A broad, rich curriculum at Ascend lower schools

Beginning in kindergarten with a curriculum fully aligned to the standards of the Common Core, Ascend lower schools establish a foundation of strong basic skills in early literacy, a conceptual understanding of math, critical thinking, intellectual drive, and enthusiasm for learning.

An extended school day provides for more time devoted to instruction and for a broad, rich curriculum that includes—in addition to English language arts and mathematics—science, social studies, music, the visual arts, physical education, and dance. Ascend’s curriculum blends teacher-led instruction, inquiry, cognitively-guided instruction (CGI), and college-style discussion from the earliest grades.

A taste of our curriculum


In Number Stories, students explore a single problem each class, devising and contrasting their own solutions.

Students work independently to solve the problem their own way.

Three children, selected by the teacher for varying sophistication and efficiency of the procedures they tapped, present their solutions.

In discourse, children see how each of the three approaches arrived at the same answer. The beauty of math is revealed, and deep conceptual understanding is built. Students are excited to engage a more efficient procedure next time.

Subject areas


  • Literacy

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    In the early grades, students become able readers and develop a love of books through a highly effective phonics program; abundant guided reading in leveled, small groups; a daily read-aloud; independent reading; and Ascend’s writing program.

    Large classroom libraries equipped with children’s books of the highest quality allow students to further their emerging interests and intellectual curiosities.

    The engaging Ascend-developed Literature Circle program in grades 3 and 4 encourages student discussion, as teachers help students mine the deepest meaning of the finest children’s literature, develop the habits of excellent readers, and build reading comprehension skills. In Literature Circle discussions, students defend their ideas as they debate and discuss a book’s overarching themes and implications.

    Literature Circle requires teachers, working with their grade-team colleagues, to aim high and prepare intensely, as they backwards-plan to identify the strategic think-alouds and turn-and-talks that will help students achieve a deeper understanding of a text.

  • Math

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    The goal of the lower school math program at Ascend is to develop students who are deft problem solvers, capable of achieving at the highest level of mathematics, and who have a knack for interpreting their world mathematically.

    Following a rigorous and vertically-aligned math program that emphasizes the focus of the Common Core on problem-solving, deep conceptual understanding, and computational fluency, Ascend develops students’ own understanding of math concepts. Teachers use inquiry and real-life situations to develop scholars’ skills as critical-thinking mathematicians who can apply the properties of mathematics to their own lives.

    Ascend’s math program combines three elements.

    • Our standards-based instruction block is based on the curricula of Singapore, which post some of the strongest math outcomes in the world. Singapore’s fourth- and eighth-grade students have frequently taken first place in the respected Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study.  Scholars discover mathematical concepts and properties through an inquiry approach to solving problems and completing tasks that meet or exceed the Common Core State Standards.
    • In Number Stories – the cognitively guided instruction block – students spend an entire period studying a single Common Core-style math problem, constructing their own solutions, and – under the encouraging guidance of the teacher – defending their thinking, and comparing their approaches. When students see the strategies other scholars devise and discuss their merits, they learn that there is not one “right” way to solve a problem, and thereby deepen their understanding of essential mathematical concepts.
    • To develop fluency and relational thinking in arithmetic, in the math routines block teachers lead scholars through daily routines that develop age-appropriate dexterity with counting and computation. In the early grades, scholars participate in routines like “counting jar” to develop one-to-one correspondence and counting-to-tell-the-total.  In the upper grades, scholars participate in routines like “number talks” where they build their capacity to do mental math.
  • Science

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    Our science program uses structured inquiry learning through the 5E model (engage, explore, explain, elaborate, evaluate). In the lower school, the science program is closely aligned with the Common Core and Next Generation Science Standards. The program integrates rich content with well-conceived inquiry experiments, project-based learning, and engaging texts. Students develop their ability to observe, describe, compare, inquire, and evaluate, while studying the three dimensions of science. Each grade level contains units in Life Science, Earth Science, and Physical Science.

English language arts at Ascend


Beginning in the earliest grades, students develop a love of literature, as they think critically about texts, and engage in rich discussions with their peers.

Math at Ascend


Watch how Ascend’s approach to mathematics ignites students’ curiosities and fosters a community of intellectual risk-takers. The three components of our math program ensure that students develop a deep conceptual understanding of mathematical concepts.

We equip our students with the broad capacities, prized in any era, which will allow them to flourish—whatever the future brings. At Ascend, liberal learning liberates.

Culture at Ascend


Ascend has developed a warm and supportive culture rooted in Responsive Classroom in the elementary grades—departing from a punitive and proscriptive disciplinary model associated with high rates of referrals and suspensions. Classroom communities nurture students’ sense of belonging, and by creating calm, orderly environments, Ascend schools foster children’s social and emotional competencies, obviating the reliance on punitive consequences.

In the lower school, our joyful culture builds students’ capacities to self-manage. Positive language replaces warnings and threats as students learn empathy and collaborative problem-solving.

Every morning in each class, students and teachers gather to greet one another, share news, and warm-up for the day ahead. Throughout the day, teachers talk about what students are learning and what excites them, rather than how they are behaving. Teachers’ language promotes learning, a sense of belonging, and self-discipline. When students do misbehave, logical consequences allow them to fix and learn from their mistakes while preserving their dignity. In this environment, Ascend students learn social skills—cooperation, assertion, responsibility, empathy, and self-control—that allow them to succeed academically and socially; the day can be spent enjoying academic, artistic, and extracurricular activities.

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