Afya

21 Mar, 2014

Background

Afya Public Charter School strives to offer students a very different kind of middle-school experience.  Located in the Belair-Edison neighborhood on the west side of Baltimore City, it serves about 350 students.  Twenty percent of Afya’s students receive special education services.  The school is named from a Swahili word for ‘health’ which fit its focus on health.  Afya’s academic success has been achieved by approaching each child as an individual and focusing on their overall health and well-being which includes: intellectual health, social-emotional health and physical and nutritional health.

Afya was founded in 2007 with four colleagues who believed that students (and adults) have to be afforded the opportunity to not only think critically, but to be physically active and interact constructively with their peers. They designed a unique approach to school aimed at developing life-long health living habits of body and mind.  The school design also includes extensive student supports and structures such as an extended Advisory Period to engage with students and help them through the challenging, adolescent years and prepare them for high school and life.  Afya’s approach to middle schools is solidly built on three main pillars:  Play, Advisory and strong student support which consists of regular communication and assistance with students and families.

Awards and Recognition

  • Afya’s 97% daily attendance rate is phenomenally high for middle schools gaining them recognition for innovation and student supports.
  • 100% of Afya’s Life Skills students were proficient/advanced on the Alt-MSA over the past 3 years.
  • Afya students reached the Semi-finals in the National Academic League.
  • In keeping with their physical health theme, Afya students are local Flag Football Champions.
  • Each year, students and staff run the Afya Mile, an annual tradition that serves as a culminating experience that celebrates the school’s mission while bringing students, teachers, and families together.  Afya has been featured in local media including an ABC affiliate in May 2013.  See Fifth Annual Afya Mile.

Achievement

All instruction at Afya is highly individualized.  Students with disabilities are not only placed in the appropriate instructional setting based on individual assessments of their needs, but receive frequent progress monitoring as well.  Students with IEPS are placed either in a general education classroom (inclusion), a resource classroom or the self-contained Life Skills program for those who have IQs lower than 50. All of Afya’s Life Skills students have achieved proficiency on the Alternative  Maryland State Assessment over the past few years.  Afya has one of the lowest suspension rates and highest attendance rates (97% daily) in Baltimore City Public Schools which they attribute to their focus on students’ social-emotional well-being including character-building exercises that are integrated into instruction and play.  Students with disabilities are not viewed at as a separate sub-population or singled out or alienated but are a part of the community. Rather, staff evaluate all students and their strengths and struggles on a regular basis and provide support where needed.  When a special educator is in a classroom they work with all students that are struggling – while ensuring proper services are given to those with an IEP.

For more information visit the school’s website at: http://www.afyabaltimore.org/afya_index.html/

Focus Area I: Student Support

Focus Area II: Health

Focus Area III: Life Skills

Tools and Resources

Afya Summer Conversations
Sample of invitation to students and families to participate in student-led conferences with Afya staff prior to school starting each year.

Advisory at Afya for Summer Letter
Excerpt from student orientation materials containing description of unique Advisory Program, an important part of supporting healthy living.

Advisory Components a Constants
Description of the components of Afya’s unique Advisory Program.

Grade6-8 Schedulep
School-wide schedule for110-minute core content classes, Advisory and Friday Celebration Programs that help achieve healthy-balanced lives for students.

Goal Setting Half-sheet
Sample of student form that outlines individual student health goals.

Hopes and Dreams Planning Sheet
All students including Students with Disabilities at Afya complete a personal planning worksheet that are displayed

Professional Development Plan
Sample summary of teacher professional development focuses and goals aimed at targeting instructional priorities in core content subjects.

Life Skills Learning Plan
Sample of individualized instructional plan for life skills students including centers, real life chores, one-one time with instructor and independent work.

Life Skills Student Behavior Charts
Sample, simple, daily behavior management tool used in the Life Skills Program to track social, emotional and behavioral progress in order to provide feedback, issue rewards and redirection as needed.

Image IconMonthly Student Monitoring Form
Sample of progress form used to track special education students’ IEP achievement and make determinations on placement changes with the student support team.