Culture of Excellence

Culture of Excellence

As a member of the Citizens Academy family, Citizens Leadership Academy (CLA) continues Citizens Academy’s highly successful, results-driven academic preparation.  We also continue the Citizens Academy focus on character development and a strong school culture of high expectations and no excuses. CLA takes that focus and extends it to a middle school environment.

CLA has a set of high academic and behavioral expectations that promote a sense of ambition, personal responsibility, and a “no excuses” attitude in all of our students. Students are expected to come to school on time, in uniform, and prepared to learn, and to treat themselves and others with respect at all times. We teach students that their behavior is their choice and that all choices have consequences. Positive choices earn positive consequences and negative choices earn negative consequences. We give consequences in a nurturing manner to teach students that we want them to succeed and are willing to do whatever it takes to ensure that they succeed.

At CLA, there is a strong emphasis on student ownership of academic achievement and habits of scholarship.  Self-reliance, organization, collaboration, cooperation, and community engagement are all traits for which students are urged to strive. The resulting school culture makes school a joyful place about which students care.  The CLA school culture also lays a strong academic and leadership foundation for our students to succeed in high school, college, and beyond.

Unique Elements

Home Visits Teachers visit each student and family at home in the days before school begins. These visits help develop family/school relationships and set mutual expectations early.

Longer School Day CLA’s school day runs from 7:45 am to 3:30 pm. This extended day allows for 1 and 1/4 hours of daily literacy instruction and math instruction (almost double the time allotted to these subjects in most district schools). As part of this extended day, there is a mandatory daily session of skill review and re-teaching for students below grade level or enrichment for those at grade level or above.

Learning Expeditions We are an Expeditionary Learning School – the first in northeast Ohio. Expeditionary Learning is a network of about 175 schools across the nation that are grounded in interdisciplinary, long-term projects that make learning engaging and relevant.  Our learning “case studies” are primarily in science and social studies, but they reinforce skills learned during math and English.  Expeditionary Learning brings learning to life and makes core skill building much more relevant.  Expeditionary Learning was selected to create the Common Core Curriculum for the State of New York, a curriculum that is being used by schools throughout the country. To learn more about Expeditionary Learning, visit

Common Core Standards While some schools have been transitioning to the Common Core, CLA rooted its curriculum in the Common Core Standards from the very start.  Expeditionary Learning and its deep investigations into a particular topic incorporates the Common Core Standards and their emphasis on critical thinking, articulate writing, and effective speaking across the curriculum.

Facing History and Ourselves This program emphasizes ethics and social responsibility and is a key social studies and homeroom anchor. Facing History is a curricular resource grounded in the premise that we need to teach civic responsibility, tolerance, and social action to young people, as a way of promoting moral adulthood. Facing History fosters critical thinking, articulate writing and speaking, collaboration, presentation, and problem solving. Facing History has proven successful in urban schools throughout the United States; the organization has a strong presence in Cleveland. Learn more about Facing History and Ourselves.

Saturday Academy Required weekly academic sessions on Saturdays from 9-12, taught by classroom teachers, for those students who are below grade level and need a little extra time to get caught up.

Crew   A cornerstone of Expeditionary Learning; this is what we call our homeroom community.  Students meet with their “crew leaders” (homeroom teachers) for a full half-hour each morning to build community and to insert reflection into the day.  Classroom Social Contracts and Circles of Power and Respect are two anchors of crew.  Students also debrief the day in a short afternoon crew.

Focus on 21st Century Skills and Technology   We are a one-on-one computer school:  each student has access to a laptop in each class.  Our teachers use a variety of virtual labs, video experiences, and Internet activities on a daily basis.  Students are taught research and presentation skills as part of their learning expeditions.

Academic Curriculum  The Citizens Leadership Academy (CLA) curriculum is designed to prepare our students to succeed in rigorous college prep high schools, and then in college and in the 21st century job market. The curriculum is a synergistic approach based on two discrete learning models: Core Skill Building and Expeditionary Learning. Through this two-pronged educational model, CLA students are well prepared for the Ohio Academic Assessments (OAA), and they will also be well grounded in the critical 21st century skills framework of the Common Core Standards and the new PARCC Assessments that begin in the 2014 – 2015 school year.

The morning Core Skill Building classes are focused on skill building in English/Language Arts and math. Afternoons are focused on interdisciplinary, long-term learning expeditions that are anchored in social studies and science but also reinforce English and math skills.

The learning expeditions get students out of the traditional classroom and into the real life classroom with adult role models. This combination brings learning to life making it relevant and allows our students to apply these fundamental skills.  In 2011 – 2012, our founding sixth grade class wrote a grant proposal to Whole Foods to fund a school garden, and then when they got the funding, they worked with landscape architects and botanists to design, build, plant, and harvest the garden.  In 2012 – 2013, our seventh graders who were learning about the Civil War, also learned about the plight of veterans, and interviewed over 30 Cleveland-area vets as the basis for a high-quality book that they published which is now in the Library of Congress.

The CLA model uses data to drive differentiated instruction and meet the individual needs of all of our students. The daily session of mandatory re-teaching is skill driven and grounded in flexible grouping focused on meeting Ohio Academic Content Standards, Common Core Standards, and specific CLA Learning Targets.

CLA uses Facing History as a framework to reinforce the importance of developing and becoming engaged citizens with a focus on service and giving back to the community. Facing History is a curricular resource grounded in the premise that we need to teach civic responsibility, tolerance, and social action to young people, as a way of fostering moral adulthood. Facing History fosters critical thinking, articulate writing and speaking, collaboration, presentation, and problem solving all key 21st century skills.

CLA uses multiple assessments throughout the school year to improve and individualize student instruction, including the Next Generation Assessments (NGA) and the new PARCC Assessments. Every six weeks, CLA students take interim assessments to gauge their mastery of benchmarks and grade level indicators. These assessments are given in the PARCC formats so that CLA students are very familiar with the critical statewide tests.

Physical Education, Athletics, and Outdoor Leadership Each student has Physical Education for 70 minutes two times per week and the opportunity to participate in after-school athletics (outlined above).  In addition, students learn team-building and leadership initiatives during their Crew and in a special Outdoor Leadership class.  They have an Outdoor Leadership once each week.

Arts  In addition to the anchor of a visual arts class at CLA, students enjoy a spectrum of performing arts through a robust Artist in Residence rotation.  Past residencies have included dancers, film makers, spoken word artists, vocalists, and graphic and recording artists.

A Full Menu of After-School Programs At CLA there is always a full menu of after-school academic, arts, and athletic programs.  From African Dance to Lego Robotics to Bike Club to Outdoor Leadership, these clubs change about every 10 weeks.  We also have after-school sports including touch football and coed soccer in the fall, boys and girls basketball in the winter, and track in the spring.  Our CLA Lady Panthers won the Charter School basketball tournament in their first year in existence, and our CLA Panthers boys team is hoping to do the same in 2014!

In addition to the after-school clubs and sports, there are a variety of free tutoring options throughout the school year.  Finally, we partner with the Boys and Girls Club of Cleveland for after-school care until 5:30 each afternoon.  We’ve limited the cost of this after-school care to just $15/week to make it affordable as possible for all families.