Philosophy


Habits of Mind and Work
Vanguard High School is small and personal in approach. Working with an intellectual focus and helping students and staff to “use their minds well”, our curriculum is developed stating the concepts, skills, knowledge and goals of year-long thematic courses. We use the Habits of Mind to plan curriculum.

In this process, students deepen their understanding of Habits of Work: punctuality, organization,
cooperation, revision and focus.While courses at Vanguard all cover unique content, one thing is similar throughout. This is the focus on developing students’ “Habits of Mind”. As such, every course curricula is created to develop the following thinking routines:
Video:
Making Thinking Visible
Habits of Mind
Using evidence: How well does the student use evidence to support his/her opinions or conclusions?
Considering Viewpoints: Does the student consider other points of view?
Making Connections: Can the students make connections between different topics, areas and courses?
Seeking Significance: Is the student able to see the relevance of our studies?
Asking ‘what if?’: Does the student see various factors in an argument and ask what if something were changed?
Being Metacognitive: Can the student reflect on their own thinking process by being meta-cognitive?

In this process, students are expected to show and deepen their understanding of the five main “Habits of Work:”

Habits of Work
Punctuality: We must arrive on time.
Organization: We must have what we need, know where it is, and know what we have to do.
Focus: We must try to participate, listen actively, and ask questions.
Cooperation: We must help ourselves and others to learn.
Revision: We must see our work as a process whereby we review, correct, share with peers, and finalize.

Educational Philsophy
Vanguard’s Educational Philosophy guides all our school decisions

At the root of Vanguard’s Educational Philosophy stand 10 Coalition of Essential School Common Principles.

Throughout Vanguard’s history, these 10 principles have always guided our practice as educators and administrators.

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1. The school should focus on helping young people learn to use their minds well. Schools should not be “comprehensive” if such a claim is made at the expense of the school’s central intellectual purpose.

2. The school’s goals should be simple: that each student masters a limited number of essential skills
and areas of knowledge. While these skills and areas will, to varying degrees, reflect the traditional
academic disciplines, the program’s design should be shaped by the intellectual and imaginative powers and competencies that the students need, rather than by “subjects” as conventionally defined. The aphorism “less is more” should dominate: curricular decisions should be guided by the aim of thorough student mastery and achievement rather than by an effort to merely cover content.

3. The school’s goals should apply to all students, while the means to these goals will vary as those students themselves vary. School practice should be tailor-made to meet the needs of every group or class of students.

4. Teaching and learning should be personalized to the maximum feasible extent. Efforts should be directed toward a goal that no teacher have direct responsibility for more than 80 students in the high school and middle school and no more than 20 in the elementary school. To capitalize on this personalization, decisions about the details of the course of study, the use of students’ and teachers’ time and the choice of teaching materials and specific pedagogies must be unreservedly placed in the hands of the principal and staff.

5. The governing practical metaphor of the school should be student-as-worker, rather than the more familiar metaphor of teacher-as-deliverer-of-instructional-services. Accordingly, a prominent pedagogy will be coaching, to provoke students to learn how to learn and thus to teach themselves.

6. Teaching and learning should be documented and assessed with tools based on student performance of real tasks. Students not yet at appropriate levels of competence should be provided intensive support and resources to assist them quickly to meet those standards. Multiple forms of evidence, ranging from ongoing observation of the learner to completion of specific projects, should be used to better understand the learner’s strengths and needs, and to plan for further assistance. Students should have opportunities to exhibit their expertise before family and community. The diploma should be awarded upon a successful final demonstration of mastery for graduation – an “Exhibition.” As the diploma is awarded when earned, the school’s program proceeds with no strict age grading and with no system of credits earned” by “time spent” in class. The emphasis is on the students’ demonstration that they can do important things.

7. The tone of the school should explicitly and self-consciously stress values of unanxious expectation (“I won’t threaten you but I expect much of you”), of trust (until abused) and of decency (the values of fairness, generosity and tolerance). Incentives appropriate to the school’s particular students and teachers should be emphasized. Parents should be key collaborators and vital members of the school community.

8. The principal and teachers should perceive themselves as generalists first (teachers and scholars in general education) and specialists second (experts in but one particular discipline). Staff should expect multiple obligations (teacher-counselor-manager) and a sense of commitment to the entire school.

9. Ultimate administrative and budget targets should include, in addition to total student loads per teacher of 80 or fewer pupilssubstantial time for collective planning by teachers on the high school and middle school levels and 20 or fewer on the elementary level, , competitive salaries for staff, and an ultimate per pupil cost not to exceed that at traditional schools by more than 10 percent. To accomplish this, administrative plans may have to show the phased reduction or elimination of some services now provided students in many traditional schools.

10. The school should demonstrate non-discriminatory and inclusive policies, practices, and pedagogies. It should model democratic practices that involve all who are directly affected by the school. The school should honor diversity and build on the strength of its communities, deliberately and explicitly challenging all forms of inequity.