Charting the Success of a Charter School

Education reaches beyond the walls of this charter school.

By: Sandra Sutherland


To produce the level of competency in our students that not only allows them to succeed individually but spurs them to be contributing members of society, we must develop our students' gifts and talents to their maximum potential.

Richland Academy School of Excellence (RASE) in Mansfield, Ohio, is a K–8 charter school that continually works to raise the level of success and competency in each scholar. Designed as an integrated fine arts school, RASE offers approximately 160 scholars a core academic program infused with technology, music, dance, and visual and performing arts. Despite a poverty level of 82.5%, RASE ranks in the top 15% of 400 charter schools in Ohio.

The shift to an organizational framework and research-based practices along with a dedicated, highly qualified staff has allowed RASE to push forward and explore educational concepts such as the flipped classroom model, blended learning, and project-based learning. Additionally, project studies encourage our scholars to research and enrich their knowledge on topics of their choice, and present their knowledge in ways that infuse technology and the visual and performing arts.

Teaching Beyond Walls

Richland Academy School of Excellence (RASE) strives to build a sense of community within the K-8 charter school.
At RASE, we talk about "teaching beyond the walls," and we do just that! RASE was the first school in the United States to Skype with the National Archives, the U. S. Capitol, and The White House Historical Society. The National Archives now uses the RASE framework for their Skype sessions with other schools.

Our seventh graders had the opportunity to Skype with the curator of the National Science and Technology Museum of Leonardo Da Vinci in Italy! Middle school classes have also Skyped with authors of books they're reading in class to gain the author's perspective and discuss the author's source for the content of the book. (See the August 2015 issue of AMLE Magazine for more about RASE's Skyping with history activities.)

And not to be left out, the RASE kindergarten students learned the Bill of Rights for Constitution Day using a song entitled "Our Favorite 10," which the kindergarten teacher wrote. Eager to share that knowledge, they sang the song for the eighth graders who were studying the Constitution and Bill of Rights.

Building Community and Parent Engagement

Project studies encourage students to enrich their content knowledge.
RASE builds community within the school through a program of Bigs & Littles. The middle school students work with younger students to support them in reading and math or independent projects. The connections between the Bigs & Littles extend beyond the classroom throughout the year.

Many RASE middle school scholars direct and perform in musical groups, dances, and plays, and are featured at community events and on local television. Working artists on staff who are active in the arts community bring their love of the arts to RASE while giving our scholars the ability to see professional artists at work.

Because of these working artists' connections with the outside community, scholars have the opportunity to attend symphony and theater productions. We also are able to procure opera companies and multi-cultural music groups for performances at RASE.

RASE highlights students' artistic talents with an Art Museum Gallery.
Artistic scholars are trained in multiple mediums, from general art classes to advanced art techniques. The training culminates in an Art Museum Gallery of scholars' work for the annual arts festival. After the festival, RASE honors the work of the artists by framing and displaying their art throughout the school.

Parent engagement is essential to creating community and builds the connection between home and school. During each nine-week period, RASE holds a Parent Night event with 300–450 parents in attendance. On the last day of school, parents bring food and supplies for a picnic and serve the meal.

Freedom of Choice

RASE teachers and scholars have the freedom to explore, innovate, and express themselves.

As we consider the organizational framework of Richland Academy School of Excellence, the other dynamic that cannot be overlooked is the regard for the teaching styles of our educators. By design, a professional environment, combined with administrative support, allows teachers to collaborate, thrive, and produce unprecedented achievements that affect the learning of our scholars. Teachers model the design elements of exploration, research, application, and self-expression as they become immersed in technology and the cultural arts.

Many RASE scholars perform in musical groups at school and in the community.

In the same way scholars are given choices, teachers are given the freedom to make choices regarding the manner in which curriculum is presented and the freedom to explore innovative, research-based techniques in their classrooms.

At Richland Academy School of Excellence, we thrive on teaching beyond the walls!


Sandra Sutherland is superintendent of the Richland Academy School of Excellence, Mansfield, Ohio.
sandra.sutherland1@gmail.com

Published in AMLE Magazine, March 2016.

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