Curriculum and Instruction

Making Waves Academy (MWA) Upper School courses are aligned with Common Core Standards in math and English and California State Standards in science, history, and physical education. Like the Middle School, we use SpringBoard, a college-ready, Common Core-aligned curriculum developed by the College Board (creators of the PSAT and SAT) to support instruction in math and English. MWA courses are approved by the University of California Office of the President (UCOP), which ensures students completing courses at MWA will receive credit for them when applying to CA State University (CSU) and University of California (UC) campuses. The goal of our approach is to help students make a successful transition to college, both academically and social-emotionally. While maintaining high expectations and an unwavering commitment to helping all of our students make college graduation a reality, we also acknowledge there are multiple pathways to college. For this reason, we aim to help students discover what they are passionate about, which can provide clues to potential careers of interest. We believe this allows students to identify a variety of possible pathways to careers sooner, while also providing the context and relevance of post-secondary education.

College and Career Readiness

Making Waves Academy (MWA) students and families participate in and are exposed to a variety of college and career readiness educational and enrichment opportunities. We believe it is important to provide multiple opportunities for students and families to get practice at engaging in college and career discussions involving data, experiences, and informed people in the field. One example is the annual Making Waves Case Study and College Fair. Representatives from 40-50 colleges and universities from around the country work with MWA Upper School students and invite high school students from the area to participate in this event. The case study portion focuses on students discussing and sharing opinions regarding case studies of fictitious students and colleges. The case studies provide hands-on experiences for students to explore and better understand various college admission profiles and their impact on the college admissions process. The case study is followed by a college fair, where students can engage in one-on-one conversations directly with the college representatives.

Student Success Program (SSP)

The Student Success Program (SSP) provides targeted support to Tier 3 students (designation for students failing grade-level targets on state tests and site-based achievement levels). In addition, students can voluntarily attend SSP to do homework and get help from SSP staff. SSP operates daily Monday-Thursday between 3:30pm and 5:30pm.


At Making Waves Academy (MWA) we believe in the power of various forms of formative and summative assessment that inform both instruction and student efficacy.

  • Classroom-Based. At MWA, students take a variety of different formative assessments that help them prepare for their classroom-based summative assessments and end-of-year assessments. Formative assessments might include exit tickets (five minutes or less) or quizzes (half the period). For example, exit tickets are used to check for understanding tied to the learning objective for that class period. Quizzes help students and faculty know where students are in the process towards mastery of the subject. Summative assessments are an opportunity for students to show more comprehensively what they have learned. Students take finals at the end of the Fall and Spring semesters – another opportunity for students to demonstrate mastery at a higher level.
  • CAASPP (CSTs & SBAC) Assessments. Our students in eleventh grade take the Smarter Balanced Summative Assessments in math and English as well as the CST in Science and History. Students practice for these end-of-the-year assessments through a variety of interim and benchmark assessments evenly dispersed throughout the school year. These forms of assessments not only provide students and faculty with formative data on levels of mastery attained for each student but also provide a valuable opportunity for practice for the CAASPP.
  • PSAT/SAT. Students in the 9th grade begin preparation for both the PSAT and SAT by taking the PSAT 8/9 exam. PSAT 8/9 is developed by the College Board (the developer of the SAT and PSAT exams) to help assess junior high level college-readiness (eighth-ninth grades). The PSAT exam is administered to tenth and eleventh graders. Students attend select Saturday Academies throughout the school year to focus on specific test preparation practices and strategies. The assessment data derived from this exam help students and faculty determine where individual students are with respect to college-readiness.

Professional Development

Making Waves Academy (MWA) commits to ongoing professional development based on instructional best-practices.

  • Site-Based – MWA schedules weekly professional development meetings every Friday throughout the school year. Students are released early on Fridays to allow for up to two hours of professional development.
  • Off-Site – MWA supports faculty, admin, and staff in attending professional development opportunities off-site at area, regional, state, and national conferences on topics that are content specific, instructional practices-based, and leadership-based.
  • Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) – PLCs are being developed in different areas to allow faculty to explore and develop instructional approaches and strategies that support coherent, standards-aligned and vertically-aligned instruction. Topics include issues like the use of technology for blended learning classroom strategies.