... in my discussions with one of the board members, I have been impressed with the commitment to providing a rigorous curriculum that engages and pushes all students to their greatest potential through research-based instructional strategies. Because of the proposed size of the Sweetwater Branch Academy, students will not only have the opportunity and support to excel academically but also to develop and thrive as valued and respected individuals. I am also pleased to note that the Sweetwater Branch Academy board and faculty are committed to a comprehensive assessment system allowing students to document their knowledge and growth while using similar assessment benchmarks as their peers in traditional Alachua County schools. With the teaching philosophy of constructivism, dedication to rigorous academic programs, and attention to the student as a whole, middle and high school students can thrive in a supportive environment where differentiated instruction and the integration of the arts and technology and other beneficial instructional approaches are encouraged. Many of these practices are not well utilized in middle and high schools in Alachua County. Therefore, the Sweetwater Branch Academy brings new options and opportunities for an effective and encouraging secondary education experience to students, parents, teachers, and administrators. Because of the differences between the Sweetwater Branch Academy and many traditional secondary schools in Alachua County, Sweetwater Branch is uniquely positioned to serve as a model school in different areas for school reform. For example, there are options for researcher to explore teachers' dispositions toward social justice and the integration of educational technologies or the arts in teaching. Research on middle level learner transition could also be an important contribution that the Sweetwater Branch Academy administrators, faculty, parents, and students could make to the field of education. As an educational researcher, I am excited about the potential I see in the Sweetwater Branch Academy proposal... Sweetwater Branch Academy has my support as a charter school in Alachua County. In my opinion, Sweetwater Branch Academy brings a new educational opportunity to Alachua County which will be welcomed by numerous students, parents, and educators.
Colleen Swain, Ph.D.
Associate Professor, Associate Director & Graduate Coordinator
School of Teaching and Learning
University of Florida
... the science education of secondary school students in the United States is not at a level hoped for by our leaders over fifteen years ago. Any effort to prepare students to be productive and responsible citizens while enhancing competencies in science, reading, and mathematics needs to be commended. I hereby offer my support to the Sweetwater Branch Academy and the philosophies espoused in their mission statement. Sweetwater's mission encompasses much of the contemporary beliefs about teaching and learning. They have drawn on research about how children learn, have included strategies that are consistent with best practices while developing a rigorous innovative, standards-based curriculum that is still aligned to Florida's Sunshine State Standards. I believe that these are not only appropriate but are also relevant to meeting the needs of the students and of the state while introducing college bound programs. An important aspect of the school however, is the recognition of the roles of parents in students' school achievement. This triad of support is commendable and has proven to enhance the students' intellectual, social, emotional and physical well-being. Such an effort must be duly supported.
Rose Pringle, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Science Education
School of Teaching and Learning
University of Florida
Sweetwater Branch Academy is approved by the School Board of Alachua County to operate as a middle and high school. SWBA will open as a middle school in August 2008 and start accepting high school students in its third year. SWBA is founded by some University of Florida professors and educators. Its advisory board also includes professors from the College of Education at the University of Florida.
The mission of Sweetwater Branch Academy (SWBA) is to offer middle and high school students in Alachua County a high quality education, aligned with the Florida Sunshine State Standards, in an intellectually nurturing learning environment. Its purpose is to enable students to reach their maximum potential in all subject areas with special emphasis on mathematics, science, and reading utilizing state-of-the-art curricula such as Connected Mathematics Project (CMP), College Preparatory Mathematics (CPM), Foundational Approaches in Science Teaching (FAST), and Academy of Reading. Research literature on these programs has indicated that these exemplary programs are effective and accessible to all levels of students, not only high performing students1. Results consistently show that students who are engaged in these programs perform as well as or better than other students.
Charter schools provide a choice to the parents within the state's public school system. SWBA will have high standards of student achievement and is committed to providing parents flexibility to choose among diverse educational opportunities within the state's public school system. Opening of SWBA will give parents and students a choice of rigorous math, science and reading focused program in Alachua County. To achieve its objectives, SWBA will (1) provide students with innovative curricula that were recognized as exemplary by the U.S. Department of Education in mathematics and science as well as rigorous reading programs such as Academy of Reading and Read XL, (2) use a variety of student assessment methods and school climate surveys and participate in district and statewide assessment programs on a consistent basis to evaluate the effectiveness of teaching and learning processes and to improve the school environment, (3) improve students' self-esteem, self-control, and self-regulation skills through group process skills and cooperative learning strategies. SWBA will have high expectations of its students both academically and socially. In addition, SWBA will aim at developing student awareness of local and community needs as well as an understanding of national and global issues; reaching academic excellence for all the students while at the same time recognizing individual differences.
SWBA has the responsibility to construct a program, which engages and motivates students to invest their talents, energy, and enthusiasm in completing their schoolwork in an exemplary manner. In addition, continuous improvement, persistent innovation, positive response to change, and a commitment to incessant growth are characteristics of SWBA people and programs.
Finally, SWBA believes that an educated citizen in the 21st century must have the skills and understanding to participate and work productively in a multicultural, globally-oriented environment, including the skills required to use technology to its full potential in the new millennium.
1CMP Website: http://connectedmath.msu.edu/rnd/past.html,
CPM Website: http://www.cpm.org/parents/statistics.htm,
FAST Website: http://www.hawaii.edu/crdg/reports/
- Sweetwater Branch Academy Staff Commitment Statement
We will prepare our students for life beyond school through rigorous and relevant learning opportunities aligned to individual student goals, as well as state and national standards. We will educate the whole child, addressing the academic needs, as well as promoting social and emotional development that will teach life skills to increase the overall quality of life for every child. We will be unified in our efforts and work collaboratively to improve our instructional practices, and create a positive school environment.
- Sweetwater Branch Academy Student Commitment Statement (Written by 2011-2012 Student Body)
In an effort to make our school a more successful learning environment, we will commit ourselves to improving attendance, punctuality, classroom conduct and appearance as a student body. In regard of these commitments our administration and faculty will be able to better concentrate on instructional goals.