Peach Hill Academy is a Core Knowledge School of Distinction. It exemplifies the many benefits that come from dedicated teachers embracing an integrated, domain-based approach to learning. The staff is proud to have Core Knowledge as the central, guiding instructional program of the school. They have a strong understanding of its approach to reading, its call for integration and cross-curricular connections, and its alignment with the Common Core State Standards.
After extensive observations, interviews, and surveys, we are honored to note Peach Hill Academy as a Core Knowledge School of Distinction due to the following qualities:
- Domain-based curriculum that integrates content across subjects and grade levels
- Collaboration that encourages both teachers and parents to share responsibility
- A focus on continuous improvement through the use of data
About Peach Hill Academy
Peach Hill Academy is a suburban, public K–5 school in Moorpark, California, with about 550 students and 19 teachers.
Peach Hill and Core Knowledge
Peach Hill was first introduced to Core Knowledge in 2001. While the initiating principal, Donna Welch, has since moved on to the district office, she continues to be a strong advocate for Core Knowledge. The current principal, Vicky Yasenchok, has been with Peach Hill for several years. With little staff turnover, she has the advantage of a seasoned staff experienced in teaching Core Knowledge.
She is committed to Core Knowledge and works to ensure it is effectively implemented. To ensure that expectations for students are high, Yasenchok reviews and analyzes student data. She also collaborates with teachers to develop measurable goals and monitor student progress.
“As an elementary principal, it is my job to ensure that all students are learning and not merely being taught. It is my job to make sure that all students learn at high levels. I work very hard to continue our well-established collaborative environment with my staff in the service of closing the achievement gap that exists among students. I work closely with my staff to be sure they do not work in isolation, but as a team for all students. It is my responsibility to build a collaborative environment where teachers and staff feel they have the opportunity to provide input regarding all aspects the students’ education.”Vicky Yasenchok, principal at Peach Hill Academy
Domain-Based Studies Make Meaningful Connections
Peach Hill Academy uses the Core Knowledge Sequence, which outlines the knowledge that all children should learn and build upon each year. They’ve developed a domain-based curriculum, which transforms the Core Knowledge Sequence into a coherent, cumulative, and rich educational experience.
Each classroom Core Knowledge Foundation staff visited reflected integrated content and vocabulary from the Core Knowledge Sequence, with frequent mention of domains learned earlier in the year.
Content Integration Across Subjects
Most domain-based curricular plans presented during grade-level team meetings included cross-curricular connections. In addition, during classroom observations, many teachers made connections to different subject areas during their instruction.
As students moved through the day, the domain content was integrated with other subjects and used as a vehicle for understanding new content and reinforcing mathematics and writing skills. For example, in the fourth grade, students read about the Preamble to the Constitution during English language arts, discussed separation of powers during history, and used this content in a math lesson to analyze how and why the number of representatives is allocated in Congress according to state population.
The school’s art teacher does an exemplary job of correlating her art lessons with the domains taught in grade. Her classroom walls display student work that documents the year’s journey of content across the grades: the Human Body, Egypt, Ancient Greece, Ancient Rome, and the Renaissance. Student work also reflects and highlights the art concepts taught, including line, color, space, texture, shape, and form.
In one art lesson, students examined the vocabulary related to the sculpture works of Alexander Calder, such as engineer, stable sculpture, Statue of Liberty, Abraham Lincoln Memorial, totem poles, one-/two-/three-dimensional, iron works, mobile sculpture, abstract art, and spirals.
Collaboration Encourages Teachers and Parents to Share Responsibility
Teachers collaborate day to day and week to week. On Fridays, the school day ends at 1:05 p.m.; thus, teachers are able to meet to plan and discuss student progress. Every trimester, grade levels analyze and update their grade-level goals, objectives, and action plans. The staff also refines its Core Knowledge curriculum to ensure knowledge builds on knowledge.
All new staff members are assigned a teacher mentor who supports them with learning and implementing Core Knowledge curriculum. Many teachers meet after school, during lunch, and even on weekends.
Focus on Professional Development
Teachers’ learning and growth is also fostered in weekly Professional Learning Community (PLC) meetings, which are a high priority in the school and district. The PLC time is meant for every staff member to feel a part of the team, collaborate on successes and struggles, and problem solve. There are PLCs for staff, teachers, and a mix of school and district leaders. During grade-level PLCs, teachers look at all students as a grade level, which embodies the school’s commitment for all staff to take responsibility for all students.
The parents and other stakeholders in the community take responsibility too. Parents indicated that the school is an open environment in which their children’s progress is constantly shared and in which they feel free to provide feedback as needed. In addition, they said that information is constantly being shared by teachers and the principal through the teacher websites, weekly newsletters, email, principal’s monthly newsletter, and agendas.
Peach Hill is a school that lives and breathes continuous improvement. In faculty and grade-level meetings, staff members analyze data to meet the constantly changing needs of students. Weekly, the staff looks at informal classroom data and, when timely, examines grade-level common assessments to identify students in need of further English language learner, special education, intervention, or enrichment support.
Teachers also use this data to craft goals, objectives, and action plans for the school and each grade level. To ensure no child falls between the cracks, a school team meets monthly to track each individual student’s progress. The team closely monitors each child and determines next steps to best meet his or her needs. In addition to improving student achievement, data is used to improve teacher effectiveness.
Learn More About Peach Hill’s Distinction
Through our review process, we ask that schools submit documentation exemplifying certain elements of their curriculum and implementation. Peach Hill Academy shared insights into their approach through lessons, intervention plans, and a collaborative planning process:
Visit Peach Hill Academy
To learn techniques and processes for implementing our approach at your school, consider a visit to Peach Hill Academy. Check out their Facebook page and the Peach Hill Academy website to learn more and plan your visit.