Accelerated Schools PLUS

Students

Imagine a school...

in which all children achieve at high levels regardless of their backgrounds...

that treats all children as gifted and builds on their talents through enrichment strategies, independent research, scientific experiments, writing, music, art, and problem solving...

in which all members of the school community develop a vision of their ideal school, collaborate to achieve that vision, and make major decisions about curriculum, instructional strategies, and school organizations...

where ideas count...

Welcome to an Accelerated School!

Welcome to the Accelerated Schools PLUS Project located at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. The Project was initiated at UNLV in 1991 when Dr. Jane McCarthy arrived at UNLV from Stanford University where she was the director of the Accelerated Schools Satellite Center Project, funded by a grant from Chevron. She brought part of the grant to UNLV and the project at UNLV has received numerous grants and gifts from local and national foundations throughout the years.


About

The Accelerated Schools PLUS Project is a school reform project designed to work with schools with high percentages of students in poverty and other at-risk situations that might impede student ability to succeed academically in schools, as they are currently constituted. The project works with K-12 schools in an intensive intervention designed to bring all students into the mainstream of academic achievement. The notion under girding the project is that students in at-risk situations benefit from an enriched, challenging instructional program that builds on their strengths-thus the slogan, "Don't remediate, accelerate!" Students already behind do not benefit from uninspired remediation that produces slow gain.

Through a process that involves changes in governance, curriculum and instruction, and the implementation of "Powerful Learning," schools around the country have been able to raise test scores dramatically and transform themselves into learning communities where everyone is empowered. The Project provides coaching and professional development opportunities as well as graduate courses for the schools in our network.

The Accelerated Schools PLUS Project at UNLV works with several schools in Clark County and has a special program on a Navajo Reservation in Piñon, Arizona.


History

The Accelerated Schools PLUS Project at UNLV was started in August 1991. The project is located in the Teaching and Learning Department in the College of Education at the university. Currently, the project serves 8 schools in Nevada and Arizona.

Dr. Henry Levin conceived, founded, and developed the Accelerated Schools Project at Stanford University in 1986 to address the questions and challenges presented in the 1983 report, A Nation at Risk: The Imperative for Educational Reform (United States Department of Education, 1983).

The Accelerated Schools Project is a comprehensive approach to school change, designed to improve schooling for children in at-risk situations. During his research, Dr. Levin was perplexed by the practice of remediation of certain students. Though the practice of remediation is intended to allow students to catch up to their peers, research finds that remediation actually causes students to fall farther and farther behind the mainstream.

Struck by the inequity of this system, he proposed a new kind of school where staff, parents, students, district office representatives, and local community members would work together to accelerate learning by providing all students with the challenging activities that have traditionally been reserved for students identified as gifted and talented. His viewpoint was that children caught in at-risk situations have exactly the same characteristics and potential of all children, including curiosity, desire to learn, imagination, and the need for support and affirmation. Consequently, Accelerated Schools are designed to bring all students into the educational mainstream by on their natural strengths, and by having consistently high expectations for them, regardless of their background. Accelerated Schools hold high expectations for every student, and provide each student with powerful learning experiences.

Since its inception in 1986, Accelerated Schools have reached over 1,500 elementary, middle, and high schools.


How It Works

Accelerated School communities use a systematic process to transform their entire school rather than focusing on a particular grade, curriculum, or approach to teaching. No single feature makes a school accelerated. Rather, each school community uses the Accelerated Schools' philosophy and process to determine its own vision of success for all students and collaboratively work to achieve this goal. The transformation begins with the entire school community taking a deep look into its present situation through a process called taking stock. The entire school community then forges a shared vision to its present situation; the school community identifies priority challenge areas. Groups then set out to address those priority challenge areas, working through an Accelerated Schools governance structure and analyzing their challenge areas using the Inquiry Process. The Inquiry Process is a systematic method that helps school communities clearly understands problems, find and implement solutions, and assess their results.

The philosophy is based on three democratic principles and a commitment to providing powerful learning to all students. The systematic transformation process is a vehicle for getting them from the "here and now" to the school's vision of success for all students.

What is Powerful Learning?

In Accelerated Schools, the best of what we know about education, which is usually reserved for gifted and talented students, is shared with all students. Members of the school community work together to transform every classroom into a powerful learning environment, where students and teachers are encouraged to think creatively and explore their interests, and where they are given the capacity and encouragement to achieve at high levels. Accelerated Schools seek out, acknowledge, and build upon every child's natural curiosity, encouraging students to construct knowledge through exploration and discovery, and to see connections between school activities and their lives outside the classroom. All of these learning experiences require imaginative thinking, complex reasoning, and problem solving.


The Three Principles of Accelerated Schools PLUS

Unity of Purpose

In Accelerated Schools, all members of the school community share a dream for the school and work toward a common set of goals that will benefit all students.

Empowerment Coupled with Responsibility

Every member of the school community is empowered to participate in a shared decision making process, to share the responsibility for implementing these decisions, and to be held accountable for the outcomes of these decisions.

Building on Strengths

In creating their dream school, Accelerated School communities recognize and utilize the knowledge, talents, and resources of every member of the school community. Accelerated School communities use a systematic process involving collaborative and informed decision making to transform an entire school rather than focusing on a particular grade, curriculum, or approach to teaching. The transformation begins with the entire school community taking a deep look into its present situation through a process called taking stock. The entire school community then forges a shared vision of what it wants the school to be. By comparing the vision to the present situation, the school community identifies priority challenge areas. Groups then set out to address those priority challenge areas, working through an accelerated schools governance structure and analyzing their challenge areas using the Inquiry Process. The Inquiry Process is a systematic method that helps school communities clearly understand problems, find and implement solutions, and assess their results.


Outreach To The Navajo Nation

Accelerated Schools PLUS reaches beyond the campus of UNLV to Piñon, Arizona where teachers exude the philosophy that all students can learn at an accelerated pace. Our Piñon teachers are currently working on developing effective and efficient curriculum and instructional approaches that match Navajo ways of knowing. Dr. Jane McCarthy and staff travel to the Reservation monthly to train teachers, visit classrooms, and guide the governance body, which empowers teachers and students to share Powerful Learning strategies. This program is in its 10h year of existence and has enabled the national movement to benefit from the findings presented in articles and national presentations.


National Center for Accelerated Schools PLUS

The National Center for Accelerated Schools PLUS, located in Storrs, Connecticut, provides exemplary leadership for accelerating learning of all students through data driven inquiry, reflective teaching, and powerful learning. It is an affiliate of the Neag School of Education at the University of Connecticut and a partner with the National Research Center for Gifted Education and Talent Development.

Accelerated Schools PLUS is a national endeavor designed to transform whole school communities - especially those set apart by high poverty, low academic performance and remediation - to enriched environments characterized by accelerated instruction and gifted and talented teaching strategies that have been traditionally reserved for only the top 5% of students.

For more information, results, research, and current newsletters visit the National Center for Accelerated Schools Plus.


For more information on this unique program, please contact Dr. Jane McCarthy:
Accelerated Schools PLUS Project
University of Nevada, Las Vegas
Department of Teaching & Learning
College of Education
4505 Maryland Parkway
Box #453005
Las Vegas, Nevada 89154-3005
Phone: 702-895-1208
Fax: 702-895-4898
Email: jane@unlv.nevada.edu