Single Gender with Socio-Economic Diversity
At Solar Prep, instruction and culture is designed intentionally to meet the needs of scholars and ensure educational equity for all scholars.
Solar Prep is an open-enrollment campus with scholars coming from across the city. We use a 50/50 socioeconomic diversity model to ensure that 50 percent of student enrollment is made up of economically disadvantaged scholars, and the other 50 percent is composed of non-economically disadvantaged scholars. We employ a weighted lottery to achieve this balance.
Student enrollment can have a huge impact on student achievement as it can shape the socioeconomic makeup of the student body, thus creating challenges for schools. There is a great body of research demonstrating that concentrating poverty in a school building creates serious challenges in terms of student achievement.
According to research, the likelihood of a school’s overall success is considerably reduced when the student body exceeds 50 percent low-income. There are three researched-based reasons for this:
- In economically diverse schools, low-income scholars are more likely to be surrounded by peers with larger vocabularies, from whom they learn “accidentally” through classroom interactions.
- Economically diverse schools tend to retain effective, experienced teachers more than high-poverty schools.
- Economically diverse schools are more likely to have greater levels of community involvement, including tutoring, PTA involvement, and fundraising.
Additionally, high-income scholars benefit from balanced diversity through interactions with a more diverse class of scholars, increasing their empathy and social abilities.
Dallas ISD’s Office of Transformation and Innovation, as part of its Whole Child Accountability Framework, will conduct ongoing equity audits of Solar Prep to ensure that all scholars — regardless of socioeconomic tier or race — are achieving academically at the same rate.
Solar Prep scholars have opportunities each day to go beyond the basic curriculum and engage in performance-based learning. Instructional components include Project Lead the Way an engineering curriculum with a Design Thinking element, computer programming and robotics, a Makerspace, and arts integration.
These experiences will merge in a daily STEAM learning block facilitated by homeroom teachers. Scholars’ exposure to STEAM-related content is not limited to the daily STEAM block but incorporated throughout the school day through connections in literature and writing, using art to express math concepts in non-verbal ways, and dramatization to support and extend reading comprehension, for example.
Music + Theater
Not only are elements of theater and drama integrated as instructional tools in reading and math, scholars also attend a stand-alone music/theater class three times weekly during specials rotations. Our vision is to have a stand-out theater program that integrates performing arts with elements of engineering and SEL through set and lighting design, data analysis, budgeting and live performances.
Tech + Coding
Exposing scholars to coding and robotics at a young age will not only allow them opportunities to engage in design and problem solving, but stimulate interest in STEM subjects. Homeroom teachers will lead Code.org lessons each week. These lessons are mostly “unplugged” hands-on lessons that teach the foundation of computer programming and connect to the math concepts scholars are learning in their classrooms.
Makerspace + Art
The Solar Prep Makerspace inspires scholars to become participatory learners; discover their talents, needs, and interests; and to endlessly make, create, and solve. The Makerspace, led by a certified art teacher, provides activities and design challenges. This space allows scholars to exercise choice by choosing which activities to engage in, and practice leadership skills by advocating for their project preference.
Girl Scouts STEM Partnership
Through a unique partnership between Solar Prep for Girls and Girls Scouts of Northeast Texas, all girls at Solar Prep have the opportunity to be a member of Girl Scouts at no cost to families. Girl Scouts club time occurs during the school day. Every two weeks, girls engage in Girl Scouts SEL and STEM curriculum. Solar Prep also has priority access to the Girl Scouts STEM Center of Excellence in south Dallas, where girls can camp overnight and participate in activities such as archery, horseback riding, and a ropes course.
Social Emotional Learning (SEL)
At Solar Prep we believe that building a strong foundation of Social-Emotional Learning leads to more powerful academic learning and sustainable long-term success. Our day is structured to begin and end with non-academic discussions about emotions, challenges, celebrations, and awareness of self and others.
We center our work around a set of values called the “Solar Six” — curiosity, self-awareness, empathy, humility, leadership, and grit. The “Solar Six” are taught alongside other SEL competencies, but in an effort to “go deep” with a few competencies, these six take center stage. Teachers integrate the “Solar Six” across content and through an intentionally created culture of achievement.
Each morning begins with yoga and mindfulness for girls who arrive early, followed by Sisterhood Circle, a daily whole-school morning meeting, and Shine Time, classroom meetings that take place each morning and afternoon. Solar Prep uses the Responsive Classroom SEL learning program as a framework for implementing SEL across the campus.
Incorporating Technology into Core Subjects
Select components of math, literacy, and science are taught through Blended Learning, an instructional program that blends traditional learning with digital learning. Scholars are provided targeted instruction in small groups with their classroom teacher and rotate, spending a portion of their time on a computer or device with a level-specific online curriculum.
Each classroom is equipped with 12 Chromebooks. When they are not working with their teacher or in collaborative groups, scholars will work on literacy skills using iStation, math skills using ST Math, and science skills using STEMScopes. Scholars will also have access to a digital library in both English and Spanish through Big Universe. All of these digital programs can also be accessed from home.
Solar Prep is excited to pilot Dallas ISD’s Two-Way Dual Language program on our campus during the 2016-2017 school year. In this pilot, student in one section of kinder and one section of first grade will receive instruction in both English and Spanish. These scholars will be a mix of native English speakers and native Spanish speakers.
The two-way dual language program offers scholars the opportunity to learn to read, write and speak in both English and Spanish. Scholars have the opportunity to work side-by-side with classmates of various cultures and backgrounds as they learn English and Spanish across a range of content areas.
The Two-Way Dual Language program allows scholars to develop the ability to think, write, and speak in both English and Spanish. Advanced academic achievements, higher career earning potential, and cultural engagement are clear benefits for scholars participating in the Two-Way program.
The Dual Language experience provides scholars the opportunity to become not only global citizens, but global leaders as well, positioning them for future advancement, opportunities and achievement.
At Solar Prep, we are preparing our scholars for a global world. In our first year, all scholars are immersed in Spanish language through their music and PE classes. PE offers a safe, active environment for native English speakers to be immersed in a second language.
Songs and skits are a natural way to teach a second language, making music/theater class an excellent fit for Spanish immersion. These classes will also give native Spanish speakers an opportunity to gain leadership and empathy skills through supporting their classmates in Spanish.