Frequently Asked Questions
- What is the mission/philosophy of this school?
- How is the school organized?
- What is the curriculum/teaching methods used and method of student evaluation?
- What is the role of the parents?
- What is special about this school?
The mission of the Verona Area International School (VAIS) is to educate our children as global citizens: to prepare children for the world by providing the knowledge, skills and experience needed to move naturally between different languages and cultures. By encompassing language immersion and global curriculum, VAIS will engage students as global citizens, and, above all, learners who make the global community the focus of meaningful study.
The curriculum will be international and not limited to a China-based influence. The school will blend the best educational practices of two cultures, the East and the West, in terms of language, culture, and teaching methods. In Western classrooms, students learn in the English language with a child centered Western approach. In Eastern classrooms, students learn in the Mandarin Chinese language with methodologies adapted and purposefully chosen from the best knowledge-centered instructional practices of the East. Each approach is intimately connected to their respective language and culture. This blending allows children to move fluidly between different cultures, languages, customs and educational philosophies as part of their school experience.
The school is a public charter school. It began in the Fall 2010 with one multi-age class of kindergarteners and 1st graders. A new kindergarten class will be added each year.
It follows a 50/50 immersion model where students spend half their educational time learning in English and the other half learning in (Simplified) Mandarin Chinese. Children are not taught Mandarin Chinese as a subject by itself; rather students acquire the language while being immersed in content area instruction in specific subjects such as mathematics, science, global studies, and the arts.
VAIS provides an academically rigorous global curriculum aligned with the Wisconsin model academic standards in the core subjects: language arts/reading, math, science, and social studies. The educational approach will encourage children to explore, experiment and express– explore the respective languages, experiment with understandings and express their thoughts in a culturally rich environment. The VAIS curriculum blends academic rigor with student engagement in order to maximize the benefits of both.
Curriculum is based on the Wisconsin State and the Education for Global Citizenship Standards. The pedagogy is as follows:
Science: Students are immersed in an atmosphere that promotes inquiry-based science, which is a method of teaching science that actively involves students in the exploration of the content, issues, and questions surrounding a curricular area or concept. Activities and assignments in the classroom are designed such that students will have the opportunity to discover their own questions, formulate hypotheses, test their hypothesis, and use data collected to try to answer their original question. Strands of focus include: physical science, life science, global science, science in personal, social and cultural perspectives, and the history and nature of science.
Social Studies: Students participate in a climate that promotes global social studies, which encourages students to become international researchers, historians and archeologists; examining the world through increased levels of understanding making a difference through knowledge and application. Strands of focus include Wisconsin, US and World history, World Geography, Chinese history and culture. Students will learn to value the customs and traditions of at least two different countries.
Math: With a focus on math essentials at each grade level, students are accountable for grade level essentials as well as application to learning projects. Math curriculum at the VAIS focuses on basic skill development, reasoning and problem solving, technology and math connections across cultures.
Reading, Writing, and Speaking: Students are exposed to all genres of literature (both fiction and non fiction) in two languages and express learning orally and in writing in two languages. Each grade level focuses on key strategies to facilitate students becoming fluent in the native languages of two countries and be able to effectively communicate with individuals and groups from each nation and to become independent, life long learners. This goal spans across both linguistic environments with the Eastern environment emphasizing strong content knowledge and being complimented by the Western environment’s emphasis on problem solving and thinking creatively.
Arts: The arts are a valuable part of VAIS. Students are given cultural music and art instruction and the focus on the global community will expose the students to a wide range of arts which may include Chinese dance, yoga, calligraphy, theatre, and Eastern art.
Evaluation: Students, with guidance from staff, will construct portfolios containing their academic and international project work. These portfolios are subjected to regular assessment designed to measure learning. The following methods are utilized by VAIS to measure and monitor progress:
1. All students in grades 3-5 will complete state and/or federally mandated testing. Student performance on state and federally mandated testing will meet or exceed district average in all areas and grades tested. Select district assessments that measure the Essential Learning Outcomes may be administered throughout the year.
2. Student progress is documented by regular report cards
3. Two parent-teacher-student conferences per year
4. Immersion assessment through language learning standards
5. Subject area tests
6. Student attendance data
7. Parent satisfaction survey
8. Ongoing teacher evaluation of student progress
As a public charter school, parent involvement is a key to success of the school. Parent volunteers are active in the school’s classrooms, on school committees, in fundraising opportunities and on fieldtrips. Parents can be involved in the governance of the school as a member of the Governing Council. Parents on Governance Council and classroom teachers work together in determining policies related to the day to day operation of the school such as: student instructional programming, assessment, and student conduct.
Parents are an integral part of their children’s learning even though their children are learning half of the day in Chinese. For homework, parents are asked to support their child’s learning of English by reading in English 15-30 minutes a day. Parents can help with Chinese character homework sheets if desired due to the arrows showing the proper stroke sequence. The Math curriculum also has an English on-line component for parents. This approach has worked well for parents at Chinese immersion schools in Minnesota and Michigan.
VAIS has the unique ability to prepare students for life in an increasingly global world. The Partnership for 21st Century Skills has identified global awareness, foreign language, critical thinking and problem-solving skills as essential skills for our children’s success as citizens and workers in the 21st century. Our schools ground-breaking curriculum will create fluency for children in a foreign language, enhance critical thinking and problem-solving skills while also enhancing academic performance in all subjects including the English language and Math.
Beyond foreign language acquisition and academics, this school also exposes children to other cultures and engages them as global citizens. The innovative nature of this school also helps make it an ideal candidate for State and Federal Grant funding to aid in the development of continuity language programs for these children as they move into middle and high school. Researchers have used the words astounding and astonishing* to record the results of their analyses of immersion language programs. This school is special simply because it seeks to allow our children to astonish and astound us – as they are capable of far more than we often give them credit. [*Thomas & Collier 2003 NABE Journal of Research and Practice 2:1, 2004].