Providing "Academic Support K-16" and Other Services
Capstone Institute provides comprehensive assessment and evaluation services for educational and other service delivery organizations. Our assessment and evaluation efforts focus on (1) needs assessment: where we can gauge what the intervention/activity priorities are for a given organization; (2) formative evaluation: where we examine the quality of implementation and assess activities and services delivered; and (3) summative evaluation: where we link the project outcomes to pre- and post-implementation changes, specifically around factors like coherence, classroom curriculum, climate, and current capacity. A more detailed description of the assessment and evaluation process is described below with respect to what we would do in the service of school-based interventions.
Needs Assessment (e.g., in the service of school-based interventions)
A broad needs assessment is conducted at the outset of all intervention projects. This is a multi-faceted process essential to bringing an evidence-based framework to our partnership with the school sites. The various facets of this assessment include examination of archival documents (e.g. suspension rates, attendance trends etc.), administrator interviews, school walk-throughs, stakeholder questionnaire surveys, classroom observations, stakeholder focus groups, and test score diagnostics.
Assessment and Evaluation
In addition to the needs assessment services described above, Capstone supports the school reform efforts with comprehensive assessment and evaluation services. We provide periodic diagnostic testing of students in order to provide the best fit of instruction for each student and to benchmark student progress. We monitor quality of teacher professional development and discern quality of classroom instruction to inform pedagogical supports as needed. We monitor student progress, especially in classroom learning. We discern implementation quality of the leadership, academic support, and school, family community partnership components and link these implementations to component-specific outcomes. We gauge how all of these implementation process factors relate to standardized achievement outcomes and to student affective factors such as motivation, task engagement, and attitudes toward learning.
We link the process data to the various categories of outcome data to discern what is working or not, and why various interventions are working or not. It is Capstone’s firm belief that knowing what and why certain practices are not working can be crucial in providing corrective feedback for mid-course adjustments.
Moreover, by examining this full array of factors, we can track fairly specifically the chain or linkage of intervention processes that ultimately lead to enhanced achievement or attainment outcomes. In this way, we can identify more readily what factors contribute the most and to which desired intermediate and longer-term outcomes. So for example, we can gauge more readily how well the various regimens of professional development eventuate in the expected teacher classroom practices. We can detect more readily if and which teacher practices facilitate (or hinder) important student classroom dynamics such as sustained task engagement and self-efficacy. This is crucial since there is compelling research showing that positive changes in these factors are clear antecedents to subsequent positive changes in achievement scores and student pursuit of long-term educational goals.
It should be noted that all of these services can be performed for other organizations and program interventions, as well.
Capstone Institute provides a comprehensive program of evidence-based professional development that builds participants’ conceptual and professional understanding of the Talent Quest Model and asset-based instructional strategies. These strategies have been proven to promote effective instructional management, high quality learning structures, and enhance students’ social-emotional as well as academic experiences. While we acknowledge that conducting high quality workshops is fundamental to the success of professional development, at Capstone we do not believe that professional development ceases when a workshop ends; nor does professional development “officially begin” at the workshop’s onset. Therefore, we offer continuous improvement through ongoing professional development activities as described below.
Orientation Workshop. As is well documented, any professional development regimen must be rooted in positive relationships among the trainers and the school stakeholders. All stakeholders in a partnership, including school leaders, teachers, and Capstone trainers, must recognize and navigate the new professional roles and responsibilities fostered by a new project. It is important that trainers and teachers come together to understand common problems of practice and determine shared compatible goals to meet the instructional challenges. That is why Capstone’s instructional trainers meet with school leaders and teachers at the onset of a project to begin the process of relationship building, and conduct an Orientation Workshop at each of the partnering school sites for all participating teachers. The purpose of the Orientation Workshop is to introduce schools to the TQM and the professional development regimen. Specifically, we introduce our structure for ongoing professional development. Values, expectations, roles, and responsibilities are discussed in order to better establish shared goals in efforts to co-construct the professional development, adhering to our Talent Quest Model.
High Quality Customized Workshops/Summer Institutes. A typical Capstone workshop structure offers capacity-building opportunities for participants through the careful design of workshop segments. Participants are introduced to a launch or explanation of the workshop content and objectives. This is followed by a modeling of an asset-based activity or lesson by the workshop presenters. The participants then have an opportunity for guided practice supported through coaching and scaffolding by the trainers. The next step is the transfer of responsibility from presenter to participants, and the workshop is concluded when the participants have independently put into practice the content and activities presented at the workshop. Summer Institutes consist of multi-day opportunities for participants to engage in workshops which provide a space for cross-fertilization of ideas where participants can meet and share with colleagues across partnering schools. Additionally, summer institutes that are conducted prior to the launch of a partnership are ideal spaces to involve participants in planning and co-constructing project activities. While institutes that are conducted subsequent to a year-long partnership allow for participants to reflect on and generate ideas for how to improve future professional development activities. In the past, Capstone has promoted teacher leadership roles by successfully using summer institutes as opportunities to co-plan and co-deliver workshops with partnering teachers who showed interest and promise in implementing new strategies.
Technology-Enhanced Follow-Up Support. Capstone engages participants in the use of Torsh TALENT™ technology. This technology consists of a platform that serves as the virtual analog to our face-to-face training activities and allows teachers to record and share videos of their instruction. It allows teachers to reflect on their instructional tasks, to share insight, to receive timely feedback, and have the opportunity to actually view their own implementation of new strategies. Increased frequency and specificity of feedback, as well as teachers’ ability to view their attempts through the use of video technology have shown potential to be effective in the effort to promote teacher growth. Follow-up support may also include face-to-face classroom observations and feedback, lesson modeling, and co-teaching.
Professional Learning Communities. Capstone facilitates learning communities with partnering schools to enhance a culture of continuous improvement. These sessions provide teachers the opportunity to collaboratively exchange and share successes and challenges arising from their respective classrooms. Activities at professional learning communities may also include examining student work and lesson plan development and study.
Capstone’s after school, academic support program provides supplemental academic opportunities for students to catch up where they are behind or need skill reinforcement, and to accelerate learning for them to meet high academic standards in a timely fashion. While the primary goal is to enhance the requisite academic skills, this program also focuses on the development of the whole child. Thus, activities are planned which extend children’s academic experiences, enhance their socio-emotional competence, and further expand their social and cultural horizons.
Capstone places a premium on evidence-based practices. Hence, all aspects of the academic support provided are tied to the best available research on what works best for the specific students participating in the program. In this regard, we focus on practices that build on assets students bring with them to the learning setting, or on practices that create assets for students so they can best benefit from the learning setting. Moreover, the practices deployed are routinely assessed to make sure that they are properly implemented and that they will likely yield the results we anticipate.
Tutorial sessions are typically organized by grade level. Capstone provides virtually all tutorial lessons for the program. Capstone provides high-interest grade-level books and other learning materials that lead students to make personal connections to the content. Capstone also delivers highly engaging activities that are designed to develop and improve students’ literacy, quantitative, scientific, and critical thinking competencies. Tutorial activities will be done most often in small-group, collaborative formats. Individualized tutoring segments will be provided as needed. The academic support program also offers the latest technology and networking platforms to provide additional support and assistance to the students based upon the needs and resources of the focal students and families. Periodic benchmark testing is carried out to gauge the progress that students are making across time.
Capstone provides tutors for the program based upon the number of participating students. Tutors are typically college students with advanced knowledge of math, science, and language arts content. Capstone provides training sessions for the tutors in order for them to effectively present the curriculum activities and to link these activities to the instructional goals in the participants’ regular classrooms. The frequency and duration of the tutorial sessions can be customized to meet the needs of a given school site.
It is certainly the case that Capstone Institute’s primary focus is on promoting successful academic-based processes and outcomes for students. However, we recognize that programs for adolescent and young adult persons of color are greatly needed in order to prepare them to be gainfully successful not only in their own proximal communities but also in the wider society at large. Capstone is prepared to implement programs and activities, both inside schools or in communities where the schools are located, that help to equip youth with proactive life skills, foster in them more optimistic perceptions of their future life possibilities, and minimize the risks for them to be caught up in problematic circumstances, that lead to their involvement in the juvenile justice system.
In this regard, we have implemented violence prevention programs. Recently, Capstone has operated a multiyear youth development program, which aims to support, mentor, and assist young African-American males, ages 13-25, whose home and community environments may place them at risk for involvement in the criminal justice system. The major goal of the program is to provide intervention strategies that affect participants’ attitudes, beliefs, and behavioral inclinations with the aim of preventing their involvement in violence, conflict, and other situations that would enmesh them in the criminal justice system. Specifically, the program provides knowledge, skills, resources, and mentoring that will facilitate personal and positive development among the participants by increasing factors such as: self-efficacy; relational mattering; conflict resolution; anger management; decision making; problem solving skills; respect for others and themselves, to name a few.
Our youth development programs also provide the opportunity for youth to participate in community service activities and to think about the ways that they would like to give back to their communities. Participants also engage in the production of public service announcements that encourage their creativity and self-expression, while communicating positive messages relative to their community where they reside.
The Capstone leadership development approach combines Capstone’s 3 –Dimensional Leadership Strands: administrative leadership, instructional leadership, and human relations leadership required for effective school operations, with the Educational Leadership Policy Standards of the Interstate School Leaders Licensure Consortium (ISLLC). The Capstone Leadership Development Coach supports partnering school leaders in carrying out duties that reflect all three dimensions of leadership.
Capstone’s 3 – Dimensional Leadership
Administrative Leadership – This dimension of leadership pertains to the management of an organization, its operations, and resources for a safe, efficient, and effective learning environment. In this capacity, Capstone’s Leadership Development Coach will support principals/school leaders in:
- implementing school wide accountability, incentive, and recognition programs
- providing professional and administrative support and supervision
- implementing mechanisms for enhanced communication and coordination
- developing, revising, and implementing a school year calendar and weekly schedule that maximizes the use of available resources and allows for sufficient time allotments for ongoing coaching activities.
Instructional Leadership – This dimension of leadership is centered on the facilitation of the development, articulation, implementation, and stewardship of a vision of learning that is shared and supported by the school community. Additionally, instructional leadership includes advocating, nurturing, and sustaining a school culture conducive to student learning and staff professional growth. Capstone’s Leadership Development Coach supports principals/school leaders in:
- encouraging and promoting professional community activities
- guiding, monitoring, and evaluating instructional practices and student learning
- conducting classroom visitations with feedback, thereby conveying specific information on what effective pedagogy looks like
- mentoring and supporting new teachers
Human Relations Leadership – This dimension of leadership is defined as the promotion of relationships and growth opportunities among stakeholders. This includes rewarding collegiality as well as keeping all school and community stakeholders, including parents/families, informed. Capstone supports principals in this dimension of leadership by:
- modeling integrity, fairness, and acting in an ethical manner
- promoting understanding and responding to the larger political, social economic, legal, and cultural context of the school neighborhood
Assesement & Evaluation
Successful educational outcomes cannot occur without quality assessments and evaluations that guide practice and program improvements. The Capstone Institute Assessment and Evaluation team specializes in deploying a cadre of robust, customizable methods to help support optimized educational attainment.
Follow-up Assessments and Evaluation
Include several different facets:
Professional Development with Follow-up
A key ingredient in the Talent Quest Model of School Reform is a full-bodied program of teacher professional development. While we acknowledge that conducting high quality workshops is fundamental to the success of professional development, at Capstone we do not believe that professional development ceases when a given workshop ends; nor does professional development “officially” begin at the workshop’s onset.
Indeed, prior to the workshop series, we will gather information through our needs assessment process that will help in designing a series of workshops based on observed needs. Teachers are actively included in determining what they are to be given the opportunities to learn. In this regard, through focus groups and survey information, we gain input from teachers on the specific or unique conditions that they face in their classrooms and the challenges they may face in incorporating Capstone-relevant practices and strategies into their classrooms.
Capstone trainers or their designees
visit the classrooms in advance of the workshops as well to make sure that they structure the professional development activities and experiences as much as possible in a way that is aligned with the actual circumstances facing teachers and addresses the pedagogical areas most in need of improvement. Workshop sessions range from three hours to six hours. They commence after the conclusion of the initial needs assessment. The focus of the workshops is on how to incorporate Asset-Based strategies into lesson plans. In addition, sessions will include Capstone’s classroom management scheme.
Each workshop thus is succeeded by follow-up technical assistance activities provided by Capstone trainers or school-based facilitators trained by Capstone staff. If necessary, Capstone staff or their designees conduct classroom demonstrations. Capstone facilitators also work with teachers and staff to help set up learning communities among teachers at the school. The learning communities meet on a regular basis at a minimum once per month for peer reflection and support for improved practices tied to student learning.
Talent Quest’s Asset-Based Strategies include:
Academic Support K-16
The Academic Support Programs for K-16 are carefully crafted research-based initiatives designed to:
Capstone’s programs, with their many special features, are co-constructed by educational stakeholders and designed to meet the needs of a diverse participant population.
Special features to Capstone’s Academic Support Programs are described herein:
Through small-group interventions; individual attention; “real world” applications
research-based proven methods of instruction; and alignment with district and national learning standards, Capstone Institute Academic Support Programs provide an optimal learning environment for a wide range of student needs.
Capstone’s Curriculum Support takes a forward, anticipatory approach by aligning instructional strategies with national, state and student achievement standards.
Capstone’s intention is to prepare our students and instructional staff to meet the objectives of the Common Core Standards and those of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). The focus of our curriculum support is to enhance teachers’ instructional application there by assisting students in understanding foundational concepts more deeply.
Major stumbling blocks for many students and especially those from ethnic minority and/or low-income backgrounds are there inability to grasp foundational concepts that allow them to gain operational competence.
At the Capstone Institute, along with University faculty and industry experts, develop, support and reinforce a wide range of curriculum materials and instructional strategies, distinctly focusing on student’s deep understanding of foundational concepts; emphasizing connections across subjects; relating to personally and culturally meaningful pedagogy; and cumulative knowledge building.
Higher Education Faculty Development
Capstone with funding from the National Science Foundation has established dynamic networking structures for purposes of building connections among Historically Black Colleges and University’s (HBCU) researchers.
These networking structures are designed to connect HBCU Researchers to human and informational resources for the purpose of enhancing their prowess at conducting high quality scientific research.
Capstone offers a course in the Talent Development Model at Howard University’s School of Education. This course is designed for pre-service educators to gain knowledge and skills predicated on a comprehensive schooling model that not only espouses that all students can learn to high standards, but provides evidenced-based practices, activities and programs to ensure that this lofty goal for students is actually attainable.