Middle School Curriculum and Assessments

Effectiveness of the Educational Program

SNACS instructional design provides for a unique model of innovative instruction. The small school community culture is the foundation where personalized learning, technology, choice, parent and student engagement, and STEM all drive student achievement.   The model of instructional delivery is unique by nature and involves a level of programming designed to meet the needs of individual students, small and large, or mixed-aged groups of students.  The unique model is embedded with sound instructional practices that allow multiple stakeholders to navigate the curriculum from different perspectives and for different purposes.  A curriculum overview is provided in the following section with an inventory of classroom level curriculum currently implemented by our teachers.  In addition, key features of the model are highlighted.


Instructional Design & Curriculum

SNACS key features that are highlighted throughout this section include:

  • Pearson Curriculum
  • Pearson enVision Math – K-5
  • Pearson Digits Math – 6-8
  • Pearson: Scott Foresman Reading Street – K-5
  • Apprentice Hall Literature – 6-8
  • Pearson Interactive Science – K – 8
  • Harcourt Social Studies
  • ELOB Days & Design Principles
  • Events and Extracurricular Activities
  • Special Populations
  • The SNACS Model Key Features

  • Choice
  • Student engagement
  • CSC
  • Ability Grouping
  • PLPs
  • Data-based instructional design
  • High-impact technology
  • Parent engagement
  • STEM
  • The ARTs including: Art Studio, Music, Choir, Theater, and Dance
  • Physical Education


Pearson Programs

Pearson is the world’s leading education company serving student needs from preschool to high school. Pearson’s curriculum, multimedia instructional resources and testing programs, help to educate millions of people worldwide – more than any other private enterprise. Pearson generates approximately 60% of their sales in North America. They further operate in more than 70 countries. Pearson also publishes across the curriculum under a range of respected imprints including Scott Foresman, Prentice Hall, Addison-Wesley, Allyn and Bacon, Benjamin Cummings and Longman. Pearson is the leading provider of electronic learning programs and of test development, processing and scoring services to educational institutions, corporations, and professional bodies around the world.


Addressing the Common Core by Leveraging Technology

Pearson offers digital instruction solutions to help every student perform and master the Common Core Standards, be an active participant in his or her own intellectual development, and walk the staircase of increasing academic complexity to reach a level of academic readiness for college, career, and life in a global world.


Pearson enVisionMATH

enVisionMATH Common Core was written to specifically address the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). The program is based on research and proven classroom results. It helps students develop a conceptual understanding of important mathematical concepts through problem-based interactive learning, visual learning bridges, and visual learning animations.

It also provides ongoing assessments, diagnosis, and intervention methods. Formative assessments are integrated throughout the program at the lesson and topic level.

Teachers respond to students’ individual needs by providing various opportunities to succeed, at each daily lesson. Further, data received from students’ progress allows for differentiated instruction at the individual student’s level.

Each grade level is divided into topics. The topics are organized and color-coded by CCSS domains (or strands). This alignment is progressively correlated from the various grade levels to the next proceeding grade, such as identified in the CCSS.

Through problem-based interactive learning, individual lessons move from concrete ideas to pictorial representations to abstract representations. The visual learning bridge provides systematic visuals in every lesson to illustrate concepts and improve understanding. Further, these visual animations surpass the printed page with animations and models that demonstrate each concept.

Student editions vary with the enVisionMATH program. Primary grades use a four-page lesson sheet every day that includes instruction and several practice problems, while the intermediate grades use a traditional textbook. The program also allows for parents and students to access the text in intermediate grades electronically through a student-login system.

Success tracker is an online assessment, diagnosis, remediation, and enrichment tool that allows teachers to diagnose students’ understanding of the CCSS. Students complete a variety of tests online and view results immediately. The success tracker program will automatically assign remediation work if needed. Teachers are then able to view various reports that track students’ progress and skill mastery.

In addition to the online resources and success tracker, the digital courseware provides access to the visual learning animations, interactive math stories, topic openers, and teachers can instruct their whole class with engaging, interactive content that makes the math come alive.


Pearson Digits Math

Digits Math combines a comprehensive math curriculum, best practices in teaching, and easy-to-use technology which teachers can deliver personalized instruction effectively and save valuable time. Digits Math provides a multitude of ancillaries to juggle, and streamlines instruction through point-of-need resources that are intuitive for teachers, optimize effective time on task, and allows teachers to address the individual needs of every student – in and out of class.
Digits Math lessons are interactive and flexible, so that teachers can incorporate their own personal style and best practices. Each digits grade-level course consists of six units that are subdivided into topics. Each topic includes a Readiness Lesson, approximately five to eight on-level lessons, a Topic Review, and a Topic Test.

Pearson’s Digits Math program includes the follow areas:

  • Digits Math uses the interACTIVE Learning Cycle to differentiate instruction and customize students’ learning. The interACTIVE Learning is a data-driven approach that assures all students are prepared to master the on-level lessons.
  • The Digits Math curriculum is delivered by way of digital content and can be solely online and/or combined with a supplemental disposal student workbook, based on individual student needs.
  • Workbook entitled ‘Digits Math Student Companion’. Students learn with the digital content and then use their write-in Student Companions workbooks to record their responses and demonstrate mathematical understanding. Writing in their own workbooks and recording their thinking gives students a sense of ownership in their learning.
  • Digits Math Dashboard (digitsdashboard.com) is the command central where teachers can find program support and access their digits course via SuccessNet Plus. There, teachers can also view training tutorials and a link to CoCo, the digits Community Connection site. Digits Dashboard is updated regularly with author messages, digits training, and helpful links.
  • The Student Package consists of the online digital content accessed through the student site, MyMathUniverse.com, and the write-in Student Companion.
  • MyMathUniverse.com is a digits portal where students can watch entertaining videos about the math they are learning and log in to their student accounts on SuccessNet Plus.
  • Topic folders are broken down further into a Readiness Lesson, on-level lessons, and topic tests.
  • Readiness folders and files are indicated by purple icons and have an “r” before the lesson number. Each Readiness folder contains:
    • Readiness lessons
    • Activity sheets
    • Homework
    • Teacher Guide
    • Lesson Plan

Leveled homework assignments are provided to students. These levels come in the following formats: Level G homework is for on-level students. Level K homework consists of a re-teaching assignment for students who work below grade level. Printable homework assignments are provided to students who may not have direct access to the Internet.  The Intervention folder contains full intervention lessons for Response to Intervention (RTI) support. Each Intervention folder contains:

  • Teacher Guide
  • Lesson Plan


Reading Street 2013 Common Core

  • Intervention lesson
  • Journal pages
  • Practice sets
  • Journal with answers

Reading Street 2013 Common Core, by Scott Foresman, is a division of Pearson. The program is designed to help teachers easily implement the Common Core State Standards. The literature features an appropriate balance of 50% fiction to 50% nonfiction in the primary grades. As students become more comfortable with informational text, that ratio becomes 40% fiction to 60% nonfiction. These texts are from many different genres from folktales and poems to biographies and technical writing. Exposure to these texts begins in kindergarten as students interact with Big Books, Songs and Rhymes Flip Charts, and Phonics Activity Mats. Kindergartener students will also enjoy a special series called Trucktown. This series is written by author Jon Scieszka, and he will continue to inspire students as they move through the grades with daily Street Rhymes.

Reading Street’s lesson plans are fully aligned to the Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts Grades K–6. The Common Core State Standards are identified at point of use within each lesson so teachers will know where to focus your instruction. In the margins of the lesson, plans are bridged to the Common Core professional development notes. They explain how the instruction is preparing their students to meet the Common Core State Standards.

Instruction is organized to provide a focus on guiding comprehension and critical thinking. Conceptually related texts at various levels allow teachers to appropriately scaffold instruction. One of these texts is the Reading Street Sleuth. Each week, the Sleuth contains an on-level text that encourages students to read like a detective. Students Look for Clues, Ask Questions, Make their Case, and Prove It! with lesson plans for each level, the same complex text is differentiated for all students.

Writing lessons also align to the Common Core State Standards. The daily craft and trait mini-lessons connect reading and writing so that students write in response to reading.

One of the main goals of the Common Core State Standards is having students show what they know. The formative and summative assessments used in Reading Street allow students to use what they have learned in a new situation or a new text so that they transfer and apply their understanding.

Reading Street makes it easy to differentiate, manage groups, and personalize instruction following these three steps:

    1. Lead small groups.
    2. Use easy-to-implement independent practice stations.
    3. Use the weekly independent reading suggestions for appropriate texts and partner activities.

Reading Street also provides additional ELL and intervention instruction for small groups and individual students.


Prentice Hall Literature

Prentice Hall Literature is organized around Big and Essential Questions based on the Understanding by Design framework created by Grant Wiggins. Students frequently revisit these questions throughout lesson activities to deepen their understanding of universal themes. The Understanding by Design framework helps teachers deliver focused instruction by teaching skills in context rather than in isolation. Prentice Hall Literature provides leveled selection choices. In Grades 7th and 8th, use one of two paired selections based on the reading ability of the students. One selection is more accessible and the other one is more challenging. Regardless of which selection students read, they all learn and practice the same skills.

At all grade levels, leveled resources help personalize instruction. For English learners, below-level students, and special-needs students, vocabulary and reading warm-ups as well as partially filled-in graphic organizers are available. There are also enrichment activities for advanced students. There are four Reader’s Notebooks for every grade level: On Level, English Learner’s Version, Adapted Version, and Spanish Version. These books provide interactive reading support and additional skill practice.

Prentice Hall Literature includes explicit instruction of reading skills and strategies. Students read classic and contemporary literature and apply reading skills as they read. All grade levels read informational texts. These lesson activities have students transfer their reading skills to a variety of nonfiction texts.

Students engage in a variety of vocabulary-building activities throughout each unit. The Unit Resources books provide vocabulary-building worksheets. Before students read, they learn the selection vocabulary, and while they read, they will find vocabulary support at point of use. Vocabulary Central provides music, interactive flash cards, games, and worksheets to foster vocabulary development. Grammar tutorials use animation and musical verse to visually, linguistically, and musically impact important skills and concepts.

Prentice Hall Literature incorporates opportunities in every unit for both processes of writing and writing for assessment. Students complete prewriting activities during the Work in Progress feature that appears with every pair of leveled selections. The Writing Workshop guides students to develop their ideas into full-length compositions and uses both mentor texts and student writing samples to deepen their understanding of writing forms and elements. The program also provides numerous opportunities for students to practice writing for assessment. At the end of the Informational Text feature, students complete a timed-writing exercise that includes a planning guide to help them complete the assignment.

The Prentice Hall Literature program embeds frequent progress monitoring opportunities to help teachers evaluate students’ mastery of skills and concepts. After reading selections, use the Open Book Tests and leveled Selection Tests to assess comprehension and mastery of the literary, reading, and vocabulary skills Benchmark Tests are used to monitor progress at even intervals and assess students’ mastery of core skills and standards.

Test Practice offers students practice in applying core unit skills under test-taking conditions. This prepares students for questions and formats they will encounter on the PSATs (Preliminary Scholastic Achievement Test), SATs (Scholastic Achievement Test), and the ACTs (American College Test). Students can also take assessments at PH Lit Online. Tests are immediately scored and automatic remediation activities are assigned based on test scores. Comprehensive reports make it easy for teachers to monitor the progress of an entire class or of individual students.

Prentice Hall Literature is a comprehensive literacy program that teaches Common Core Standards and helps students become stronger readers writers, and critical thinkers who are better prepared for college, careers, and beyond.

This program provides a scaffold approach to rigorous instruction, enabling students to build a solid literary foundation that is necessary for success. Each selection has a text complexity rubric guide to differentiate instruction according to each student’s abilities. This program further differentiates by providing a modified textbook for those students who continue to struggle with selections. This program also utilizes many digital resources. Once testing is done online, we are given each students Diagnostic Test result. The program then automatically assigns the learner intervention pages to aid in their knowledge of the standards.

Prentice Hall Literature provides traditional assessments along with new performance-based assessments as called for by the Common Core. Students are given opportunities to apply critical thinking to demonstrate mastery of the standards.


Interactive Science

The Interactive Science program was designed to build connections between science content and essential reading skills. The reading path includes a write-in student edition, an interactive kindergarten journal, leveled readers, and additional reading resources.

The reading path begins with Interactive Science’s write-in student editions and an Interactive Journal for kindergarten. These editions include comprehension building interactivities that allow students to read, write, draw, graph, and self-assess all in one place. Interactivities assure that students are developing reading skills that they can use before, during, and after reading a text passage. Before students begin reading a lesson, the program gives them the opportunity to activate their prior knowledge through the Envision It! It is located at the top of the first page of each lesson. By engaging students with this image and question, teachers are able to make content more relevant and personal.

Each chapter features a specific reading strategy. A bull’s-eye icon on a page alerts students to this reading strategy. Within the first few pages of each chapter, The Let’s Read Science! page defines and provides examples for the chapter’s main reading strategy. After reading a lesson, students have the opportunity to think about what they read and to self-assess their comprehension. The Got It? feature allows teachers to determine if they need additional help. Students that are struggling with the material benefit from My Reading Coach.

My Reading Coach is a leveled reader series that is available to provide additional reading opportunities for students with varied reading abilities. These booklets are available for below, on, and advanced leveled readers. These readers not only provide additional text but also provide additional activities and support in the flaps. Flap activities encourage students to access and organize what they know before they read the text, build vocabulary and self-monitor during the text, and assess their understanding after reading the text.  An English Language Learners (ELL) Handbook version is available for Grades K–2 and 3–5. This handbook uses Pearson’s ELL Curriculum Framework to explore the range of strategies.

Inquiry occurs when students think like scientists. With Interactive Science, minds-on and hands-on inquiry work together to help students build a deep understanding of science concepts. Interactive Science features four levels of inquiry that include Activity Before Concept (ABC), directed inquiry, guided inquiry, and open inquiry. ABC and guided inquiry are supported in the write-in student edition. Whereas, student directed and open inquiry are both supported via the Teacher’s Edition and laminated lab Activity Cards. A yellow triangle denotes each inquiry activity.

One way to lay the foundation for learning is through an Activity Before Concept (ABC). These inquiry activities engage and motivate students while they help them access prior knowledge. Each chapter features an ABC before the first lesson to help to set the stage for learning the concepts of the chapter. In the example below, the Try It! ABC activity instructs students to build a model helicopter. By thinking about what they already know about forces, students problem solve to make the helicopter drop more slowly. This activity is the first inquiry activity for this chapter.

The STEM Activity Handbook provides students with the experiences and skills they need to be successful in science, technology, engineering, and math. While students focus on the design process, they learn to find solutions to solve real-world problems with these activities.

The myScienceOnline.com directs students to the digital path for Interactive Science. With the digital path, teachers can plan, assign, assess, evaluate, and differentiate their instruction. The digital path is not only an e-book but it is also an entire multimedia Interactive Science curriculum. Each lesson is an interactive journey through the 5E Learning Cycle: Engage, Explore, Explain, Elaborate, and Evaluate.

Each digital chapter begins with a Chapter Kickoff. It uses engaging images and questions to introduce students to the science concepts that they are studying in the chapter. The Chapter Kickoff also includes Untamed Science chapter videos. These videos feature the Untamed Science Crew, a group of young scientists that help students explore the world of science.

Varieties of assessment options are available. The student write-in edition provides students with self-assessment that corresponds with each key concept question. Several informal assessment items, like Apply It and Do the Math, help students monitor their understanding of the chapter concepts. At the end of the chapter is a Review and Assessment section. Progress Monitoring Assessments are also available. The assessments help teachers track student progress and give students opportunities to practice for standardized tests.

Teachers can plan their lessons by month, week, and day. With the Preferences Navigator, teachers may also customize their lesson plans to be more text based, inquiry-based, or blended. Teachers can also assign assessments, track student progress, and provide differentiated instruction. Utilizing Success Tracker, the teacher can assign assessments, and the system will provide individual instruction based on student performance.


Harcourt, Thematic Units, & Living History Days – Social Studies

Sierra Nevada Academy Charter School uses a variety of different materials to ensure that students are learning the Nevada State Social Studies Standards. Teachers incorporate components of the Core Knowledge and History and Geography series that correlate with Nevada Social Studies Standards. This curriculum teaches key history and geography topics at each grade level. These concepts are based on E.L. Hirsch’s core knowledge concepts that focus on building a grade-by-grade core of common knowledge and skills.

SNACS also plans several Living History Days throughout the school year that further embrace Core Knowledge principles. These days allows students to study classical literature, world history and geography, and the arts by becoming characters from different periods of history and reenacting historical events. Living History events in 2013 included a farm and ranch days where students practiced and learned about different agriculture concepts including Basque history. Artifacts for these events are researched gathered and created by students and teachers in a collaborative environment.

Teachers also use components of the Harcourt Social Studies series to teach the Nevada Social Studies Standards. This curriculum is designed to engage and motivate students by including colorful reading passages that enable students to make connections to their own life while also gaining a global perspective. This series focuses on allowing students to learn the social studies themes and skills “they need to become informed, participating citizens who consider diverse points-of-view, use critical thinking skills, and are active in their communities” (Houghton Mifflin Harcout, 2013). This curriculum is also aligned to the national standards.

Teachers also incorporate the Nevada Social Studies Standards by using monthly Scholastic News readers. This enables them to teacher students about current events using engaging kid friendly reading passages. Furthermore, SNACS teachers incorporate Social Studies into thematic units in literature and math that have include topics such as community helpers, historical figures, celebrations of Black History month, exploring the historical roots of commonly celebrated holidays, and Greek and Latin myths.



Expeditionary Learning Outward Bound (ELOB) Design Principles are used to design special enhancement days, which allow for self-reflection, team and cooperative learning, leadership and peer teaching, community collaboration, school spirit and instilling school culture, and impacts to the North Valleys and Reno-Sparks communities.

Expeditionary Learning Outward Bound Designed Events

  • Arts Celebration Days
  • Author’s Debut & Book Publishing
  • Outdoor Lab Experiences
  • Fire Prevention and Safety Days
  • Nevada Farm and Ranch Days (Nevada History, Farming, and Mining)
  • Latinberry Farms Family EdVenture
  • Harvest Festival
  • SNACSgiving Festival
  • SNACS Multicultural Celebration of Children Around the World Day
  • Winter Celebration Family Event
  • Scientific Inquiry Day
  • Math Game Family Night (students create the math games)

  • Invention Convention Day
  • Celebrating Young Children through Picture Books Day
  • Celebrating Nevada Charter Schools  Day
  • SNACS Fun Run Day
  • Earth Day Celebration Day
  • Recycled Art Day
  • Art Competitions (Scholastic, Google, Duck Stamp, and others)
  • SNACS Spring Fling Community Celebration
  • Cinco de Mayo Celebration Day
  • SNACS Field Day
  • SNACS Talent Show Days
  • SNACS Family Breakfasts


An ELOB Highlight: SNACSgiving – Giving back to the Community

SNACSgiving is an annual event where students are engaged in the opportunity to give back to the community by preparing items to donate to a local shelter around Thanksgiving time.
Students spent time learning about the needs of others and core items necessary for survival.

For SNACSgiving 2013, SNACS worked with The Volunteers of America Family and Women’s Shelter to donate needed personal hygiene items, blankets, and warm weather items.
Preschool through 8th grade students worked in teams to make scarves, blankets, and personal hygiene kits. Students and their families donated all the items to make these the kits.

Two hundred toiletry kits were prepared for the Volunteers America Family Shelter. The kits included much needed necessities such as soap, deodorant, shampoo, and toothpaste.
SNACS students also made 50 blankets and 50 scarves to donate to the shelter.

Teachers and parents delivered the kits and school made blankets are scarves to the shelter. The recipients were extremely grateful.This writing project gives our students the opportunity to live the life of an author and experience the publishing process. It improves metacognition and critical writing skills as required with the Common Core State Standards.


An ELOB Day Example: Author’s Debut

  • Publication Process
  • Students brainstorming to find a topic
  • Create a story map about their topic
  • Draft their story
  • Sketch illustrations
  • Edit – review and revise process
  • Participate in a conference with the teacher – a one on one discussion between the teacher and student to analyze and improve their draft
  • Edit – review and revise process
  • Generate final draft
  • Manuscript to publisher
  • Published books delivered (students and parents don’t view until debut)
  • Special Population Demographics and Services

At SNACS, we are deeply committed to ensuring that students with disabilities receive high-quality instruction, access to general curriculum and necessary supports and services in accordance with the individualized needs. The students with disabilities in our school spend most of their day in the general education classroom. SNACS provides support services such as counselling, speech, and occupational therapy to compliment students’ experiences in the general educational setting. Academic resource support services are also provided primarily through a push-in model where the special and regular education teachers’ work as partners to provide the optimal educational experiences tailored to the needs of individual students. Because of this, we recognize the link between quality instruction and access to the general education curriculum.  The Pearson Curricula has specifically designed lessons, which scaffold learning and are reinforced in specially designed digital problem solving opportunities geared toward struggling students. The curriculum is geared toward all learners, with leveled assignments based on readiness level and ability.


Speech Services Featured Speech and Language Programs

Services are provided by therapists licensed by the State of Nevada in the field of speech-language pathology. Therapist’s hold a master’s degree in Speech-Language Pathology and certificates of clinical competence (CCC) from the American Speech and Hearing Association (ASHA) www.asha.org.  We deliver a direct services approach in a pullout setting and consultative services where the speech pathologists are providing indirect services to the student by providing guidance, intervention techniques, and therapy strategies to other individuals working with a student, or a combination of these models.  We provide receptive and expressive language therapy, articulation therapy, fluency therapy and social/pragmatic language therapy to our students.

Additionally, when working with students with disabilities, our goal is to provide explicit and systematic instruction in phonemic awareness, phonics, vocabulary development, reading fluency, oral reading skills, and reading comprehension strategies. Ultimately, we aim for each individual to be ready for high school with college readiness in mind. The Special Education Team works closely with related service providers and student families to ensure that all students’ needs are met, academically and social-emotionally.

To address the needs of students receiving special education services, we are using supplemental materials that directly coincide with the general education curriculum adopted and provided by SNACS. This way, we can guarantee that the Special Education Teacher is reinforcing exactly what is being taught in the classroom and giving the students with disabilities specialized instruction in the areas that they need it most. The curriculum has specific intervention module that aligns with the grade level topics in the Pearson Curriculum (See Curriculum Section).

At SNACS, we serve approximately a 76% at-risk population based on the state definition for students at-risk students for not graduating high school. The charter school was one of the original designated schools serving the at-risk population. We serve students eligible for the Free and Reduced Breakfast and Lunch program. The subpopulation accounts for approximately 42%-46% of the population. The students receiving Special Education services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) account for approximately 10.77% of the population. Students qualified under the English Language Learner (ELL) subpopulation accounts for 6.4%. This section will provide a brief overview related to the instructional design meeting the needs of students identified in the special populations.

Published books judged and candidates selected for SNACS Caldecott Award. Author’s Debut their published book at Barnes and Noble in a book-signing event where every student has their photograph taken while they autograph their book.

Lindamood-Bell® – Critically acclaimed programs that teach children and adults to read, spell, comprehend, think critically, and express language.

Lindamood-Bell Seeing Stars®

Lindamood-Bell Visualizing and Verbalizing®

Think Social: A Social Thinking Curriculum for School Aged Students – Michelle Garcia-Winner – helps students with social language issues