What is MAP testing?


You have probably heard your student talking about MAP testing. Measures of Academic Progress® (MAP®) is a computerized adaptive testing system that tailors tests to a student’s achievement level.

Each student takes a test that is dynamically developed for him or her as the test is being administered. The program instantly analyzes the student’s response to each test question and, based on how well the student has answered all previous questions, selects a question of appropriate difficulty to display next.  If your child answers a question correctly, the test follows up with a more challenging question. If your child answers incorrectly, the test follows up with an easier question.  By delivering precise, real-time information about every student’s learning triumphs and challenges, both teachers and students are set up for success!

Students at The Learning Center MAP test twice a year. Kindergarten and first grade take reading and math. Second through fourth grades take reading, math and language. Fifth through eighth grades take reading, math, language and science.

Cheryl Catuto meets individually with parents to go over results in late September through October. She will meet with all kindergarten through second grade parents. She will also meet with all new families to our school and anyone else with questions. Feel free to contact her at cheryl@naturallygrownkids.org with your questions or to set up a meeting.

School Supplies Donated by Parents Involved and BB&T


So much of what happens at TLC could not happen without the support of community businesses and partners.  Our very own Parents Involved organization donated the above pictured school supplies valued at $1,500.  Furthermore, our local BB& T Bank provided all the items pictured below with a value of $355. These generous donations will be put to good use in every classroom across our campus. Thank you PI and BB&T partners!


Community Effort Aids School Garden Project

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The Learning Center! Charter School has for the past ten years placed an emphasis on providing a culture that links school to agriculture. On October 27th, with the help of Lowe’s Heroes and other community donations and volunteer efforts, the school transformed its entire front landscaping into a sustainable terraced planting area.

A large number of volunteers stepped up to the challenge including members of  Lowe’s Heroes Volunteer Program, Nehemiah’s Neighbors (a local Christian men’s group), Franklin Barnett, Vice President Cherokee County Farm Bureau with a funding donation, landscape contractors Wendall and Phillip Chastain and parents of students at the school.


Part of the grant that was crucial to making the 1st phase of the project happen was to procure in-kind labor costs for terracing, laying timbers for planting beds, installing posts and cable for vertical planting area, and installing a walkway.

The second phase of the project includes a greenhouse the school hopes will be completed with another grant later in the year. The project s­­eeks to provide an outdoor extension of the classroom for staff and students to carry out planting and harvesting, STEM, and other cross-curricular studies. In addition, the terraced garden will directly serve the school’s Nutrition Program.

School Director, Mary Jo Dyre stated, “We feel strongly that students need to understand the connection between the foods that appear on their plates and the farmers who work the soil to produce many of the foods that are necessary to good nutrition.”

The school has a long history of promoting emphasises on good nutrition as part of its overall mission–growing some of its own food for educational purposes such as providing activities that support the STEM curriculum (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math).

“The Learning Center! continues our commitment to the greater Community of Learners,” said Dyre. “This project helps prioritize farm-to-school connections and will impact our teaching health and wellness for future generations.”

What is Standards-Based Grading?


The Learning Center! uses standards-based grading to assess student progress.  A single grade for each subject is not given.  Instead, each subject is broken into standards, or skills, and the student receives a mark indicating his or her level of achievement in that standard.  The student’s score is not an average of all assessments given throughout the grading period, but is awarded based upon the student’s highest level of proficiency of the standard.

All of the standards are year-long goals.  Therefore, as the year progresses and the depth of knowledge of each standard increases, it is possible to see a student’s proficiency level  fluctuate. The goal is for every student to have a solid command of each grade level content area by the end of the school year.

Students will also be assessed on 21st Century Skills and Character and Study Habits.  21st Century Skills include Creativity and Innovation, Critical Thinking/Problem Solving, Collaboration and Communication.  Character and Study Skills include Responsibility, Conduct and Participation.

Why is Standards-Based grading better?  It lists the most important skills that the student should learn in each subject area providing parents and students a greater understanding of what the student knows and what areas are in need of improvement.  Factors such as effort in class, homework, etc. will now be assessed separately so that parents are informed of their child’s progress in these areas as well.  Just as MAP testing provides clear examples of a student’s academic strengths and weaknesses, standards-based grading will provide similar information based on the state’s grade level expectations.  Grading and reporting is more consistent as a result.

Parent Fair Showcases School, Open to Public

Parents of Learning Center! Charter School students and the invited public got an in-depth look at the upcoming school year when they attended the school’s first “Parent Fair” on August 7th.

parentfair2“Our Parent Fair accomplished three objectives this year,” said school director, Mary Jo Dyre. “First, it informed parents of enrolled students what to expect for the school year. Second, we invited perspective parents and community members who might be curious about what our school has to offer and third, we offered a Health Fair for our parents and the general population.”

parentfair5By having the event open to the public, interested parents were invited to learn more about the school’s substantial academic and arts curriculum as well as their unique electives and extra-curricular offerings.

parentfair4In addition to the Health Fair, other highlights included “art-making” activities with art teacher Carrie Dyre, and a new physical education activity with bamboo poles demonstrated by P.E. teacher Shelley Crawford and volunteer students.

parentfair3The Learning Center! had an early start date this year of Monday, August 11, while Cherokee County schools start August 25.

Spring Garden Volunteers

2014-03-01 12.40.39Early March weekends welcomed TLC! volunteer gardeners to come prepare soil for the school garden.  Local farmer Tom Willey and Snap-On volunteer Rob Kollman helped TLC! garden staff till, hand plow, weed and fertiliz the garden.  Then new crops of spinach, broccoli, kale and peas were planted to get an early spring greens garden going.  We are thankful to have people donate weekend time to bring life to our campus!

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Teachers Learn New Technology

2014-02-06_09.47.21Recently teachers from The Learning Center! attending training to utilize tools and technology from The Science House, a learning outreach project of NC State University.  The six hour training qualified each teacher to borrow (from the Asheville satellite office) any of the available tools and technology to use in their classrooms and enhance their science lessons.

2014-02-06_09.58.44 IMG_0658This was such an exciting and fun opportunity and the teachers are looking forward to using some of the awesome gear with their students.


Construction Changes – What’s It All About? Read about E-STEAM & STEM Education at TLC!


Exciting things are happening on campus while students and their families are on summer break.  If you were to stop by the school right now you would find this sign on the door that normally would lead you to the front office.  However, the front office is in transition.  Why?  The Learning Center! Charter School is making some big changes in order to be a 21st Century campus!


What is a 21st Century campus?  One that is future ready!  One that is equipped to give students all they need to succeed in today’s world!  This means that over the summer the main office will be relocated to the area in front of the Dining Commons.  It means that 3rd and 4th grades will now occupy the modular formally occupied by the front office.  It also means that 5th and 6th grades will now occupy the former 3rd & 4th grade modular.  It means that the campus computer lab is being relocated and outfitted with furniture that works better for our students.  It means that when your students return in August you will soon see evidence of some BIG construction going on that will add to and remodel our current Dining Commons building.

For the past several years TLC! has been working towards a shift in curriculum that focuses on STEM — Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.  But TLC! takes it a step further by focusing on E-STEAM — Entrepreneurship, Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Mathematics.  Use the search bar in the right hand column of this blog to select “STEM”  and “STEAM” to see what teachers have been doing in this regard for the last several years.   These construction changes are just the beginning of other changes that you will soon see on campus that will more visually embrace our E-STEAM approach.


Stayed tuned for more!

Pacesetter Staff Visits TLC for Goal Day in 5th-8th Grades


Recently, Western North Carolina Pacesetters helped run a Goal Setting Workshop for our 5th – 8th Grade students.


Each student spent 30 minuets in each of six stations, designed to teach them strategies useful in being a successful Goal Setter. Our goal was for each student to walk away with a better sense of how to take the steps necessary to set a goal and follow through with it.

Three stations were hosted by our TLC! teachers. Our wonderfully well-organized teachers executed these stations so well that every student in 5th – 8th grade was able to get an individual conference with each teacher in each subject area. That means a 6th grader, for instance, visited Mr. Ryan and Mrs. Judy to review their progress in Language Arts, Ms. Emily for a talk about science, and Mrs. Cheryl for a look at Math. Teachers and students together reviewed their MAP test scores in each subject area and worked together to set attainable goals for growth in each area.


In between teacher sessions, students played a game with Pacesetters staff that helped reinforce their teamwork, communication, and goal-setting skills. In the “Toxic Waste Removal” game, for example, students had to figure out how to transport a wiffle ball balanced on a ring of electrical tape, suspended from 5 foot long ropes held by each person. In order not to tip the whole rig before getting the ball in the “waste removal silo,” the group had to make a plan, communicate it everyone in the group, check for understanding, and execute it together.

Our students enthusiastically tackled these challenges with impressive skill. To debrief our workshop, each class worked with their writing teacher to draft a letter to WNC Pacesetters staff, thanking them and reviewing the games they liked best and what they learned from them.

After our last round of MAP testing, in late March, we will take 5th-8th out to the Pacesetters Adventure Center. Here students will have a chance to revisit the goals they set down for themselves in our Workshop, whether it was a MAP score increase or a resolution to turn in homework on time, and have a personal check-in with themselves about their work getting there. It will be a day to celebrate the hard work that they have done this spring, and hopefully give them a little extra umph to keep pushing themselves to do their best through the Spring Fever that April will bring. We hope they will embrace the idea of taking personal pride and accountability in their goals whether they are academic, social or personal.






Tennessee Valley Authority Shows Support of The Learning Center! Charter School’s Project Creek Bank Educational Area


Lucas Luther, from the local Tennessee Valley Authority, www.tva.gov, is seen presenting a check to The Learning Center! Charter School Director Mary Jo Dyre for support of the school’s environmental project that focuses on the waters and surrounding land of Conaheeta Creek, a tributary to the Valley River here in Murphy, North Carolina.  The money will be used for tools and equipment related to this environmental clean-up effort.

The Learning Center! Charter School first began their efforts to revitalize this tributary that runs into the nearby Valley River and Hiwassee River in 2009.  With the help of Callie Moore and Tony Ward, Hiwassee River Watershed Coalition, the charter school provided staff and students training in identification of invasive plants, methods of removal of invasive plants, as well as identifying native plants that are in danger of being overtaken by the invasive growth.

The Learning Center! Charter School has historically taken environmental responsibility seriously. Students are taught through a variety of approaches the importance of caring for the environment and how to take active steps toward that maintenance effort. TVA’s donation will put tools in the hands of the many students, staff and volunteers that are committed to the restoration of Conaheeta Creek and surrounding land.

You can learn more about the school’s green programs and philosophy by visiting www.naturallygrownkids.org.