We create a high-achieving, college-focused culture in which students embrace the idea of college, grasp the value of positive community interactions, and internalize the habits of scholarship. Our disciplined culture focused on accountability and results is built on our first priority, which is to establish a safe learning environment for our students. This is achieved by implementing a very structured school model, as well as establishing a code of academic and behavioral expectations that is system-wide and focuses on the details.
Students are explicitly taught the five foundational principles of the school – DRIVE – and are expected to uphold these core values both within the confines of the school and in their community. These values help instill in students the soft skills that must accompany academic skills in order for students to be successful in college and career.
The principles of DRIVE are:
We believe in the growing body of research that demonstrates that students’ non-cognitive skills and character strengths (e.g., grit, self-control and ambition) are critical to students’ long-term success. Accordingly, we teach character education that focuses on performance character, which consists of action-oriented values that support achievement and positive performance. Performance character, which builds on values-oriented character education, has been shown to support students’ chances of overcoming adversity and persevering through failure. The students of Frayser have known significant adversity and many have experienced failure. Therefore, this emphasis on character permeates our culture through direct instruction, small group discussions in advisory, common language across the school and visual reminders.
All students participate in a rigorous college preparatory curriculum based on the Common Core State Standards, College Readiness Standards and the Tennessee Curriculum Standards (for science, social studies and foreign language). In order to ensure that each student is successful in our program, we embed targeted tutoring into the school day, and offer other supports (i.e., advisory, character education and college planning). Our extensive differentiated system of supports begins with additional instructional time for all students in ELA and mathematics, with all students receiving 7-10 periods per week of literacy and numeracy, and also includes a tutoring period during the school day. As part of our Response to Intervention (RtI) process, students are intentionally and flexibly grouped during tutoring and are provided targeted instruction based on formative assessment results. Their progress in these supports is regularly monitored through our interim assessment cycle.
Our school is divided into two academies: Focus Academy (9-10) and College Prep Academy (11-12). Each Academy has dedicated teachers and an Academy Director, which allows a smaller, supportive learning environment to promote student success. Each Academy’s program is designed to provide the instruction, culture and supports students need in those grade levels.
Our Focus Academy intentionally teaches academic and behavioral skills so that students develop the habits of scholarship necessary for success in College Prep Academy, which makes an intentional shift toward college preparation. We accomplish this through a broader curriculum that includes foreign language and electives, increased independence and introduction of some student-directed learning with fewer scaffolds. While we still hold the same high behavioral standards for students, we expect them to begin to demonstrate appropriate decision-making and, by 12th grade, rely less on school-based systems to achieve our expectations.
The design of the Upper Academy intends to prepare students for the true autonomy of college and career.
We provide a longer school day and year for our students. Specifically, our school year provides 195 days of instruction and our school day runs from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 1:30 p.m. on Friday. This provides approximately 200 hours (or 28 days) more time in school than a typical public high school in Memphis. Additionally, 9th grade students participate in a two-week 9th grade induction prior to the start of the school year.