USP Parents - Student Handbook

SECTION 2: OUR PROGRAM

USP offers a complete child education approach rooted in the basis that every child should be happy, healthy, safe, engaged, supported and challenged to grow in their educational environment. We promote a culture that ensures students are given time to develop their interests, passions, and learn the wider skills required of them in a safe and supportive environment while being academically challenged and engaged.

2.01 Pre-School and Kindergarten

Our installations are specifically designed and built around various types of environments for a well-balanced school setting. Our preschool and kinder atmosphere is divided in to various stations which are designed to enhance a specific subject matter. Students will continually rotate and move between stations throughout their day. With each rotation, subjects and teachers change along with the program, leading to the fundamental improvements in the brain’s capacity to response to environmental demands.

As children grow their bodies demand more and more physical activity. The expression of energy for children is purposely built into our students’ daily schedule. Head, Heart, and Hands (H3) allows our students to achieve more meaningful interactions through participation and movement.

2.02 Elementary

Elementary learning involves students acquiring the necessary foundations in literacy, numeracy, creativity, and communication skills. The primary goal is to build on the natural curiosity and passion of the students – seeking answers, exploring ideas, using equipment and resources, and working with others. USP provides students with an innovative, collaborative and purposeful learning environment supporting independent learning.

USP’s curriculum is complemented with modern and up to date textbook programs, interactive visuals, animated content, international and multicultural music, expansion of artistic mediums, connected with a strong foundation in computer science.

2.03 USP Learning Methodology

All of our programs are accredited and validated by the Ministry of Education (MEDUCA) of the Republic of Panama.

USP is strongly committed to teaching our students about Panama and how throughout its 500-year history it has grown and to be recognized as both the “Bridge of the Americas” and the “Hub of the Americas”. We will teach geography, history, patriotic symbols, the National Anthem, and the Indigenous communities.

Head, Heart, and Hands Model

Learning for children is not solely developmental in nature, there are transformational qualities that need to reach beyond content and formal knowledge to include application and disposition of how to create meaning and value to the world around us. USP applies the Head, Heart and Hands Model in how it applies to Transformative Learning Theory:

HEAD: Refers to engaging the cognitive area of the brain by exploring concepts.

HANDS: Refers to depicting the psychomotor area of the brain by learning practical skills and physical work, such as building, planting etc.

HEART: Refers to enabling the affective area of the brain to form values and attitudes that will translate into behaviors.

Common Core State Standards and Next Generation Science Standards

The CCSS and NGSS are informed by the highest, most effective standards across the United States and countries around the world. The standards define the knowledge and skills students should gain throughout their K-12 education in order to graduate high school prepared to succeed in entry-level careers, introductory academic college courses, and workforce training programs.

  • The standards are research and evidence-based.
  • Clear, understandable, and consistent.
  • Aligned with college and career expectations.
  • Based on rigorous content and application of knowledge through higher order thinking skills that are
    built upon the strengths and lessons of current state standards.
  • CCSS is used by various top performing countries in order to prepare all students for success in our global economy and society.

Trilingual Program

Children that are exposed to more than one language in early childhood years display improved cognitive control and abilities, volume, the density of gray matter, and brain connectivity.

Our curriculum includes three languages:

English is our primary language and will be taught across the curriculum in different subject areas.

Spanish will also be taught in our Language Arts Program as a separate subject and interdisciplinary in Social Studies.

Mandarin is the third language that our students will be learning scaffolded and integrated into each of the grades. Once our students reach High School, Mandarin for Business will be taught.

Physical Fitness – Learning Readiness PE

Based on the work of Paul Zientarski and his Learning readiness P.E. (www.learningreadinesspe.com); USP will implement a culture of fitness that includes Physical Education (P.E.) as a daily, graded requirement. Additionally, our P.E. scheduling will be flexible enough to include P.E. before our student’s most challenging classes.

CODE

There is scientific evidence that shows that students who learn programming at an early age have fewer gender stereotypes in relation to STEM careers – Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics.

CODE.org is the first Computational Science program that seeks to join the current education system and USP is honored to offer this innovative course as part of its curriculum. The Syllabus was written taking into account the standards of the K-12 Computer Science Framework and the Computer Science Teachers Association (CSTA) and is reviewed every two years with the intention of keeping it updated with computer advances.

UNICEF – Kid Power / Brain Breaks Program

Brain Breaks for kids is a simple technique in which young students are given a short mental break taken at regular intervals. Some of the benefits of using brain breaks include helping kids to be calmer, remain focused while also stimulating physical activity. Brain breaks have also been shown to significantly reduce stress levels in kids, providing organic improvements to learning and higher engagement levels.

The curriculum has been designed so we can ensure that are our graduates have the necessary skills to be productive men and women in an ever-demanding and challenging world, where full comprehension and life skills will give them a competing edge over their peers.

Looking Forward – Apple Distinguished School

United School of Panama aims to become an Apple Distinguished School and foster a culture of continuous innovation for our students, our team and our community.

Apple Distinguished Schools are centers of leadership and educational excellence that demonstrate Apple’s vision for learning with technology.  Apple Distinguished School leaders, teachers and the extended community have a clear vision for how their technology-rich environments support learning goals.

School leaders have established elements for continuous innovation that include culture, team, capacity, community, finance, and measurement. Supporting their school’s vision is an ongoing process that requires thoughtful planning, practice, and improvement along the way. They use iPad and Mac products to inspire student creativity, collaboration and critical thinking. And they cultivate environments in which students are excited and curious about learning.

The Apple Distinguished School program supports forward-thinking education leaders and their communities who are using Apple technology to make positive change in their schools. They take an innovative approach towards learning and teaching. They are highly motivated thought leaders who see what’s possible for the future of education and are invested in achieving the vision.

Looking Forward – International Baccalaureate

USP is aiming to obtain the IB Certification. The International Baccalaureate® (IB) programs aim to do more than other curricula by developing inquiring, knowledgeable and caring young people who are motivated to succeed. (IB) programs strive to develop students who will build a better world through intercultural understanding and respect.

  • Encourage students of all ages to think critically and challenge assumptions.
  • Develop independently of government and national systems, incorporating quality practice from research and from the global community of schools.
  • Encourage students of all ages to consider both local and global contexts.
  • Develop multilingual students.

In order to teach IB programs, schools must be authorized. “Every school authorized to offer IB programs is known as an IB World School.·”

2.04 Curriculum Overview

Language Arts

USP’s English Language Arts Program will provide our students’ academic language, literacy and content with a global perspective. Each classroom will be filled with vocabulary, phonics, writing, and conversations that will help our students develop critical thinking, problem solving and analytical skills needed to succeed throughout their scholastic and professional life. Our main goal is to empower our multicultural community to reach their highest potential as they develop their cognitive skills.

Reach Higher by National Geographic is a resourceful tool that will be used in our Language Arts Program in combination with an online platform that offers designed, content-created, project-based curricula that encompass the USP philosophy of play, learn, make, and connect.

National Geographic Learning brings the world to very young learners programs use songs, games, stories and real-world content to introduce the English language to students and support early language acquisition.  Through real-world content about people and places from around the world, students begin to understand the rich diversity of our planet- an important first step to becoming global citizens.

Mathematics

Math requires abstract and concrete thinking, which leads to the development of the brain’s muscles. Mathematics enhances your analytical and problem-solving skills, creates the basis for systemic thinking, improves the skills required to arrive at logical conclusions, and expands the mind to handle unfamiliar tasks with ease and confidence.

i-Ready math is a US based program that provides instruction and support with differentiated instruction for all ages to help support them on their individual paths to success.  i-Ready math curriculum emphasizes the use of concrete, real life examples that are meaningful and memorable as an introduction to key mathematical concepts.

i-Ready offers state of the art diagnostic systems for teachers to understand where their students starting points will be.  The online platform is able to gauge and pinpoint what students currently understand, areas for improvement, and how to get students the support they need regardless of level or grade.

Mandarin

Mandarin is one of the hardest languages to learn because it involves the left hemisphere to recognize and decode in a way that cannot be compared to languages that contain an alphabet. Our Mandarin course will gear students today for the future that lays ahead with knowledge and the know-how in handling the mechanics of both written and spoken language.

We ensure the process of learning Mandarin is enjoyable – a typical lesson is very interactive, packed with fun activities such as singing songs, games, reading, reciting and performing poems. Our lessons gear students to practice their speaking and listening skills with a strong emphasis in pronunciation.

USP’s Mandarin Program is structured in these phases:

  1. Listening
  2. Comprehension
  3. Speaking
  4. Writing
  5. Performing

Classes will explore the fundamentals of the written language, thus gradually building our student’s ability in reading and writing Chinese characters as they progress through the curriculum. Exploring aspects of Chinese culture is an integral part of the learning and where possible, references to Chinese culture, history and geography are incorporated into the language exercises.

Spanish

USP follows the Panamanian Ministry of Education standards to deliver the Spanish curriculum, focusing on character building in linguistic, verbal logic, reasoning, visual, and intrapersonal intelligences. Using a wide variety of diverse tools, texts, and access to online platforms to assist students in their knowledge building and understanding.

The Spanish Elementary program focuses mainly on grammar principles, writing, reading and vocabulary acquisition. In the lower grades, these are intuitively grasped through stories, songs, games and activities.

As students’ progress, there is a strong emphasis on a wide range of grammar patterns and a higher level of complexity in vocabulary, speaking, writing and reading comprehension.

Social Studies

The Social Science Program will strive to nurture and embrace our student’s curiosity with routines of fun and engaging lessons that gear them to understand their place in society and the role they will play in the ever-evolving world stage. Culture, customs, language and food play make up a large part of our understanding and bring a new breadth as to how others live their lives in different parts of the world.

Our program will focus on traditions and cultures around the world, making an emphasis in Panamanian culture: customs, dance, music, food.  It is important that while growing up in Panama, our student population understand its rich history and how Panama came to be the country we all know and love. It is also important that as global citizens we are well versed as to the everyday changes in the world, respectful and knowledgeable about customs that have been passed from generation to generation and how these differences shape our world view.

Social Studies will focus on facilitating meaningful information and teach our students how to learn by doing. We will develop their soft skills and emotional learning that will impact their literacy skills. Some of the topics will be: families, community, transportation, goods and services, weather, maps, citizenship, bodies of water and life in society.

In our later elementary grades, we will shift focus to challenge and increase the level of comprehension skills of our readers and writers. We will strengthen their language skills with hands on activities that will scaffold through application, reflection, and understanding. Some of the topics will be: helping, working together, matter, culture and traditions, natural resources, exploration and preserving our heritage.

Physical Education

 

USP offers a comprehensive P.E. program based on proven methodologies and scientific research in neural science, health, and movement. It has been designed to improve learning, health, fitness and to build student’s character and values. Our program covers the domains of personal, social, health, and physical education in a complete continuum across school life, within the academic curriculum, and in the school culture. It is a cross curricular and transdisciplinary P.E. program.

Our Physical Education Program is designed to support academic performance, improve health and promote school culture, spirit, and values. It is a broad, general, inclusive, and balanced curriculum.

In the lower grades, students will develop fundamental movement skills, become increasingly competent and confident, and access a broad range of opportunities to extend their agility, balance, and coordination, individually and with others. Students will be taught to: master basic movements including running, jumping, throwing, and catching. Activities will focus on developing their gross motor skills.

As they progress, students will continue to apply and develop a broader range of skills, learning how to use them in different ways. Students will use running, jumping, throwing, and catching in isolation and in combination, learn the basics of competitive games, modify where appropriate (i.e., mini soccer and mini-basketball), and apply basic principles suitable for attacking and defending. They will develop flexibility, strength, technique, control, and balance through athletics and gymnastics.

Science

At USP, science is an integral part of our curriculum that will provide our students with outside-the-box thinking and an approach to problem-solving.

National Geographic Exploring Science covers 100% of the Next Generation Science Standard (NGSS) for grades K-5 to ensure students are mastering the performance expectation. Now with improved 3-dimensional lesson support, more hands-on activities for students, enhanced assessment opportunities, and our MindTap digital platform including interactivity to support 3D learning.

Real Science. Real World. Right Now.

National Geographic’s program also includes summative assessments that will be used to gauge the progress of our student’s comprehension and growth.  Unit tests and rubrics are included to allow the opportunity for self-reflection in the world around them as it changes daily.

Computer Science

Computer science develops students’ computational and critical thinking skills and shows them how to create, not simply use, new technologies. This fundamental knowledge is needed to prepare students for the 21st century, regardless of their ultimate field of study or occupation.

A few of the topics and activities that might be included in the computer science program throughout the curriculum are:

  • Modeling and simulating real-world problems
  • Creating and manipulating graphics
  • E-Safety and digital citizenship
  • Ethical and social issues in computing human-computer interaction
  • Robotics
  • Coding/Programming (including game design)
  • Computing and data analysis (managing, processing, visualizing and interpreting data)

Code is part of the USP Computer Science Program.  Code is an innovate computational program which focuses around seven big ideas at the core of computer science—creativity, abstraction, data, algorithms, programming, Internet and impact—that are fundamental to computer science, but applicable to analysis in many disciplines.

Beginning in elementary, our students will learn what programing means and how to code.  This will help them to develop essential skills such as problem solving, logic and critical thinking. Through coding, students will learn that there’s often more than one way to solve a problem, and that simpler and more efficient solutions are often better. Learning to code encourages students to become creators, not just consumers, of the technology they use.

While learning to code at the elementary school level, students are encouraged to think critically and strategically to solve problems—often simple puzzles like getting an onscreen character to move around a maze. For younger children, visual blocks are often used to represent programming concepts and terminology, such as ‘procedures’, ‘loops’ and ‘conditional instructions.

Fine Arts

Art is all around and it is important to teach children how to use and make materials from scratch so that they become self-reliant.  Self-reliance is a characteristic that will be expressed in our art curricula because it teaches children that things do not always come out how we have planned or imagined- and that sometimes the best workmanship comes from the mistakes we make.

In Art class, students explore working in collaborative projects and individually.  Painting, drawing, printmaking, sculpture, and work with clay, fiber, and found materials are all part of the curriculum. An open studio approach encourages young artists to be creative and original. The curriculum is designed to build on art skills and experiences as students advance through the grades. Students are introduced to art history and learn to appreciate different art forms through viewing original works of art and the use of the technology. Art projects are often designed to complement the classroom curriculum.

How Art Enhances the Human Brain

Scientific evidence proves that art and its variety of mediums and interpretations enhances brain function.  It has an impact on brain wave patterns and emotions, the nervous system, and actually raise serotonin levels.  Researchers say that creative pursuits help to build connections in the brain to strengthen reserve, brain resilience, and prevents memory loss.  In the creation of artwork, we improve fine motor skills through small and purposeful movements.

Art can change a person’s outlook and the way they experience the world.

Music

Music is one of the most important tools that combines both logic and emotion for whole brain thinking.  Music is what brings life, emotion, and memory together for long term achievements.

At USP our commitment is to inject excitement into each and every teachable moment, our student population will be challenged musically with composition, instruments, melody, pitch, emotion and memory.

Life Skills Habits

In preparation for the world, it is not enough to fill the future generation with academic knowledge only.  A well rounded individual grows to be self sufficient and this is where United School of Panama is set apart from the rest.  We believe that discipline is the best form of love and with that comes responsibility in not only teaching it- but living it.

Life skills are essential tools to ensure that our young ones will grow with the knowledge and ability to fend for themselves when on their own.

Home Economics is introduced during elementary from grades 1st through 5th.  Our focus is the gear our students with the understanding in family structure and the roles that each person within the household carries.  As children grow so should responsibility. Elementary students will be trained in how to take care of their households and its chores in order to keep a healthy living habitat. Our program includes: how to crack and fry an egg, sewing to create and repair, wash the dishes, fold clothes in an orderly fashion, put away items after use, how to set a table, etc.  These activities are to help promote self-awareness and the environment that surrounds them.  Students will be surprised at the ease and ability that each pupil has to control and enhance their surroundings for themselves and others.  Care and responsibility come hand in hand in every household and it gives parents peace of mind.

Social Skills emphasizes the value in how to communicate effectively in a group or personal setting.  Communicating effectively is the number one tool that affects relationships in all settings in life and it is a priority at USP to engage our students in learning skills that will bring happiness and success in their everyday lives.

2.05 Assessment Policy

United School of Panama Assessment Philosophy

USP recognizes that assessment is an integral part of the teaching and learning philosophy designed to foster academic achievement and promote lifelong learning. In order to create an environment that supports lifelong learning, assessment is an ongoing process involving students, teachers and parents. USP believes that a balanced assessment system is a core component of a well-rounded academic program. It effectively measures the depth and breadth of student learning and monitors student progress towards the desired learning goal. It also provides data that allow us to make informed decisions when designing curriculum and educational opportunities, planning for instruction, academic support, staff professional learning and resource allocation at the different levels. To meet these goals, a balanced assessment system must include multiple measures and be responsive to the needs of our students.

Reflection is an integral part of assessment

Assessment is most effective when it reflects an understanding of learning as multidimensional, integrated, and revealed in performance over time

  • is vital to guiding instruction and learning
  • is ongoing and purposeful
  • uses a variety of strategies and tools
  • sets expectations and clarifies strategies for students
  • provides opportunities for students to reflect on their own learning
  • shows students’ progress over time
  • is a tool to enable and motivate students to grow as learners
Principles of Assessment

Assessment is viewed as an integral part of the teaching and learning process. It involves collecting evidence of learning over a period of time, using a variety of assessment methods. The goals are to provide feedback on both the ongoing process and the end-product in achieving the outcomes.

Assessment practices at USP are guided by the following principles:
Assessments need to…

  • be authentic and rigorous and tied directly to the program and learning outcome
  • reinforce skills that apply across curriculum
  • provide students with meaningful feedback in a timely manner
  • have a balance between formative, summative and self-reflection
Purpose of Assessment

Purpose of Assessment for Students:

  • promote positive student attitudes towards learning
  • provide feedback and opportunity for reflection
  • identify strengths and weaknesses in subject area components
  • promote responsibility and ownership of learning


Purpose of Assessment for Teachers:

  • Support student learning by providing meaningful feedback
  • Inform and improve the teaching process through reflection
  • Provide opportunity for students to demonstrate transfer of skills across subject areas
  • Promote a deep understanding of subject content by providing opportunities for students to engage in authentic inquiry.
  • Promote the development of higher order thinking skills

 

Purpose of Assessment for Parents:

  • provide information to inform parents about their child’s academic, social-emotional and personal development
  • Provide point of discussion for conversations with their child about their learning and growth
  • Share information about instructional program


Purpose of Assessment for Administrators:

  • Inform about progress toward student achievement of learning targets and growth across content areas
  • Inform about teacher progress, achievement and growth, as well as areas for further professional learning
  • Engage in reflection about program development and areas for additional resources/support
Assessment Criteria and Grading Scale:
Reporting and Recording Student Achievement

All teachers will communicate the grading and assessment policy and curriculum information to parents at the start of the school year.
Each subject will identify objectives aligned with subject guidelines and assessment criteria. Assessments are measured according to the levels of achievement that best describes the quality of work.

Ways in which parents, students and teachers will communicate about assessment:

  • Parent Open House
  • Parent/Teacher Conferences
  • Quarterly report cards
  • Communication through Parent Portal
  • Teacher emails, phone calls and meetings
Formative Assessment

Assessment is ongoing and occurs at all stages of the learning process.

  • Diagnostic – To identify what students already know and to uncover misconceptions, teachers use formal and informal strategies. These include pretests, thinking maps, discussions, standardized tests, informal reading inventories and more.
  • Formative – We define formative assessment as assessment for learning. Formative assessment can be graded or non-graded. This type of assessment show continual progress toward unit objectives and course content.


Objectives / Purpose:

  • This type of assessment happens during the learning process and gives students direct feedback so students can improve before a summative assessment
  • It provides teachers with the input needed to adjust instructional strategies and improve student performance
  • Reveals student misconceptions
  • Focused on a particular learning target
  • Examples: written reflection, verbal response, presentation, quiz, demonstration, graphic organizer, video/audio recording, and drafts of writing, etc.
Summative Assessment

This type of assessment can also be defined as assessment of learning. Summative assessment occurs at the end of a teaching and learning cycle. Students are given the opportunity to demonstrate what they have learned by applying their knowledge in new and authentic contexts. The results of summative assessments are communicated to both students and parents. Projects, activities, and unit tests are a few examples of summative assessments.

Objectives / Purpose:

  • Shows mastery of unit objectives & course content
  • A way for students to show that they have mastered all learning targets for the unit
  • An end of unit assessment
  • Integrates all unit learning targets into one product
  • Examples: classroom test, timed writing, essays, performance tasks/projects, investigations, practical work, and/or oral examination, etc.