At St. Peter School, faith becomes living, conscious, and active through instruction and participation in prayer, worship, and sacraments. Students lead a weekly Mass and participate daily in religion class. Catholic identity is integrated throughout the curriculum. A Catholic virtues program is central to the culture of the school, and all students participate in service projects at least once each month as an expression of the school’s mission.
The reading and language arts curriculum emphasizes phonemic awareness, spelling and grammar, reading fluency, and building comprehension skills in the primary grades. Kindergarten through fifth grade students participate in guided reading blocks and are placed in small groups tailored to their various skills. Middle school students delve into more complex reading lessons and study of novels. Lessons are structured so students apply acquired skills and think critically. There is also independent reading time each day for first through eighth graders.
Students in Kindergarten through fifth grade learn writing skills using the 6+1 Traits of Writing program to develop understanding and application of elements of writing. By middle school, students are writing multi-paragraph essays, research papers, and poetry.
In the early childhood years, the math curriculum places an emphasis on fundamental skills, number sense, and computation with the use of hands-on activities and manipulatives. As students progress through each grade level, they learn to solve more complex problems and provide proof and support for their ideas. By eighth grade, students solve multi-step questions, graph linear equations and inequalities, solve systems of linear equations, and apply the quadratic formula.
The science program in Pre-Kindergarten through third grade includes life, earth, and environmental topics. Students perform hands-on experiments using inquiry-based FOSS science kits. Fourth through eighth graders have class in the science lab, utilizing the lab equipment along with FOSS kits and SMART Board technology. They study astronomy, the human body, physics, chemistry and biology, and take part in in-house science and city-wide science fairs. A team of middle school students also participates in the Department of Energy Regional Science Bowl each year.Through third grade, the social studies curriculum includes community, government, and map skills. Fourth graders learn the regions of the United States; fifth and eighth graders study American history; sixth and seventh graders study the geography, history, culture and traditions of Europe, the Americas, Asia and Africa. Students use critical thinking skills to analyze information; they give presentations and create projects with the use of technology; textbooks, primary sources, and field trips highlight important concepts.
The reading curriculum is a point of particular excellence and pride for St. Peter School. The goal of reading instruction at St. Peter’s is not only to ensure reading proficiency in all of our students, but also to instill a love of reading. Reading skills formation begins in Pre-Kindergarten and Kindergarten, with exposure to quality children’s literature, as well as to the concepts of print and the sounds of the alphabet. Formal reading instruction starts in first grade, when students begin developing essential reading skills and strategies through the Harcourt Story Town curriculum. This curriculum emphasizes guided reading in small groups to meet the needs of students at all skill levels. Resource instructors and classroom teachers work together to ensure appropriate levels of guidance for students, including struggling or reluctant readers and those who are prepared to confront more challenging reading objectives.
The standards-aligned Story Town program, combined with a guided reading format, forms the basis of classroom reading instruction in grades one through five, providing a cohesive experience for the students and steadily spiraling essential skills and knowledge. Students explore increasingly complex literary conventions and elements, including character, plot, and setting; and they study a variety of literary genres and styles. Teachers also sustain a focus on reading comprehension, fluency, and vocabulary.
St. Peter School middle school students tackle complex literature and analysis. Students’ primary reading resource throughout middle school is the standards-aligned McDougal Littell literature textbook series, which offers a diverse array of challenging fiction, non-fiction, poetry, folklore, and drama; and which emphasizes acquiring the vocabulary to discuss literature in an analytical way. Middle school students also read several novels, both classic and contemporary, and perform a play as a class. The emphasis on analysis of literature through detail-based written response prepares students for the rigorous demands of higher education.
The school has a library program that nurtures a love of reading through individualized literature guidance, and the library itself houses more than 11,000 books. First through eighth graders participate in the Accelerated Reader program, which helps students grow as readers by creating individual goals in terms of volume of reading and content difficulty level. The school makes reading fun and appealing with incentives such as a yearly summer reading party to celebrate the students’ summer reading achievements. St. Peter School also offers myriad reading enrichment opportunities, such as Newbury Club and Shakespeare Club, for advanced, eager readers.
The St. Peter School math curriculum meets the needs of individual learners as they progress from concrete to abstract math concepts. Teachers use the Archdiocesan math standards to plan their lessons, which incorporate the strands of number sense, computation, algebra and functions, geometry, measurement, and problem solving.
Teachers have access to a school-wide collection of math manipulatives, including items such as fraction tiles, algebra tiles, geometry blocks, and place value flip charts for student use. Teachers also take advantage of resources like number lines, integer flash cards, and small white boards for problem-solving, so that students are engaged in differentiated learning activities. Whenever possible, teachers incorporate interactive SMART Boards in their lessons to model concepts.
In Pre-Kindergarten, math is integrated across the curriculum to help students identify number relationships in everyday classroom activities. In Kindergarten and first grade, students learn concrete skills like skip counting, telling time, and basic arithmetic. The Saxon program is used in these early years because of its incremental, spiraled approach. Broad topics are broken into smaller parts and reviewed throughout the year. Second through eighth grade students use the Sadlier-Oxford program, which includes technology integration lessons and teacher resources for both remediation and enrichment. In sixth through eighth grade, the Sadlier-Oxford program progresses from operations with fractions and decimals to algebraic reasoning. Eighth grade students use TI-84 Plus graphing calculators to graph lines and systems of equations.
Teachers use formative and summative assessments, as well as standardized test scores to determine how to differentiate math instruction. Students needing extra support in math receive classroom accommodations or remediation from resource teachers. High-performing students in fourth through eighth grade are encouraged to compete in the annual school math bee; middle school students are encouraged to join the Math Counts team.
In eighth grade, ability grouping is used to separate students into Math 8 and Algebra 1 so students have more individual attention with the math teacher. Prior math grades and an algebra placement test are used to determine class placement. Each year, approximately half of the students in eighth grade are placed in Math 8; the other half are placed in Algebra I. Math 8 integrates geometry and builds on pre-algebra concepts, while Algebra I progresses rapidly from applications of slope to advanced polynomial operations.
Catholic faith and values are integral to instruction at St. Peter School. Students learn about and experience the Catholic faith in a variety of ways. First and foremost, all students have regular, focused religious instruction. Students learn about the Old and New testaments, the Ten Commandments, the life of Jesus, the lives of the saints, and the theological underpinnings of the Catholic sacraments. Middle school students also explore Catholic social teachings with the guidance of the religion teacher and the parochial vicar, who encourage faith formation through authentic questioning and self-examination.
As a school community, St. Peter’s regularly celebrates Mass and comes together for events to mark the special liturgical seasons of the Church. Every Wednesday of the school year, students lead a Mass, and the entire community, including students, teachers, administration, and parents, attend to worship together. Priests from St. Peter’s Church and the regional supporting parishes come to celebrate Mass with the community. During Advent, the students, teachers, and administration come together every morning to participate in special readings and reflections, and to sing Advent songs in preparation for Christmas. A school-wide celebration, complete with festive Catholic traditions, is held for Mardi Gras, and during the season of Lent, students participate weekly in Stations of the Cross in order to remember the suffering and death of Jesus.
St. Peter School instills in its students a commitment to Catholic virtues. A school-wide virtues program entitled ProPS (Pro-Positive Spirit) focuses on one virtue, such as kindness or courage, per month. The program includes classroom lessons, a consistent message through common vocabulary, and the use of visual displays, stories, and inspirational quotes. Students who display the virtues in practical, everyday ways are specially recognized each week.
A major goal of a St. Peter’s education is to establish in students the Catholic ethic of service to others. All students are members of a Student Family, led by an eighth grade student, which works quarterly on a service project such as packaging household items for American and international families in need or collecting funds for Operation Rice Bowl. Student Council leads canned food drives, organizes winter clothing drives, and raises funds for a charitable organization each month. Middle school students are required to perform 15 hours of community service each year; all parents also perform volunteer hours in service of the school community.
Spanish is taught in Pre-Kindergarten through eighth grade with a focus on vocabulary, grammar, reading, and listening skills. The history and culture of Spanish speaking countries is also incorporated.
Latin is mandatory for seventh and eighth grade students, with a focus on vocabulary and grammar. Students use basic knowledge of Latin words to decipher vocabulary across all subject areas. Latin is also taught within the context of Catholic Church history.
Art & Music
In art class, children practice drawing and visualization skills. They study line, color, texture, and shape to create abstract and realistic representations in various mediums. Students also learn to analyze artwork and make connections between art and other subject areas.
The music program exposes students to both sacred and popular music. They learn how to sing a variety of music, identify musical elements, and perform rhythms and melodies. The Christmas Concert and the Spring Musical showcase their musical talents.
The physical education program encourages students to develop motor skills, improve stamina and vitality, and make healthy lifestyle choices. Students learn the value of teamwork and good sportsmanship.
The primary objective of St. Peter School is to educate the whole child. Inherent in this mission is an individualized approach to education in which each student’s abilities, learning style, and particular needs are appreciated and addressed.
A crucial component of differentiated instruction at St. Peter School is an emphasis on multiple and varied modes of instruction; teachers target a diversity of learning modalities in their instructional practices. Students are engaged in hands-on activities, technology-based projects, cooperative learning tasks, and opportunities for oral presentation and performance. More traditional modes like direct instruction, listening skills, and note-taking are also considered valuable and are emphasized in instructional practice. The appreciation of diverse learning styles is a centerpiece of curriculum planning at St. Peter School, and this informs teachers’ everyday lesson choices, as well as their creation of significant projects and assignments.
A Student Assistance Team (SAT) comes together to address the needs of struggling students. In collaboration with the instructional coach, resource teachers, and school counselor, teachers create formal plans for students in need of significant academic intervention; this plan is shared with such students’ families, and teachers, the instructional coach, and the resource teachers closely monitor progress towards the articulated goals.
For high performing students, the school offers opportunities such as the Science Bowl and Math Counts teams; leadership opportunities in the classroom; off-campus performances at local theaters such as the Folger Shakespeare Theater; Aftercare enrichment classes; reading clubs; and engaging supplemental projects.
All students receive comprehensive technology instruction with the instructional technology specialist. Students’ enthusiasm for academic content, and their mastery of learning objectives, is enhanced by the incorporation of cutting edge technology into assignments and projects. From basic computer and typing skills to the honing of research skills and discernment of proper sources of information online, technology instruction at St. Peter School ensures that all students develop a superior, twenty-first century digital competence. Students use a variety of software and online programs to complete quarterly projects and presentations. Students use iPad applications ranging from handwriting to voice recognition. In addition, teachers and students have access to interactive manipulatives and online programs using SMART Boards. Technology, while not an end in itself, is an invaluable tool at St. Peter’s for increasing academic engagement and affording students exciting, contemporary learning experiences.