November 26, 2012

Maine's 1st elementary charter school settles into job of educating

Each student at the Cornville school is evaluated based on a four-level scale of how well they've learned a given skill, but there are no grades.

By Rachel Ohm rohm@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

CORNVILLE — Most days start around 4:20 a.m. for Bill Crumley, principal of Cornville Regional Charter School.

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Cornville Regional Charter School teacher Ashlee Savage helps student Adam Archer make a holiday decoration with fir boughs recently.

Staff photo by David Leaming

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Kids at the Cornville Regional Charter School got to see live owls and bats during a Chewonki Foundation Traveling Natural History program on Thursday. Instructor Sarah Mortati shows and answers questions about the barred owl she held.

Staff photo by David Leaming

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Related headlines

Charter schools in central Maine by the numbers

Cornville Regional Charter School
Grades: K-6, plans to become K-8 by 2014
Enrollment: 60 students
Districts drawn from: five
Teachers: five

Maine Academy of Natural Sciences
Grades: 9-12
Enrollment: 47
Districts drawn from: 27
Teachers: Four, and three AmeriCorps volunteers

That's the time Crumley, who lives almost 70 miles away in Jackman, wakes up to arrive at school just after 7 a.m. each morning.

The school, Maine's first charter elementary school, opened in October and is well into the year's routine.

"The newness has worn off and we've been at it for six weeks. We spent the whole first month really trying to familiarize ourselves with the students and assess where they were at so now we're into our real education program," Crumley said.

"It's exciting to be part of something so new and to have so many people excited about the school," said Jodie Mosher-Towle, 48, of Smithfield. Her twin sons, Hansen and Chance Towle, are in the fifth grade.

Many students arrive at school on a bus that the school, which is its own district, has hired. Because some students live far away, the bus has a set route with pickup locations that students have to get to if they don't live on the direct route.

"We live 30 minutes away and I have to drive them every day to the Skowhegan rest center to get the bus, but I don't mind. To me it's worth it," said Mosher-Towle, a stay-at-home mom originally from Skowhegan.

She was a math and science middle school teacher in Colorado and Connecticut before the family moved to Smithfield this year. She said that when her sons were in public school in Connecticut she had to supplement their education with worksheets she made herself, but now she feels they are getting everything they need.

At school in the morning, students have homeroom time and a morning meeting to discuss what will happen that day at school and any issues in the school -- something that happened at recess or lunch or student feedback from a workshop the day before.

"I've been learning way more here," said third-grader Wyntyr Herrera, 8. "The first couple weeks were rough for me but now I'm used to it."

Herrera said that at her old school, Madison Elementary School, she was really shy. Now her classmates are begging her to let them have a chance to speak.

"It's smaller and I've gotten to know people more," she said, sitting on a carpet hugging two of her friends on a recent afternoon.

The students come from five school districts in the state, although 42 of the 60 live in Skowhegan-based School Administrative District 54, according to the superintendent's office there.

Ungraded classrooms

Students at Cornville are not separated by age. There is a combined kindergarten to second-grade classroom, a third- and fourth-grade classroom and a fifth- and sixth-grade classroom.

They are taught based on a model called proficiency learning, also known as standards-based education. Each student has a personalized learning plan and they are evaluated based on a four-level scale of how well they've learned a given skill. There are no grades.

Mosher-Towle said she really likes the way the school structures curriculum, which includes field trips and lots of student projects.

"At their old school they brought home the project from the first week of school on the last day of school because it was on the wall all year. Here, every time I go into the classroom the stuff on the walls is different," she said.

A recent unit her sons studied revolved around the book Walk Two Moons, which is about a Native American girl who travels west with her grandparents on a road trip.

"They made masks and headdresses and learned all the Native American tribes of Maine," she said. "I like the idea of reading a book and getting a lot of lessons out of it in all subjects."

(Continued on page 2)

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Additional Photos

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Cornville Regional Charter School Principal Bill Crumley pitched in and helped clean cafeteria tables recently.

Staff photo by David Leaming

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Cornville Regional Charter School teacher Danielle Beaman helps student Barret Walker recently.

Staff photo by David Leaming

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Cornville Regional Charter School students Annie Cooke and Isaiah Cole work on papers as teacher Ashley Leslie, in back, helps another student recently.

Staff photo by David Leaming

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Cornville Regional Charter School student Wyntyr Herrara, center, listens with other students at a table during class in teacher Melanie Immediato's room.

Staff photo by David Leaming

  


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