Rigorous academics and student agency
In addition to pursuing a rigorous academic course of study, a central focus of high school is the development of agency–students’ belief that they are in control of their own lives and can act of their own free choices. This capacity will prove essential for college life, where freedom and responsibility will be exercised in a nearly complete absence of supervision.
At Ascend, the focus is not merely on college acceptance, but college completion. Partnerships with colleges, universities, and college financing organizations, together with an Ascend alumni program, will ensure that students have the supports to overcome obstacles and persist in college.
Building on the strength of the Humanities Program in grades five through eight, the high school curriculum will align English and Composition with the History sequence, where students will study Global History, United States History, Civics, and Economics. Students will graduate confident in their critical reading, writing, and public speaking skills, and will have developed the ability to understand, critique, and participate fully in the world around them.
Science, math, and technology
Building on the strength of the middle school science curriculum, high school students continue the study of science and technology to explore issues of importance to them, their community, and society. By learning how to gather and interpret scientific evidence about local and global issues, students begin to appreciate the power, and the present limitations, of science. They recognize that science is much more than a set of answers to be learned, but rather a way of asking questions. The course of study begins with Biology and Chemistry in freshmen and sophomore year, respectively, and will then follow with AP Biology, AP Chemistry, and Physics in junior and senior year.
The mathematics program is tightly aligned with the Common Core and includes Integrated Algebra, Geometry, Algebra II/Trigonometry, and Pre-Calculus. Advanced students will have the option of choosing the honors mathematics track, and all courses will ensure a deep understanding of concepts and an ability to apply mathematical concepts to the real world.
Culture and civic character
The high school focuses on developing responsible and empowered citizens; we are preparing students for success in college and in life. To allow students to fully engage in society, their education must develop civic character – the knowledge, skills, and virtues necessary for engaged and responsible citizenship. By the end of high school, students will understand their role within their school, local, national, and global communities.
Ascend has developed a warm and supportive culture rooted in restorative practice, departing from a punitive and proscriptive disciplinary model, with its frequently high rates of referrals and suspensions. Restorative practice empowers students to resolve conflicts on their own, gain an understanding of the impact of actions, and take responsibility for choices, while suggesting ways to repair negative actions.
Community service and internships
Cementing an understanding of one’s place in the world is the full realization of Ascend’s liberal arts vision of developing young people who are connected to a purpose and to improving society. To foster this sense of belonging, students will be expected to complete a significant program of community service. Practical, hands-on experience outside of the school building is critical for students to explore career paths and navigate the real world. In later years, staff will help connect students to internships.
Each student at the high school is connected to an advisor, and the advisees meet as a group with the advisor each morning. The meeting includes checking in on homework and dress code, ensuring that students are ready for the day, and intentional teaching relating to organization and executive function skills.
College counseling and preparedness
In the United States currently, only eight percent of students from low-income families graduate from college. At Ascend, our goal is to close the achievement gap, and doing so requires college graduation. Since college access does not equal college success, we are committed to ensuring that once scholars get to college, they graduate. College preparedness includes college-readiness seminars, visits to college campuses, testing support, and faithful maintenance of a college readiness portfolio. At full capacity, the school will be staffed with a director of college counseling and alumni programs and associated staff.
Academic preparedness is a necessary pre-requisite for college graduation, but so too are non-cognitive skills and a sense of purpose. It is particularly vital that students believe in themselves and have aspirations for their lives. Through the four-year college seminar, students will analyze personal strengths and weaknesses, practice realistic goal-setting and planning, and develop a growth mindset along with other skills.
Every rising ninth–grade family will have a one-on-one family meeting with school staff prior to September of freshmen year, providing an opportunity for school staff and families to begin the relationship that will be a critical element of a student’s high school experience. Throughout high school, monthly opportunities such as workshops, dinners, retreats, and conferences will support the school-family partnership. Workshops may include topics such as financial aid, the PSAT and SAT, finding the right college, and campus visits. In later years, families will have one-on-one support from college counselors. Finally, rather than a traditional parent-teacher conference, students will stay at the center of Ascend conferences and lead the meetings, providing an opportunity to discuss their progress while there is an opportunity to improve performance.
We offer students a variety of experiences where they can explore hidden potentials and extend beyond their comfort zones. The school will participate in the Charter School Athletic Association, with girls participating in volleyball, basketball, and softball, and boys participating in flag football, basketball, and track.
Other extracurricular offerings include yoga, introduction to web development, dance, and fitness. Extracurricular offerings will expand in later years.