School Built on Equity, Personalized Learning, and Fun! How These Ideals Align.
-Ms. Danielle Fields, Executive Director
Minnesota Excellence in Learning Academy (MELA) is committed to social justice and the elevation of access and achievement in underserved communities. We support each child in becoming an engaged and curious learner, a confident self-advocate, and a creative problem-solver by setting high expectations and nurturing a positive culture that honors diversity, and optimism.
Most schools have a mission statement. What is important is that your child’s school does what they say they will. What does MELA’s mission look like in action? Read below to learn how we put our mission into practice.
Our school community cultivates, practices, and celebrates our values through teamwork and interpersonal relationships. Every child is equipped with the skills and knowledge to thrive in college, career, and life and will be able to adapt and succeed in new and unknown contexts.
We value and protect our positive culture built on optimism, meaningful relationships, transparency, and mutual accountability as we collaboratively serve our school community. The voices of our families matter to us. Parents are represented on our school board, staff and administration. We regularly survey our families and students to get their input on numerous areas of our school.
Most importantly, our students see themselves as recognized and represented in their learning. We place a high priority on utilizing culturally relevant instruction. Our choice of instructional materials, topics, and books reflect our community’s diverse backgrounds.
We nurture and strengthen the social, emotional, and physical well-being of each member of our school community and intentionally develop habits of success. We teach all students what it means to be Mindful, Empathetic, a Leader, and Accountable. In a few weeks, we will discuss some of the programs we use to teach wellness such as Mindfulness, Therapy Dogs, and Zones of Regulation.
At MELA, we require students to wear uniforms. Numerous studies have shown that there are a lot of benefits to wearing school uniforms. A few of them include: creating a group identity, reducing the potential for bullying, decreasing peer pressure, saving families money, and improving focus.
We prioritize and engage in the work of equity and access, and boldly promote and protect the rights of others. At MELA, everyone benefits from our charter school. We are tuition-free and offer transportation from/to numerous communities. We have a highly qualified staff that supports learners who require special education or English language instruction, being sure to recognize and honor home cultures and languages in all we do. Roughly 20% of our staff are multilingual themselves, speaking the languages represented in our school such as Spanish, Portuguese, Russian and Arabic.
Personalized Learning: Equity in Action
Personalized Learning enables students to be successful no matter if they are behind, at, or above grade level. MELA focuses on the growth of each individual student. We do this through benchmark testing and placing an emphasis on small group instruction. Through small-group instruction, we teach students at their frustration level so all students feel challenged and empowered to grow.
Using ongoing assessments, we can predict the growth that students should be able to achieve in a school year. Teachers work with students to talk about what this data means to them, set personalized goals, and track progress so students can see themselves growing. Testing turns into celebrations and gives adults and students usable information. State assessments such as the MCA’s only focus on a snapshot of time. The work we do around student growth was highlighted by the Minnesota Association of Charter Schools in this video.
In the next few weeks, our blog will highlight personalized learning in greater detail, explaining what it looks like in both ELA and Math.
Minnesota Excellence in Learning Academy (MELA) has reimagined the integral role that community plays in fostering a genuine love of learning, from the first day of school. Our community is rooted in the synergy of families, students, teachers, and local partners; dedicated to co-creating a school where adults and students unite to educate, empower, and inspire each other on a personalized level. Together, we take action!
Because students can see the results of their growth through personalized learning, learning automatically becomes fun. MELA is also proud of its original innovation of Passion Projects. We pair teachers’ talents and hobbies with student interests. On Wednesdays, students get to choose a passion project they are interested in. During the 21-22 school year, we are offering the following classes: Robotics/Maker Space, Dance, Spanish, Art, Gardening, Cooking Class, Science w/InSciEd Out (a partnership with the University of Minnesota), Amazon Future Engineer program, and Chess.
Passion Projects bring learning to life! Students quickly understand the importance of being able to read, do math, and understand science as they apply it to either a future career or a skill they will be able to enjoy for the rest of their lives.
Amazon Future Engineer. https://www.amazonfutureengineer.com/
Campbell, Emily. “Research Round-Up: Mindfulness in Schools.”
Greater Good Magazine, Oct 10, 2013. https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/
InSciEd Out. https://www.insciedout.org/
Makerspace for Education. http://www.makerspaceforeducation.com/makerspace.html
Minnesota Legislature. “2010 Minnesota Statutes.” https://www.revisor.mn.gov/statutes/2010/cite/122A.16
MN Association of Charter Schools. “2021 Innovation Award Winner - MN Excellence in Learning Academy.” YouTube. September 21, 2021.
Mulvahill, Elizabeth. “Dogs in the Classroom Improve SEL, Cognitive, and Even Reading Skills.” We Are Teachers, October 25, 2019. https://www.weareteachers.com/dogs-in-the-classroom/
Zones of Regulation https://zonesofregulation.com/index.html