Our Approach to Learning
Traditionally, information in an elementary classroom flows from teacher to student for the purpose of absorption. This hierarchy of learning is increasingly rare at Westside. Students here are much more likely to be experimenting, discovering, and practicing with materials in the classroom and outside. They learn more often through exposure and interaction than through abstractions defined in advance for them to memorize. They often make something and share it as a way of solidifying their knowledge. They work together and alone, learning to respect and enjoy the individual learning styles and gifts of each classmate.
In returning some of the innate joy of learning to our classrooms, Westside simultaneously equips these students with the skills to succeed in our contemporary setting, skills impossible to learn passively. We are resourced by a huge community of researchers and educators word-wide who have documented the exciting outcomes associated with this active, project-rich, exploratory approach. At Westside, imagination drives rigor and enlivens service.
Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.Benjamin Franklin
Our community is a beautiful mix of the old and the new. Northwest Atlanta, defined roughly as the 30318 zip code, has grown rapidly in recently years with the addition of brand new residential units in neighborhoods alongside some of the Westside’s historic neighborhoods. Developments such as Atlantic Station and White Provisions are drawing new residents to the area, while the nearby Beltline, including the proposed 300-acre Westside Park, promises to bring additional dwelling units, many of which will provide affordable housing, to an area less than one mile from the proposed school location. Westside Atlanta Charter School seeks to align our investment of educational resources with Atlanta’s investment in the Westside in order to best serve residents, old and new alike, by capitalizing on the tremendous diversity, transportation infrastructure, outdoor spaces, and other community assets that exist and are continuing to develop in our community.
Before the Westside Atlanta Charter School was created, there were no charter school options that were located within the 30318 zip code. Significantly, there currently exists a tremendous disparity in racial and socio-economic characteristics between neighborhoods and schools in the north (Buckhead) and south (Bankhead) portions of our zip code, a disparity exasperated by the gap in test scores for these schools and the fact that enrollment is climbing on one side of this divide and falling on the other. We believe that Westside Atlanta Charter School now offers a meaningful option for parents in our area, enabled by waiver freedom from existing school zoning so that we can participate in bringing the students in these diverse neighborhoods together.
Our starting point is community. Westside Atlanta Charter School was established by neighbors, individuals and families living on the Westside, who aimed to increase educational equity in our growing part of Atlanta. Gifted professionals, educators and parents crafted a detailed blueprint of a diverse, innovative public charter school for a diverse, innovative part of our city. After four years of labor, the school opened in August 2013 with 120 students grades K-2. Each year, Westside will add a grade until we serve K-8.
Our community also extends to the schools around us. Westside uses its waiver freedom from existing school zoning to foster openness and mutual learning opportunities between schools, rather than a competitive spirit. We benefit from our collaborative relationships with many neighborhood Atlanta Public Schools as well as with independent schools nearby.