Allegro Charter School of Music helps all students develop World Class Knowledge and World Class Skills, as well as the life and career characteristics of the Profile of the SC Graduate by infusing music into an academically challenging environment. Each student at Allegro learns piano, voice, and another chosen instrument. Classes of all content areas teach through music, exploring the relationships of technology to instruments in a time period, social dynamics and song composition, and mathematical formulas to music theory. Students participate in group projects where they choose their members, form their group or collaboration, decide upon a piece, assign all the parts, and perform the song on their own instruments. Allegro also has a percussion ensemble, orchestra, band, and school-wide choir. Seniors, as part of graduation requirements, complete a yearlong capstone project. Allegro has a strong partnership with local musicians who perform for our students in monthly concerts, regular masterclasses with professionals, and small-group or individual instruction on an instrument of the student’s choice.
In its second year of existence, Allegro’s professional recording space has exposed and provided our students with access to emerging technologies, communications and collaboration opportunities linking them with educators, the broader community, as well as providing them a global perspective. The Allegro studio allows students to mix already recorded tracks or record musicians live. Additionally, Allegro studio students can be dispatched “on location” throughout the community to record live musicians. Recordings at such venues as Charleston Music Hall and the Gaillard Center have been highlights of this program. Through these studio technologies, a student-lead production of a weekly radio show hosted on a United Kingdom based internet station was born this year.
School-wide technology literacy and digital citizenship are emphasized with 1:1 iPads (middle grades) and MacBooks (high school). Most textbooks are digital and most assignments are submitted electronically, emphasizing real world career skills. Classroom rigor is emphasized with many 8th graders (and some 7th graders) taking Algebra I, English I, Biology I, and Spanish I. AP and dual-credit courses are offered in high school. Not only do students use electronic collaboration for recording and mixing musical performances, but for making short films and visual artwork as well.
In order to meet the district’s goal of all children reading on grade level, Allegro is improving literacy by designing its learning experiences so that there is equitable access for all students. Improving literacy, equitably, so that all children benefit and are reading on grade level, was driven by a three-pronged plan: 1) improve teacher effectiveness; 2) identify and address students’ academic and social-emotional needs; and 3) develop and improve school culture with a unifying, collective vision which ties into Allegro’s charter and mission, as well as parallels the Profile of the SC Graduate.
To improve teacher effectiveness, a dedicated administrator was hired to oversee and improve instruction and curriculum. Allegro also adopted a school-wide, competency-based learning platform, in order to help teachers identify levels of understanding, target students for intervention, and inform instruction. For the third year in a row, teachers participated in and became certified in “Read to Succeed.” Area-specific professional development was provided, including math teachers attending the national math conference, as well as observing master, veteran teachers in their shared craft.
We kicked off the school year with a school-wide professional development, “Creating An Equitable Classroom,” which addressed our aforementioned three areas of need. Within this PD, Allegro teachers gained greater insight into the significance of developing and maintaining authentic student relationships, identified pedagogical barriers that prevent the establishment of equitable classrooms, provided experiential and research-based activities that challenged educators’ thoughts about equity, identified empirically-validated interventions shown to be effective when addressing behaviors with underpinnings in trauma, and reviewed aspects of trauma that beleaguer students as well as educators.
While our educators incorporated transformative, innovative, and equitable research-based practices in the classroom, we also restructured and refocused our MTSS/RTi team to identify and address students’ academic and social-emotional needs. Academically, while remediation was provided within classrooms for Tier-2 identified students, we addressed the needs of our Tier-3 students by offering an additional class period five times per week for remedial math and ELA skills. Attendance interventions, including increased home visits, were incorporated. And, individual, group, and grief counseling services were offered to students on campus. Our school nurse, with years of experience in the mental health field, took a more proactive role in both the physical and mental health of our students. She was instrumental in establishing a CCSD Wellness Committee at Allegro.
To effectively develop and improve school culture, as well as increase more positive opportunities for student-faculty relationships, we implemented a school-wide PBIS system, which was in the form of “house” system. Under the overarching characteristic of “inclusivity,” every student and employee was assigned to 1 of 6 Allegro Houses of Music: Pop; Rock; Metal; Hip Hop; Funk; and EDM. Each house was also represented by characteristics that our collective faculty identified as important: engagement; ownership; innovation; tenacity; collaboration; and confidence. These traits were concentrated in our character education and life skills curriculum geared for our 6th graders; moreover, these traits were also highlighted throughout the Life Skills of our Senior Seminar. This senior seminar also incorporates: financial literacy and fiscal responsibility; basic auto mechanics and upkeep; home economics; insurance options and importance; taxes; and electrical systems — just to name a few.
With the focus on an increase in Allegro community and culture, we added the Tri-M National Music Honor Society this year, as well as expanded our Student Council to the middle grades. This allowed and provided more service learning opportunities and partnerships with local non-profit businesses. The Allegro community and school family continue to be highly supportive, with a high degree of parent involvement and input.
Daniel Neikirk, School Principal
Mary Chapman-Bauknight, Charter Board Chair