For more news and articles about CFA Phoenix, please click here.
Posted On: 2017-05-02 01:15 PM
By Kelly Doscher, for Edkey Inc.
A sense of stability, self and hope are the key ingredients every kid needs for success — especially when those kids are training to be tomorrow's leaders. One Arizona school is making strides to help children with these stepping stones towards achievement.
Children First Leadership Academy offers a structured, supportive environment where elementary school students learn about the importance of responsibility, community and taking a proactive approach to every endeavor. A tuition-free charter elementary school, Children's First Leadership Academy's goal is to "Develop leaders one student at a time."
At the forefront of the school's philosophy is the implementation of a program called The Leader in Me, which is part of a partnership with FranklinCovey, a company dedicated to helping organizations achieve significant results through changes in personal behavior and culture. Since the program began three years ago, Children First Leadership Academy has seen a dramatic decrease in behavioral problems, and a healthy increase in its student performance.
Giving kids the tools to succeed
Along with state-provided learning materials and resources, students and faculty benefit from the school's relationship with FranklinCovey, which provides its Leader in Me program through a grant to the school. This global program consists of continuing on-site professional development, annual resources and content, and helps to implement its student-centric philosophy. At its core is Stephen Covey's list of 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, or as the school's website calls it, "The 7 Habits of Happy Kids," which focus on being proactive, learning how to prioritize, working together and understanding one another.
Principal Karen Crang notes that since its implementation the Leader in Me program has been positively accepted by the students. In the 2016-17 school year, there has been a significant decrease in student behaviors issues, while overall proficiency across all school subjects has increased significantly. Third through eighth grade students have improved their English Language Arts Standards scores, which measure their progress on the path to college and career readiness. Scores have improved overall by 23.9 percent with an average increase of 9 percentage points. The number of kindergarten through 8th grade students on target to be at grade level in Math by the end of the school year has increased by 37 percent.
Daily lessons: Leaders in learning
Children First Leadership Academy students are exposed to and practice the seven habits every day of the school year. It's with this continual reinforcement that the habits become a new way of thinking, help students to be mindful of their actions, and make better choices. It also helps them to develop a new way of speaking — using a new language, if you will — which teaches students how to be better problem solvers and become better versions of themselves.
Case in point: Principal Crang said the school doesn't have an anti-bullying program, per se, as many other schools do. Rather, the lessons that the students learn with the seven habits increase understanding of how to diffuse difficult situations. Kids are also taught that in some cases they may be part of the problem, but they can also be the solution. "As you're becoming a better you, you get better in school, and then in the community," Crang explained.
As a more protracted means of instilling the lessons of the seven habits, each class focuses on a habit of the month. Role playing games, crafts, and coordinated work with other classes are all activities teachers focus on to assist in this effort. Along with these class activities, school-wide leadership roles give students a chance to build their sense of responsibility and self-esteem all while helping each other and the school.
"Crews" are formed around key tasks including announcements, maintenance, library upkeep and lost and found organization, to name a few. Seventh graders have a special crew called "The Seventh Grade Squad." When teachers from any grade need a little extra help in their classroom, they submit a request to seventh grade teachers, who then assign the squad to swoop in and save the day. Tasks can range from making copies to helping small groups in PE class, and even helping kindergarteners with art projects.
The Leader in Me principles are taught and supported at all grade levels. Principal Crang and her staff recognize that it's not always considered "cool" for their older kids to be a leader or to show off what they've learned. That's why she and the eighth-grade teachers actively commit to working with their more prideful and private older students to ensure that they, too, are learning from the school's curriculum and culture, and then are able to be role-models to the younger students.
Teachers help their students focus on their overall behavior. If students are having a hard time, they complete a Seven Habits Reflection Sheet to help them determine what they're struggling with and how to move on with the tools of the seven habits in hand. It's mindful and helpful practices like these that set the school apart from the rest and allow students of all backgrounds to reach their full potential.
If you think your kids could benefit from this incredible charter school learning program, contact Children First Leadership Academy for more information on paving the way for a bright and productive future.
Members of the editorial and news staff of the USA TODAY Network were not involved in the creation of this content.