Love Your School is pleased to introduce the final recipient of the A for Arizona Expansion and Innovation Fund Small Learning Communities (SLC) grant, CASA Academy! At Love Your School, we’re all about celebrating the unique and individualized options available to families, including these new communities.

CASA Academy is a free, public charter school in central Phoenix that enrolls underserved students from grades K-3. CASA Academy provides low-income students with the early academic foundation and character skills needed to be successful in college and life.

What inspired this school to launch an SLC? Here’s the story. 

CASA Academy primarily serves low-income students who are at higher risk of falling behind their peers academically. CASA aims to overcome these challenges by providing these students with rigorous academics to close the achievement gap and ensure lifelong success. 

However, like many schools across the state, CASA Academy has felt the impact of COVID-19 in many ways but especially the ever-widening learning gap. Students are mastering fewer objectives and teachers have less time to cover critical material. CASA has tried different approaches and interventions, but it has not been enough.

The student population at CASA Academy closely reflects the demographics of urban Phoenix, with a majority of students identified as Hispanic, African-American, or Asian. A majority of students are emergent bilingual or multilingual learners and a large percentage receive free and reduced-priced lunch. 

In response to these challenges, and supported by the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief fund and the A for Arizona Small Learning Community grant, CASA Academy is designing an after-hours Small Learning Community (SLC) for third grade scholars, who will be grouped by academic and parental needs and paired with a qualified mentor. Virtual options will also be made available for working families to overcome geographic barriers for the highest needs students. 

CASA Academy plans to use certified teachers not currently in the classroom and highly qualified college students to run the accelerated program. This program is designed to close the learning gaps by providing pre-recorded lessons and materials with live mentorship to support student success.

CASA Academy found that interventions in the third grade are critical to closing learning gaps and meeting social and emotional needs. CASA also realized that their particular students would not have access to SLCs at traditional schools and their families typically do not have the resources to pay for acceleration coaching. Research has proven these models consistently lead to large improvements in learning outcomes, especially when students are targeted at earlier ages. CASA aims to have 100 percent of their scholars move on to fourth grade with skill mastery. 

CASA Academy is partnering with Teach for America – Phoenix, Grand Canyon University, and Arizona State University to support this program.

Love Your School is inspired by the creative spirit of Arizona’s education leaders. Schools like CASA Academy have stepped up to the plate during these challenging times to bring your family some of the best educational opportunities in Arizona. We look forward to continuing our work with outstanding organizations like A for Arizona and Governor Ducey to promote these unique and exciting SLCs. 

Live in the central Phoenix area? Think this program might be a fit for your child? Check it out! Interested in launching an SLC at your local school? Apply and inquire here!