Taos Academy

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Updated May 15, 2019

Taos Academy’s (TA) is a state-chartered hybrid learning school combining online and face-to-face instruction to offer a flexible schedule that can vary greatly depending on student and family needs. Serving 225 students in grades 5–12 in rural northern New Mexico, TA’s student population is 68% economically disadvantaged and made up of a majority of historically underserved populations: 51% Hispanic, 41% Caucasian, 3.5% Native American, 3% African-American, 2.5% Asian. Nearly one in five students participate in the school’s Special Education program. The surrounding community is a high-poverty, at-risk area; recent reports show 16% of Taos County teens ages 16-19 as neither attending school nor participating in the workforce, which is twice the national average and 6% higher than the NM state average.

TA’s hybrid model requires students to be on campus two days a week at a minimum; middle schoolers attend on Monday and Wednesday, while high school days are Tuesdays and Thursdays. During their on-campus days, students attend Academic Advisory and 21st Century Learning classes, including SmartLab, Global Studies, Leadership, Career Pathways, and Service Learning, all designed to offer opportunities for connection, collaboration, and authentic problem-solving. The majority of students choose to attend school on their off-days as well, taking advantage of the open Student Success Lab (fully staffed for student support), MidSchool Plus Enrichment program, and STEAM Institute classes taught by community experts partnering with TA teachers. These dynamic elective classes range from Radio Broadcasting and Journalism to Robo-Band, Kinetic Sculpture, Green Architecture, and Culinary Arts.

The school recommends that students spend approximately 20 hours each week in their digital curriculum, which may be accessed from home or the school. Core academic classes in Math, English, Social Studies, and Science contain elements of online learning as well as direct, face-to-face instruction. While the core curriculum allows teachers to quickly and easily see where students are struggling, the adaptive tools allow students to continue to work on grade-level content while addressing learning gaps and building towards mastery in their own unique areas of challenge. Digital coursework is overseen by an academic adviser who assists with goal-setting, progress tracking, and developing individualized learning pathways that reflect students’ passions and interests. Every Monday morning, a schoolwide report pulled from the digital curriculum helps teachers flag students whose grades drop below 70 percent.

Students at Taos Academy can also earn unexcused “Academic Absences” for being behind in their coursework or for allowing their grades to drop below the 70% actual grade threshold. In cases like this, the student, family, and teacher meet to create a 30-day “Student Success Contract” to help students get back on track. During the 30-day period, the student is required to be on campus five days a week. In addition to academics, the staff works closely with the student during this period to support them in goal-setting, building strong work habits, and developing time management skills. At the end of the contract time, the student is often back on target and has learned some of the skills needed to stay there independently. “We strive to individualize student options across the curriculum,” says Traci Filiss, Founder and Director of the school.

This profile was developed through correspondence with Traci Filiss of Taos Academy and with the help of a pre-existing profile of Taos Academy available in the right-hand column of this page.

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