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Our Approach

Buffalo Commons uses a unique blend of research-based practices and innovative programming to eliminate gaps between students and promote the creative and collaborative skills that students need to be successful and strengthen their community.

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 Excellence

BCCS believes that all students can excel academically, and that gaps in achievement between subgroups can be eliminated by through the synthesis of rigorous curriculum, effective instruction, and the use of data to adjust instruction to meet students’ needs. By holding our entire community to high expectations, we improve students’ self-concept and prepare them for successful futures.

Proven Curriculum: BCCS provides a rigorous curriculum that is demanding yet accessible, and that builds both content knowledge and critical-thinking skills. Our selected curricula are research-based and described briefly below:

  • ELA: EL K-5 English Language Arts excels in text quality, knowledge building, standards alignment, and usability. It develops foundational literacy through structured phonics, while also providing comprehensive English units that allow students to delve deeply into topics, and connect their studies to their communities.

  • Math: Bridges Mathematics provides focused, rigorous, and aligned curriculum that uses robust visual modelling to support students in developing understandings of mathematical concepts, proficiency with key skills, and the ability to solve complex problems through the use of mathematical practices. 

  • Innovations (Science): Project Lead the Way is aligned to meet Next Generation Science Standards and uses proven teaching strategies and a hands-on approach to achieve consistent, positive classroom results. 

  • Community Studies (Social Studies): Based on the highly successful Integrated Studies at Community Roots Charter School, the curriculum is aligned to standards in social studies and literacy. Additionally, the curriculum interweaves critical literacy strategies, anti-bias, and equity and inclusion concepts in a structured scope and sequence.

Effective Instruction: Our instructional vision brings together the work of Marzano’s Classroom Instruction that Works, Antonetti’s 17,000 Classroom Visits Can’t Be Wrong, Hammond’s Culturally Responsive Teaching and the Brain, and Bambrick-Santoyo’s Get Better Faster. The synthesis of these approaches creates learning environments that emphasize a sense of belonging for students, high academic expectations, and culturally responsive teaching techniques which can significantly increase student achievement and engagement. Our focus on classroom culture, high expectations, and culturally responsive techniques create shared values and a common vocabulary for teachers and instructional leaders that ensure our instruction includes strong differentiation, robust opportunities for higher-order thinking, and methods that have relevance for our diverse student body. All faculty participate in our rigorous professional development program in order to achieve this instructional vision.

Additionally, teachers are partnered in collaborative teams to plan, teach, monitor student progress, and manage classroom culture. Collaboration provides a strategy to meet the needs of our diverse student body in a targeted way. For example, we will use Marilyn Friend’s six models of co-teaching to offer parallel instruction to two smaller groups of students within one class, differentiated by student ability. 

Use of Data: We use data from assessments including the STAR 360 universal screener and Anet interim assessments to guide instructional decisions. Assessments provide teachers with standards-based data at the school, cohort, class, student, and subgroup level. We then use protocols drawn from successful charter schools to generate goal-based action plans for improvement. For example, a teaching team would be able to identify students who were struggling to master a given standard in math, uncover why, and create an appropriate reteaching plan.

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Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

In Buffalo, a city with stark lines of residential segregation along lines of race and class, we will intentionally enroll a diverse body of students with a wide range of socioeconomic and home language backgrounds, as well as varying ability levels, including those needing special education programs. A diverse student body provides ideas, backgrounds, and perspectives that enrich the lives of all students. 

Students working together toward shared goals can increase achievement and leadership skills and reduce racial bias. To facilitate these shared goals and connect students at deeper levels of culture, we emphasize a value-driven school culture, an explicit social emotional learning curriculum, and deliberate connections with families. 

Value-Driven School Culture: We create an inclusive school culture by promoting the core values, listed briefly below:

  • Respect: We appreciate each person and his/her story through our words, actions, and attitudes. We value others’ unique perspectives and treat them with dignity. 

  • Integrity: We act and speak with honesty, fairness, and thoughtfulness. We consistently align our words and actions.

  • Curiosity: We are eager to learn, question, and explore. 

  • Hard Work: We put our best effort into everything we do. 

Core values are interwoven throughout the school year through a social-emotional learning (SEL) program, intentional behavior-management and discipline practices, and our engagement of families as partners. 

SEL Program: BCCS uses the evidence-based SEL program, Caring School Community (CSC), to help foster our core values, teach specific social-emotional skills, and build relationships among the school community. CSC can improve students’ academic performance, increase positive social behavior, and reduce conduct problems. CSC includes the following  elements:

  • Morning and Closing Circles: Every day starts and ends with community time where students practice social skills and get to know one another.

  • Class Meetings: Students address common concerns and current issues on a weekly basis.

  • Home Connection Activities: Students engage in structured talk with family members about the social development focus of the week.

  • Cross-Age Buddies Activities: Students work together in structured activities with older or younger students in other grades. 

Partnering with Families: We encourage family engagement, which can increase student attendance and achievement, and decrease serious behavior incidents. Importantly, we engage each family with a home visit shortly after enrollment. The initial visit is centered on relationship building, understanding the student and family needs, and introducing our core values. Subsequently our families stay engaged through student conferences, newsletters, as well as workshops and celebrations.

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Creative Problem-Solving

BCCS not only prepares students to be successful academically, but also intentionally fosters skill development in critical thinking and creative problem-solving so that students can strengthen their community. 

Critical thinking and creative problem-solving are interwoven throughout our curricula, and we specifically offer science and social studies courses which bolster students’ academic and 21st century skills, as well as their creative problem-solving skills through a blend of project-based learning and design-thinking methods. Driven by our core values, these courses regularly provide real-world, community-based, problem-solving experiences that link students with the shared goals of contributing to their community. For example, kindergarten students study families in Community Studies, with the unit culminating in a project that asks students to reflect on their family, and create a presentation that includes bringing in a member of the family to share about important values, elements of culture, and traditions. Projects like these require mastery of content, critical thinking, the ability to analyze different perspectives, as well as collaboration and leadership skills.

More broadly, coursework like this benefits students’ academics and engagement. Academically, when compared to traditional instruction, this type of coursework can increase long-term retention of content, help students perform as well or better on high-stakes tests, and improve problem-solving and collaboration skills. Additionally, it is effective in diverse settings and can help reduce the achievement gap between economically disadvantaged students and their peers. Lastly, students engaged in project-based learning exhibit greater engagement, are more self-reliant, and have better attendance than in more traditional settings. 

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Talent Development

When students are paired year after year with strong teachers, the benefits are long lasting and compounded. We will have faculty with varying experience who will require different levels of development to be most effective for our diverse group of students. We develop teachers through a variety of structures, for example, our Summer Institute, grade-level meetings, and individualized instructional coaching. 

Summer Institute: Summer Institute provides professional development workshops to the faculty in two parts. Teachers new to Buffalo Commons participate in a three-day New Teacher Orientation with specific training in our core values, foundational academic programs, shared curricular and instructional practices, and approaches to student discipline. After New Teacher Orientation, the entire faculty spends approximately two weeks in Summer Institute. It kicks off with a review of the previous year’s data and accompanying schoolwide annual goals and is followed by professional development to learn about, plan, and launch new initiatives, as well as prepare for the school year by building relationships with families and preparing dynamic learning environments. 

Grade-Level Teams: During the school year, teachers participate in two grade-level meetings per week to focus on student needs and instructional practice. For example, our teachers meet with their grade-level team and alternate their discussions between observing trends in student work, and reflecting on the delivery of their lessons. These meetings can improve student achievement by increasing teacher collaboration and the focus on student learning. 

Individualized Coaching: Teachers are mentored through a goal-setting process and observed and coached weekly throughout the year. This individualized development meets teachers where they are, allowing seasoned teachers to continue their growth, and helping new teachers to be as effective as veterans in terms of instructional practice and student achievement.  

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