increase not only student’s achievement levels, but also their sense of personal value.
- By having Highly Qualified Montessori-trained teachers as classroom guides. The Montessori teacher is a guide in the student’s education, providing opportunities and encouragement to explore and the space to develop into an independent thinker. Students are encouraged and mentored by Montessori-trained teachers who observe students, direct their learning and specifically design lessons and assignments with individual student achievement in mind. Montessori teachers believe that within each student is an innate drive to learn, the ability to accomplish feats well beyond what is normally expected and the compassion and empathy to develop into constructive leaders within the larger society. In the Montessori classroom there are no subjective upper limits on how much a student may learn, allowing teachers to provide challenging opportunities to continue the student’s progression.
- By using thoughtful and purposeful assessment. Cypress Junction Montessori will be a small population; therefore it is possible to have individual performance guide individual instruction to ensure each student’s progress. In order to properly assure student success,Cypress Junction Montessori will use on-going, appropriate assessments to keep track of student progress. Through teacher observation and guidance, mastery learning checklists and data from all current state required criterion-referenced assessmentsCypress Junction Montessori will guide student learning. With teachers working so closely with students, encouraging student self-awareness and this on-going assessment, students are never inadvertently lost in the instructional process.
- By using the Florida Standards. Students will meet or exceed high standards of achievement using the comprehensive Montessori Curriculum aligned with Florida Standards (see Appendix N). Cypress Junction Montessori’s administration and teachers will actively work to stay abreast of any changes in standards and incorporate them into the curriculum.
Diversity of Educational Opportunities
Currently, the only Montessori education opportunity for elementary and middle school-aged children in Polk County is in Lakeland. Cypress Junction Montessori seeks to make Montessori education available to more Polk County students, focusing on those in the Greater Winter Haven Area.
Alignment of Responsibility and Accountability
In order for the school to be fully financially accountable, the Cypress Junction Montessori Board of Directors will ensure the operating budget reflects money spent on pupil instruction, staff development and student enrichment. Cypress Junction Montessori is committed to financial responsibility. For full financial oversight policies and procedures, please see section 18.
Cypress Junction Montessori will use research-based methods in the classroom, provide teachers with adequate training and support to enhance student achievement and use developmentally appropriate materials to ensure that Cypress Junction Montessori meets the vision of the school to provide an authentic Montessori education. Cypress Junction Montessori will strive for such authenticity using means such as service-learning, project-based learning, and community partnerships that maximize student achievement in a cost-effective manner.
Providing parents with information on Reading Levels and Learning Gains
Parent involvement is paramount at Cypress Junction Montessori. The school expects that parents will play an active role in student education. Cypress Junction Montessori will provide parents with information about reading levels and learning gains through:
- Frequent parent contact. Parental involvement is a contributing factor to student success. Cypress Junction Montessori will commit to offering parents information that will help them guide their children toward success. Minimally, parents will be encouraged to attend two conferences per year at which the student, teacher and parent might review the student’s current educational progress. The Principal and teachers will be available through phone and email as needed. Since the school community is small, teachers and parents will be in close proximity often, which will also encourage communication. Parents will also be apprised the results of any assessment testing that would provide information about a specific subject like reading or math.
- A quarterly Standards-Based Assessment Report. Cypress Junction Montessori plans to use Montessori Compass or a similar program for progress reporting. Parents will be provided with detailed information about all aspects of their student’s achievement along with narrative remarks as necessary. For example, parents will clearly see on the report whether their student is just being introduced to, is practicing or has demonstrated proficiency in any of the requisite standards for each subject, including non-core classes. Cypress Junction Montessori will use the district’s timeline for progress reporting.
- Specific parent contact regarding reading assessments. Information on incoming reading level will be determined through prior year’s current state required criterion-referenced assessments scores, other assessment tools such as IBTP Progress Monitoring and possibly Accelerated Reader (AR) instruments. All findings will be reported to parents and students as expediently as possible through electronic or paper means.
- The use of state-required and alternative assessments. Cypress Junction Montessori will employ state mandated assessments to measure and monitor growth of students. Alternative assessments such as mastery learning checklists and/or student exhibitions may also be used to demonstrate learning gains. The school will provide parents with the confirmation of each year’s worth of learning gains made.
In Florida, charter schools must fulfill the following purposes:
- Improve student learning and academic achievement.
- Increase learning opportunities for all students, with a special emphasis on low-performing students and reading.
- Encourage the use of innovative learning methods. Require the measurement of learning outcomes.
Cypress Junction Montessori meets these prescribed purposes by:
Improved Learning and Academic Achievement for All Students
The specialized education program of the Montessori Method is renowned for its ability to reach every student through innovative educational methods and consistent observation of student progress and engagement. The Montessori multi-age classrooms will engage the average learner, challenge the gifted student and remediate the low performing student using an approach that accepts the student’s current capability and encourages him or her to expand his or her skills and abilities.
Montessori learning is highly specific and addresses the individual’s talents, learning styles and interests. Upon entering the classroom, students are automatically drawn to those areas of the classroom that appeal to them; teachers note this and encourage students to pursue their academic interests while integrating those interests within other subjects. Through the unique Montessori concept of “following the child,” teachers prepare and encourage students to develop a learning plan, which will enable them to portion their time and select their study materials(Appendix V).
Cypress Junction Montessori classrooms will be welcoming spaces for students of varying abilities and personal goals. The Montessori classroom is an environment of communal learning where instruction occurs alongside and in relationship with other learners. This is coupled with the individualization of student learning, enhancing every student’s outcome in many areas including academic, social and emotional.
The non-competitive climate of a Montessori classroom is conducive to effective remediation in a positive environment. Remediation happens in a variety of ways. Sometimes the student may not even realize he or she is being remediated because of the mixed grade classroom. Teachers work personally with the students to tailor lessons to bolster individual student deficiencies.
Reading is at the center of the Montessori classroom. It provides a portal to all the other disciplines. Accordingly, Cypress Junction Montessori takes reading instruction very seriously. Cypress Junction Montessori’s reading curriculum will be research-based and supported by appropriate professional development to ensure quality implementation. Reading assessments will be performed often and used to directly inform instruction. Reading learning gains will be monitored, and curriculum modifications will be made when necessary.
Also, Cypress Junction Montessori is committed to improving learning and academic achievement through parent involvement. Cypress Junction Montessori respects the triad of student, family and school, and seeks to blend the three seamlessly in order to maximize academic strengths and address any deficiencies.
Cypress Junction Montessori views learning as holistic and life-long. Within this view, students are encouraged to place their learning into relevant and related contexts in order to more fully understand the concepts presented. Using contextual and integrated learning, students can place the concepts and ideas into their life in an organized and connected way. This interconnectedness helps the student with high achievement not only at Cypress Junction Montessori, but also throughout their lives.
Cypress Junction Montessori also intends to create a staff development program which will train teachers to address the specific needs of Montessori students and will also encourage them to develop the classroom and community climate using the Montessori Method. Cypress Junction Montessori faculty will be encouraged to be lifelong learners and seekers of knowledge with which to more fully inform instruction.
Innovative Learning Methods
By its very nature, the Montessori learning environment is innovative when compared with traditional pedagogy. Montessori education focuses on students as life-long, self-directed learners who impact their community in authentic and effective ways. Cypress Junction Montessori plans to follow all the pillars of the specialized education program of the Montessori Method including the following:
- A Prepared Environment that is Crucial to Student Engagement. A hallmark of the Montessori classroom is a carefully prepared environment which provides for a variety of constructive activities. This will engage students in the subject matter. The ideal prepared environment is clean, beautiful and ordered, while being supportive of the students’ need to explore subject matter exhaustively. Cypress Junction Montessori teachers will be aware of the environment, and its importance in guiding students who are self-disciplined, ordered and joyful.
- Multi-Grade, Multi-Level Classrooms Which Combine Students of Varying Levels of Academic and Social Achievement. The Montessori classroom is comprised of students who have similar developmental needs. Students who are grouped according to developmental need may discover both learning peers and social peers who may be outside their traditional “class”. The multi-aged grouping creates a rich environment and intrinsic motivation for student performance. Younger students look to their older peers for inspiration and guidance. Older students, in turn, are usually excited to share their knowledge in the form of teaching. These moments of teaching and learning often happen spontaneously when students are given the opportunity and prepared environment to explore subjects of interest to them .Children can also learn from their peers who are more proficient in specific areas as well as reinforce their knowledge by teaching concepts to other children. This Montessori concept is reflected in evidence-based practices involving peer-mentoring and peer coaching like the Peer Assisted Learning System (PALS) program which is addressed further in Section 06 : Exceptional Students.
- Research-Based, World-Renowned Montessori Materials. Scientifically designed manipulative learning materials are at the heart of a Montessori classroom. The materials are self-correcting and provide the student with feedback, thus reinforcing autonomy, confidence, and self-motivation. Every piece of learning apparatus has a specific purpose, and focuses on a particular skill or concept, while at the same time addressing many levels of comprehension from concrete to abstract. In Montessori elementary, extensive written materials in each subject support the Montessori emphasis on the individual’s own research from reference books, primary and secondary sources, like the internet. From their own research the children synthesize their new knowledge and create books or projects illustrating their understanding.
- “Following the Child,” A Montessori Foundational Tenet Focusing on the Flow of Information in the Classroom. Montessori teachers often follow the student toward the work the student feels is necessary and interesting. The teacher proceeds to enrich, encourage and expand each student’s’ natural desire to learn. Montessori teachers believe each student has the innate drive to seek out knowledge and information, but since every child’s drive may vary in level, the teacher must be willing and able to demonstrate a variety of responses to assist students in their research.
- Small Group Instruction to Encourage Collaborative Learning and Expansion of Social Skills. Small group instruction is often purposeful and an integral part of the prepared environment of the Montessori classroom. Teachers conduct small workshops with specifically designed goals for the small group. Small group instruction within a Montessori classroom sometimes happens spontaneously as one student becomes captivated by the work being accomplished by his or her peers. The innovative approach of allowing interested students to join the group results in various viewpoints and collaboration. Additionally, students who are a part of these cohesive groups learn to listen actively, accept feedback for their own ideas and troubleshoot solutions for issues that may arise.
- Individual Work Plans that Meet Individual Students at Their Unique Mastery Level. Montessori students are assessed and carefully observed by the teachers to ensure they begin their instruction at the level they require. The Montessori classroom has no limits with regard to how much learning a student may accomplish. These learning strides are made even if they exceed the current grade level standards for mastery. Conversely, if a teacher notes that a student requires remediation, the individual work plan can ensure that all the minimum standards for mastery at the student’s grade level are being addressed.
- Authentic and Relevant Learning Opportunities like Service Learning Projects. Service Learning projects are conceived in the school community, researched comprehensively, enacted with the larger community and then evaluated for effect. Through the use of authentic and relevant projects like this, students learn to integrate the theory of what they have learned with the hands-on application of it. Service learning fits well within the Cypress Junction Montessori curricular framework, offering students a way to see the academic subjects as applicable to their lives. Service learning is at the core of the model and encourages the student to be a caretaker of his or her community.
- Uninterrupted Work Cycles and Project-Based Learning that Encourage Concentration and Focus. The weekly organization of learning time will be based on an established Montessori tenet: it is essential for children to have long, uninterrupted daily work periods (3 hours at a time) each school day, usually one morning and one afternoon work cycle. One work cycle will be dedicated to the core subject areas: Reading, Writing and Math, and the other will consist of outdoor play, silent reading, and special subjects such as Spanish, Art, Music, and PE. Whole class instruction will be as needed, usually limited to the beginning and end of the day. The school day will be structured to allow students to spend long blocks of time on work they choose. This enables each student to explore a topic or material thoroughly, and to carry it to completion.
- Community partnerships that emphasize stewardship, respect for the natural world, with a global awareness and appreciation for the interconnectedness of all life. Cypress Junction Montessori will create a lasting and profound understanding and respect for all cultures and living beings through an interdisciplinary, developmentally appropriate, and respectful teaching and learning philosophy. Cypress Junction Montessori will take advantage of the vast resources available in the Winter Haven/Polk county area. Students will create and use partnerships with the community as both a source of knowledge and as a means of applying what they learn to give back. Children will learn to give back through service to our community as a logical extension of the values of the Montessori philosophy.
Measuring Learning Outcomes
Cypress Junction Montessori is committed to ensuring each student is making adequate progress, and this will be measured in a variety of ways that may include the following:
Baseline and Periodic Assessments for Each Student
Baseline assessments in reading will provide teachers with information to use appropriate materials for student instruction. In addition, baseline assessments can be used as initial indicators to measure student progress.
- Criterion-Referenced Tests. Cypress Junction Montessori will participate in all state-required assessment tests.
- Montessori Compass for Parent and Student Information. Cypress Junction Montessori will use the Montessori Compass or comparable software to give student and parent feedback in an objective as well as subjective way. The tool will include, but not be limited to, the standards delineated in the Florida Standards as well as any other standards necessary to support the Cypress Junction Montessori mission and vision.
- Mastery Checklists to Ensure Adequate Student Progression in Each Subject Area. Teachers will use mastery checklists to make certain each student is progressing in subject mastery over a defined time. Students will be assessed for each skill or standard with a designator which indicates the introduction, practice or proficiency of the particular skill. Teachers will use the mastery checklists as necessary to assess student performance in each subject area.
In Florida, charter schools may fulfill the following purposes:
- Create innovative measurement tools.
- Provide rigorous competition within the public school district to stimulate continual improvement in
all public schools.
- Create new professional opportunities for teachers, including ownership of the learning program at
the school site.
Cypress Junction Montessori meets these prescribed purposes by:
Innovative Measurement Tools
While Montessori learning is steeped in tradition and history, its assessment techniques are still considered innovative by current standards of assessment. Montessori teachers are trained observers of student progress that is reflected in their detailed assessments. Cypress Junction Montessori’s ultimate goal in assessment is to offer concrete feedback to teachers; parents and students which can better inform instruction in order to increase student achievement.
Cypress Junction Montessori intends to develop and use the following innovative measurement tools:
- Narrative Assessments that are Specifically Designed to Provide Subjective Feedback. Narrative feedback is important for measuring and improving student performance because it can give specific details about student work. Instead of a designated letter grade to describe student progress, teachers can offer both students and parents comprehensive observations about such progress. Student weaknesses and triumphs can be described and tracked via narrative assessment. Parents find such feedback valuable and helpful in determining progress.
- Mastery Checklists and Benchmark Portfolios. Using standards based assessments, cross-referenced with the Florida Standards, mastery checklists and benchmark portfolios will be created for all grades. The checklists and portfolios will be drafted to articulate criteria for acceptable demonstrations of learning for the school’s goals. To create this portfolio teachers and students will diligently collect samples of work illustrating levels of competence for checklist entries. The portfolio and checklist will move with students as they progress through the three-year cycle in each classroom. (See Appendix W)
- Completion of Service-Learning Projects which Reflect a Long-Term Plan to Help the Community. At the Upper Elementary and Secondary levels, Cypress Junction Montessori students are expected to engage in service-learning research, planning, implementation and evaluation. Through the project’s progress, teachers and students may evaluate the efficacy of student work and reflect upon how service to the community is useful and helpful and can ultimately change the world. These projects require student innovation, creativity, determination, and empathy; the satisfactory completion of the project indicates measurable progress.
- Exhibitions that Serve as a Demonstration of Student Progress. At the Upper Elementary and Secondary levels, exhibitions are perhaps the most comprehensive manner of subjective assessment. Student exhibition of work can take many forms, but all effective exhibitions include the conclusion of a great deal of student work and research. Student exhibitors must present their work using effective communication techniques, which are cross-disciplinary in nature. Exhibitions are generally public as well; so many observers outside of the school community might examine and question the student about his or her research. Mastery of the subject matter is therefore crucial to the successful exhibition.
These assessment measures are the minimum Cypress Junction Montessori will employ. Often, assessment opportunities present themselves in unusual and unorthodox ways. Cypress Junction Montessori teachers will be alert to the diverse assessment opportunities of all students.
Competitive within the District
Montessori education values and nurtures the self-directed and inquisitive student. Student curiosity about and willingness to seek out information beyond what is customarily expected of students will provide an academically rigorous environment for students. This rigor naturally leads to students who will be competitive on standardized tests. Studies have demonstrated the specialized education program of the Montessori Method results in better scores on standardized tests in reading and math.
A study published in SCIENCE compared students in a Montessori school to those from other schools in the area. This study found that, by the end of kindergarten, the Montessori children performed better on standardized tests of reading and math, engaged in more positive interaction on the playground, and showed more advanced social cognition and executive control. They also showed more concern for fairness and justice. At the end of elementary school, Montessori children wrote more creative essays with more complex sentence structures, selected more positive responses to social dilemmas, and reported feeling a greater sense of community at their school. These findings were obtained with a design that provides control for parental influence. This was done so that students were randomly selected regardless if they were from low or high socio-economic backgrounds. This is to eliminate the concern that these students scored higher because of their home
life or background. Normally parental influence (both genetic and environmental) dominates over influences such as current or past school and daycare environments, but, in this case, parental influence was controlled for in order to get an accurate understanding of the classroom environment’s influence on learning.
Professional Development Opportunities
The ideal Cypress Junction Montessori teacher is one who will continually develop him or herself and refine his or her teaching technique. To this end, Cypress Junction Montessori will create professional development opportunities. The following types of professional development may be offered at Cypress Junction Montessori:
- On-site In-Service Opportunities that Refine Practices at the School Level. Teachers will meet within their own school community in order to improve school efficacy. Topics might include subjects of interest to the teachers or Principal and might be developed and conducted by the staff on an as needed basis. The Principal or a teacher might also seek out an expert in a particular field to provide training at these inservice professional development opportunities.
- Montessori Training to Provide Support and Education Appropriate for the Montessori Classroom. Montessori trainings are comprehensive and require up to two years to complete. Montessori training will begin the summer prior to an uncertified teachers start in the classroom, and they will be expected to complete the certification within two years. Additional continuing Montessori training opportunities will be provided to all teachers and administrators.
- Montessori trained teachers are experts in observation, leading and collaboration. These are skills that every teacher can use in his or her classroom. Cypress Junction Montessori will work to continually reinforce these skills through training during staff meetings.
- District Training and Professional Development Opportunities. Cypress Junction Montessori teachers will be strongly encouraged to attend any district workshops or In-Services that would be beneficial to the school’s climate, community and personal confidence necessary for lifelong success.