Noble Academy Continues To Sustain Excellence In The Midst Of The Pandemic
By Mai Sue Yang
Noble Academy proved once again that there is no excuse big enough to disrupt its hard-earned distinction “High-Quality” as defined by the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE). Of the 168 charter schools in Minnesota, only 24 made the list of top charter schools in 2022, this puts Noble in the top 14%. Schools on this list were determined based on the 2022 High-Quality Charter Methodology. Schools were assessed along six measures of academic performance: math proficiency, reading proficiency, science proficiency, math growth, reading growth, and graduation rate. The schools are also examined on financial and compliance checks. Schools with this distinction are eligible to compete for the replication and expansion grant.
Although the first charter school in Minnesota was formed in 1992, not all families are aware of this unique, alternative option. Charter schools are tuition-free and are governed by the Minnesota Statutes, Chapter 124E. Charter schools are operated and governed by licensed teachers, parents, and community members. A state-approved authorizer whose mission aligns with the school’s mission must have a contract with the charter school. The contract outlines the academic, operational, and financial performance outcomes of the school must meet for contract renewal. Noble Academy is authorized by Osprey Wilds Environmental Learning Center. Great academic and financial status earned Noble Academy a five-year fast track contract in fiscal year 2022.
During the pandemic-induced school shutdown, academic normalcy became a challenge for students, teachers, and families. As COVID-19 cases increase, schools experienced staff shortages, absenteeism, lost instructional time and mental health and behavior issues grew. Parents experienced the struggles of facilitating learning in the home and some got a taste of what teachers go through. All while school leaders worked endlessly on the best course of action to ensure parents and staff are receiving the needed support and students continued to be provided with a deserving education. Despite the disrupted teaching and learning that has occurred over two years, the school continues to be proactive in ensuring students receive a rigorous, world-class education focusing on core content areas and standards mandated by the state.
The senior administrative team at the district consists of CEO, Mr. Neal Thao and Superintendent, Dr. Mai Yia Chang. The CEO oversees the district operations, and policies and procedures. He also works with the school board members to manage fiscal operations. Dr. Chang oversees staff accountability, and state and federal academic standard accountability. Both leaders share the same vision for a robust, high-quality education as an alternative for scholars who want something different. Their commitment and work ethic are evident in the long hours they put in everyday to lead the school. Unlike the larger public-school districts, charter school leaders work more directly with stakeholders. Workdays for these administrators start as early as five am preparing for training and meetings, responding to emails, and touching base with board members and instructional leaders to get updates on issues that need to be addressed. During a normal school day, you can find CEO Thao and Dr. Chang in meetings with parents, presenting in front of students, observing their teachers in the classroom, training their staff, interviewing with potential hires and contractors, meeting with business vendors, and working late nights with board members.
Decisions are not taken lightly as it relates to the types of academic support to implement in the school district. Most importantly, the school starts its planning process several months in advance. “We are very intentional in ensuring we have research-based programs to assist our students in recovering from learning loss. Thinking ahead allows us room for flexibility, direct resources to effectively manage learning loss and identify innovative ways to solve our issues,” CEO Neal Thao explains.
This past school year, Noble maximized in-person learning by implementing effective practices to mitigate learning loss and accelerate learning. When the state offered funding for summer school this past season Noble jumped at the opportunity without question. The senior administration explored many research-based tutoring programs that are promising and would be most beneficial to its students. These implemented programs were a combination of one-on-one tutoring, small intervention groups, afterschool activities integrated with school-day and focusing on social/emotional support and extracurricular activities to name a few. During the springtime the school launched its annual March Madness program that hit hard on preparing students for state assessments.
Teachers kicked off this school year by participating in a robust pre-service training program followed by daily strategic planning that occurs throughout the school year. Key expectations are that teachers infuse school initiatives into every lesson, use power standards to drive instruction and teaching time is justly guarded. It is imperative than ever to have teachers who are skilled and passionate about helping students succeed. Superintendent Dr. Mai Yia Chang emphasizes, “We employ high-quality academic and enrichment teachers who are game changers for our organizations. Teachers are expected to implement our grade level success plan with fidelity and make it a point to reflect, and never stop learning from students, families, and each other.”
The school continued with its momentum on providing staff development and support to the teachers. Teachers are trained on instructional delivery, student engagement, technology access and use, family engagement, and social/emotional learning. Teachers are expected to justly guard instructional time. Throughout the challenging times the bar was not lowered. Effective teachers are taught that there should be no excuse to not hold students accountable to their learning.
The school ensures rigorous and rich content for all students that meet each student where they are. The goal is to engage, enrich, challenge and support students as they continue their academic progress toward proficiency. It is imperative that each student has an individualized learning plan (ILP) that is used to assess and address different learning levels. The ILPs allow the school to develop custom goals and support in academics and social-emotional needs for each student. Teachers can also build on the student’s strengths and needs and use the ILP as a tool to impact their learning in a positive way.
Noble Academy is not one school to cut corners when it comes to providing students a deserving education. Students’ best interest is always kept in mind and the school will continue to find and improve on strategies, programs, and services to empower students to excel academically. The school is aiming hard to combat the lingering effects from the pandemic, and believe wholeheartedly that with students, teachers, and families all on board our future leaders will catch up or better yet, surpass in their learning.
Noble Academy is also currently looking for qualified educators and more to join their K-8 charter school in Brooklyn Park. For more details click on the Diversifieds logo to the right.