Our Philosophy and Practices
We are deeply committed to progressive education while emphatically embracing a sense of urgency, a strong work ethic, and accountability for student learning.
Evidence of effective teaching can be found in the quality of work that students produce and in the level of thinking students convey through speaking and writing. Authentic assessment means that students produce the authentic work of the discipline. In history, for example, students are required to write original research papers and craft arguments to demonstrate competence in historical analysis.
Respectful Independent Culture
A progressive approach to student culture takes more skill on the part of educators. We are committed to investing the time and effort to teach at this higher level as we believe our students deserve an education that empowers them to become leaders and independent thinkers.
Restorative Accountable Discipline
While the word “discipline” is most often associated with punishment, we see it differently. Discipline comes from the Latin root “disciple,” meaning to teach or to learn. We believe discipline is effective to the extent that it teaches students to improve their behavior and to internalize positive character so that their improvement will be significant and long-lasting.
We believe that curriculum must, first and foremost, develop in students a deep and enduring understanding of complex ideas and the ability to apply that understanding to new and complex situations. This is accomplished by designing curriculum around the fluid cognitive and work performance skills that are the basis of college readiness.
At Harlem Village Academies, our approach to instruction centers on learning experiences that foster and require deep thinking, independent thinking, and coherent expression of thinking. Instruction at HVA has students spending most of class time reading, writing, creating, problem-solving, and contributing to high-level discourse.
Cultural competence is an essential part of our work. As educators, it is particularly important that we are reflective about and tuned in to issues of privilege, race, class, gender, and inclusion, and especially sensitive to the cultural identity and cultural norms of the students and families we serve. As we seek to understand both the similarities and differences among our students, we honor both that which makes each student unique as well as the common bonds that make us a strong community.
We challenge ourselves to ensure that our curriculum, instruction, assessment, and school culture practices are intrinsically motivating to students. That is, we want our students to be intrigued and consumed with the work we are asking them to do. We continually push ourselves to ensure that our units of study and our lessons are interesting and inspire students to care about the learning. Why does this matter? Because when students care about the quality of their work, they learn more deeply and push themselves to work harder.
We believe a complete education includes the nurturing of a strong ethical sensibility, a commitment to social justice, and an interest in using one’s life to advance the greater good. But students do not learn this from a textbook; they do not learn to care about society from a lecture. These values are ensued naturally from a school environment in which they are authentically lived and modeled on a daily basis.