School Redesign: Chester Arthur

Chester A. Arthur Elementary

Grades: K-8
Enrollment: 260
Location: South Philadelphia; 2000 Catharine St, 19146
Proposal Synopsis: Using an inquiry-based approach to instruction modeled after Science Leadership Academy.

Vision: The Arthur School staff will maximize the potential of students in the many areas of learning and development. Working with families and the community as partners in education, Arthur will provide the necessary tools for students to resiliently own their learning in the modern world. Students at Arthur will learn in an inquiry-driven, project-based environment where the core values of inquiry, research, collaboration, presentation and reflection are emphasized in every learning opportunity.

The Design Year: The design team at Chester A. Arthur used the design year to formalize and begin implementing the partnership with Science Leadership Academy.  Through this partnership, Arthur codified a set of school-wide core values – inquiry, research, collaboration, presentation, and reflection – that form the foundation of the school’s instructional model. The staff at Arthur collaborated with the staff at SLA to conduct professional development on using inquiry-based instruction and adapting the approaches and curricular materials to be applicable to the specific needs of the neighborhood elementary school. The team also adjusted its weekly schedule to create a dedicated time for whole-school collaboration and professional development each week.

Additionally, the team conducted an extensive partnership audit to ensure that all partnerships are aligned to the  school’s core values, and has been developing a partnerships management plan to ensure that their partnerships are coordinated efficiently and effectively.  Furthermore, the team worked with its families to develop a set of goals and metrics for effectively engaging families. The team has also sought out and received additional funding support, including grants from several foundations to support the extension of the school’s core values and instructional philosophy into new after school programming options and into the redesign of the school play yard.

Years One and Two of Implementation: Arthur hosted a Summer Institute prior to year one of implementation to deepen staff expertise on inquiry-based instruction. The school’s Family and Community Engagement team hosted a series of discussions and focus groups with families to continue developing and refining their engagement goals and metrics, and continues developing the relevant programs and services to meet these goals. Throughout the year, the staff at Arthur worked with the staff and leaders at SLA and Inquiry Schools to engage in ongoing professional development and periodic site visits.

Arthur is currently in its third year of implementation.  It was recently awarded a grant from the William Penn Foundation and the Philadelphia Water Department to transform its outdoor space into a beautiful living outdoor classroom.  It formed a partnership with the College of New Jersey to develop curriculum that extends its inquiry-based, project-based learning model to active use with its new outdoor classroom.