In 2010, Savanna High School was a school in need of both an identity and vision. Recognizing the school was on the cusp of being in crisis, the staff brought together key stakeholders to capture a profile of what the community wanted for their students as graduates. What emerged has transformed the school and has resulted in Savanna winning the P21 exemplar school award in 2013 and becoming a Gold Ribbon school for its personalized, four-year Capstone Program.
At each grade level, Savanna students develop and maintain a Capstone Portfolio consisting of evidence representing key areas of the curriculum and a profile of their accomplishments that can be communicated to teachers, community members, colleges, and employers. The portfolio serves as evidence documenting student growth across the five learning capacities – capacities that map to what we know are necessary for students to be prepared for college and career and to meet their own personal goals for future levels of learning. The Capstone Program culminates in a senior portfolio presentation and panel interview to both reflect on the students growth over their four years and their potential to be successful in their post-secondary transition.
The Capstone Program incorporates five Student Learning Capacities (SLCs) that consequently provide the instructional backbone for the school as a whole and include the following:
- Critical Thinking and Inquiry
- Academically and Personally Accountable
- Communicators and Collaborators
- Globally Aware and Culturally Competent
- Digital Age Learners
Savanna High School, located in West Anaheim, California serves over 2000 students with 80% participating in the free and reduced meal program, 25% in programming for English Learners, and 10% students with disabilities. The demographic profile reflects that 71% of the students are Hispanic; 10% white, 7% Asian, 3% African-American, 4% Filipino, and 1% Pacific Islander.
These five capacities are woven into the fabric of courses and are both taught and assessed explicitly within each class. Students are expected to be developing the key content knowledge within a course, while also being expected to develop the five core capabilities that cut across each course. Developing these capacities are critical to student’s ability to become lifelong learners, and align to Inflexion’s research around the Four Keys, describing what students need to know and be able to do.
Teachers provide at least three Performance Task Assessments each year within their courses for students to demonstrate growth in relation to the five capabilities. Thus, over the course of the school year, students will have 18 opportunities to demonstrate and reflect on their learning in terms of the content, the SLCs, and the potential impact on their life readiness.
In exit surveys from the Class of 2015, over 90% of the graduates pointed to the learning capacities as being the most instrumental part of their learning experience at Savanna. Staff also identified the SLC’s as being the driving force behind the changes at Savanna.
The Capstone program culminates for Savanna seniors when they share and explain their work orally to a panel of teachers and community members – watch the video below to hear what students from the class of 2016 had to say in their Capstone interviews.