Prospect Academy is a school whose mission is to educate students who learn differently and/or who have struggled in traditional school environments and have them feel safe physically, mentally, and emotionally. We want to change the way these students experience school and learning environments, and have our school and learning experiences evoke positive, “can-do” feelings amongst and between our students instead of frustration, sadness, fear, or anger. In addition to cultivating a supportive academic and overall cultural environment, we plan to address social-emotional skills systematically and comprehensively, with direct instruction and reinforcement across all environments. This will help students develop appropriate social and coping skills, which in turn will help them face challenges within and outside of school. Strengthening these important skills will help students become independent adults who are employed and engaged in their communities.
Through the use of evidence-based practices, extensive research, and personal experience, we believe that the elements that we describe below will help us “flip the script” for our students and create positive associations with school and learning and equip our students with the academic and social-emotional skills they need to be successful in their future after Prospect.
Prospect Academy is proposing both a unique and innovative instructional model, designed specifically for students with learning differences, and measurement system, Precision Teaching. The core content to be taught will not be dramatically different from what is taught in traditional Jeffco schools. However, the measurement system, instructional approach, class sizes (typically no more than 15 students), social-emotional support, positive behavior support systems, and explicit teaching of executive functioning and other skills needed by students with learning differences are what set the school apart from other options in the public school system.

Behavior Science

We anticipate that we will have a population of students who may have negative associations with school environments or learning. Behavior Science is a cornerstone of our learning philosophy and will help us create positive learning environments for all students, regardless of diagnosis, through the use of reinforcement and pinpointed analysis of skills. We are building this school for students who have diagnoses of autism, dyslexia, dyscalculia, dysgraphia, Attention-Hyperactivity Deficit Disorder (ADHD), and other learning differences. The philosophy and techniques of  Behavior Science work very efficiently for all types of students, not just those with learning differences. They are often among the most effective and efficient practices currently available through educational research and science (Cooper, Heron, Heward, 2007; Trump et al, 2018).
ABA has a body of empirical evidence to support its use and has validated many techniques as evidence-based practices through extensive research. As mentioned, most people, including practitioners in the field, associate ABA as a way to change the behaviors of students with autism. However, the focus of ABA is much broader and more comprehensive than this view, and coupled with the ethical code, seasoned practitioners understand both the advantages and limitations of its use (Ruiz & Roche, 2007). It is more than just a set of techniques or a certain procedure for instruction, including Discrete Trial Training. It is a philosophy and a way to solve problems. Further, many of the criticisms of ABA are because of implemented practices that are not fully grounded in the true science of ABA (Trump et al, 2018). ABA is the perfect science to use in the education of all students, because many things we do as humans can be classified as “behavior”. A behavior can have many definitions, but for our purposes, we propose that a behavior is anything that an organism does that changes the environment in any way. Therefore, a behavior could be reading a word on a page, picking up a pencil, or completing the steps to a math problem.

Precision Teaching

Prospect Academy will use the innovative framework of Precision Teaching (PT) for superior measurement and data-driven decisions. Through its use, students will gain fluency in their academic, behavioral, social emotional, and adaptive behavior skills. At Prospect Academy, we have a focus on the generalizability of academic, social-emotional, adaptive behavior, and life skills of students, as students’ abilities to use these skills across environments will have direct correlation to their success outside of the classroom and in the future. While we will teach these skills in mostly direct instruction formats, it is critical that students are able to use these skills under different conditions, in different environments, and with different people, and this is typically planned into quality programming for students with learning differences. While we will practice skills in other contexts, one of the best ways to ensure generalizability of skills is to make sure skills are fluent.
Accuracy-only performance metrics, which are typically used in schools and in Individualized Education Plan (IEP) goals, are not as accurate or sensitive measures for true mastery. However, measuring frequency of behavior, which means the number of instances of behavior in a certain amount of time, is a more sensitive and accurate measure of performance—it is the rate of performance that separates those who are beginners from those who are experts (Barrett, 1979 in Johnson & Layng, 1992). In addition to frequency, another important PT concept is Celeration, which refers to the root word of acceleration and deceleration. Celeration is the rate of student learning over time, and it can be directly measured (Binder, 1988; Binder & Watkins, 2003). Precision Teaching (PT) is the innovative measurement framework that we will use to help students gain fluency in their academic, behavioral, social emotional, and adaptive behavior skills.

Curriculum

Prospect Academy academic standards will align with all Colorado State Standards for grades K-12, which are based on the Common Core State Standards. Care will be taken to select curricula that align to the Common Core State Standards, and these standards will be used as benchmarks for student performance. It is also important to note that with any curriculum we will follow students’ data and ensure fidelity of implementation If the data show positive outcomes, then we will continue. If the data show students are not where we expect them to be, we will analyze sources for improvement.
The curricula we have chosen thus far is based on evidence of its use at other schools like ours, as well as different research that has been done looking at the efficacy of the curriculum, or comparing the curriculum to other others in the same field. However, it is worth pointing out that educational research has only recently begun focusing on intervention (Gersten, Baker, & Lloyd, 2000) and prescribing to quality standards to which educational group design research should adhere (Gersten, Fuchs, Compton, Greenwood, Innocenti, 2005). Furthermore, no one curriculum is a “magic bullet” for any issue or student.
Most curricula that was chosen is as direct and multi-sensory as possible, but we will create these elements if needed so that teachers can more easily turn the material into a gradual release model (I Do, We Do You Do; further explained in the Instructional section). Using a gradual release model with our students helps us implement a more direct instruction approach, which we know is helpful for effective and efficient teaching (Fisher & Frey, 2007; Archer & Hughes, 2011). This modification will be done by school leadership (executive director, academic director, and teacher coaches), in conjunction with classroom teachers during Professional Development time.
Key Curricular Components Include:
  • Primary: Community-desired electives, AIM for Social Emotional Learning
  • Secondary: Integrated Math, community-desired electives, AIM for Social Emotional Learning
  • Elementary Level – Singapore Math, Reading Mastery, SRA Expressive Writing 1 and 2
  • Secondary Level – REWARDS Reading Program, REWARDS Writing Program

Social-Emotional Learning

Social-emotional learning will be integrated at all grade levels and will be based on the Accept, Identify, Move (AIM) Curriculum, which is designed to teach social emotional skills using mindfulness, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), and Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA). AIM was created by Dr. Mark Dixon specifically for teaching social and emotional skills to students with autism and other developmental disabilities. The AIM curriculum targets the growth of psychological flexibility to help children improve their lives; the goal is to help nurture and develop behaviors that align with positive outcomes for students. The curriculum can be adapted to different age and skill levels through lessons that have multiple tiers of intensity. Further, there are supplemental materials that can help expand on the different concepts presented.

Speech Therapy, Occupational Therapy, and Physical Therapy

Because Prospect Academy intends to serve a population of unique learners, our students will have multiple providers working on academic and social emotional skills goals, including speech language pathologists, occupational therapists, and physical therapists. Prospect Academy would like to hire these individuals to be on-staff, but may not be able to afford full-time staffing for these positions within the first 5 years we are in operation. For this reason, we will contract with outside providers of these services. We will bill Medicaid for reimbursement for these services as a way to off-set their cost.

Counseling Program

Prospect Academy will provide mental health support and counseling to all students to support the growth of self-regulation skills, increased emotional awareness and expression, the development of social skills and the growth of healthy self-esteem in our students. Our counseling staff will provide regular individual counseling to our students, facilitate skill building groups, create behavioral support plans to support the mental health needs of our students in the classroom, provide in-the-moment support to students as needed and engage school staff in mental health education and preventative training to support the overall wellbeing and success of our students. It is estimated that between 5 and 9% of students are impacted by emotional and behavioral barriers that impact their ability to learn and reach their full academic potential (US Department of Health and Human Services 1999) and that social and emotional factors that are essential to effective learning in the classroom are often ignored (Daly et al. 2006; Gaylord et al. 2005).
Since these findings, many initiatives have been created focused on promoting increased school based mental health services to better support the mental health and educational needs of students (US Public Health Service 2000). Prospect Academy intends to create an educational program including extensive counseling support to meet these needs in our school. Therapeutic models that our counseling staff will utilize will include Applied Behavior Analysis (as previously reviewed), Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), and Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT). Counseling services will be individually designed to meet the developmental needs of each student.

Guidance Counseling

Prospect Academy will start the school with one full-time guidance counselor who will primarily be responsible for supporting the school’s high school students with transition planning. The guidance counselor will ensure that all incoming high school students (whether in 9th grade or later) develop an Individual Career and Academic Plan based on their unique goals, career interests, skills, and postsecondary interests. The guidance counselor will support students in reaching the transition goals in their IEPs, making connections with community services, helping students set up internships their senior year, and arranging opportunities for visits to higher education programs for students who are interested in trade programs, community college, and/or four-year college and university options. As the high school grows in subsequent years, the school will eventually hire a second guidance counselor.

Join Our Mailing List

Sign up to hear about upcoming events, fundraisers, and registration dates.