Our Approach

Buffalo Commons uses a unique academic approach that blends rigorous, skill-based classroom instruction with creative problem-solving tasks that require students to use those skills collaboratively to solve complex and authentic problems that impact our community.

Buffalo Commons' Key Design Elements

We uphold our commitments to academic success, creative problem-solving, and collaboration through the research-based components of our program below.

Academic Success

Rigorous and Engaging Curricula

BCCS develops and uses a demanding yet accessible curriculum that engenders critical-thinking skills as well as content knowledge. Our teachers design curricula that use research-based programs like Wilson Fundations, Wit and Wisdom, Eureka Math, History Alive!, and Science Alive! as a foundation, but tailor planning and instruction to our students to increase the amount of higher-level thinking, skill application, and interdisciplinary connection that we offer to students. To facilitate these three additional elements, our teams use 1) a Rigor and Relevance Framework to ensure tasks include higher-level thinking and application, 2) Universal Themes that help teachers horizontally align instruction to emphasize interdisciplinary connections, and 3) the Elements of Depth that provide teachers a shared language across disciplines, allowing students to more easily see how subjects interrelate.

Proven Instructional Strategies

Our shared instructional strategies draw upon the work of researchers and practitioners. The set of practices that our teachers focus on have the ability to create classrooms where students are routinely engaged in high-level thinking and creative problem-solving, where students are personally invested in their individual and collaborative tasks, and where structure helps maximize student achievement.

A Daily Skills Block

In addition to classroom instruction, students at BCCS are supported in daily small-group instruction in literacy and mathematics. These groups are tailored to each student’s strengths and areas for growth. The groups are flexible in terms of rosters and curricula, as they adjust in response to student assessment data.

Schoolwide Co-Teaching

Our core subject instruction is facilitated by at least two teachers at all times. This allows us to use a variety of teaching models and more effectively match instruction to students’ needs based on data from our assessments. It also provides a structure for supporting the needs of our students who fall into special population categories.

Creative Problem-Solving


All K-8 students engage in Innovations, a daily interdisciplinary course that centers around creative problem-solving tasks. The course is co-taught by an engineering and design teacher and an art teacher. Innovations helps students develop superior critical thinking and creative problem-solving skills, and improve their ability to collaborate with peers. Innovations offers students a structured curriculum in creative-thinking methods and collaboration, plus opportunities to apply those methods to solve authentic problems that affect our students and our communities. In Buffalo, courses like this are often available only to students classified as gifted and talented.


Cross-Age Mentorship

Our students are matched in cross-age mentorships that promote collaboration and leadership. These mentorships can increase student achievement, develop interpersonal skills, and provide a stronger connectedness to school. Each year mentors and mentees will meet numerous times to engage in a structured progression of building trust through collaborative games, creative problem-solving challenges, and eventually increasingly academic mentorship.

A Diverse Student Body

BCCS defines diversity as a combination of socioeconomic status, home language, special population status, as well as race and other factors. Although Buffalo is a relatively diverse district, few schools reflect that diversity. Yet student outcomes improve in diverse school settings. These positive outcomes include academic and cognitive benefits such as increased student achievement and college-going rates as well as social-emotional and civic benefits, including improved leadership skills and a reduction of racial bias. BCCS brings together students of all backgrounds and engages them in a structured program that provides the conditions to significantly reduce prejudice and helps them develop the skills and dispositions needed to collaborate with one another across lines of difference.