Upper School Academics 

Student and adult talking in front of lockers

Academic Life

Making Wave Academy's (MWA) upper school (grades 9-12) further develops key academic and social-emotional skills on the path to college-readiness, gaining admission to college, and graduating from college.

The upper school practices three key elements towards meeting MWA’s expectation of 100% college-readiness goal:

1.    Prepare students to compete, succeed in, and graduate from college. 

MWA wants its students to graduate with the demonstrated ability, confidence, habits, and skills necessary to gain admission to and succeed in four-year colleges and universities and graduate from them.

2. Prepare, expose, and link our students to potential career pathways and opportunities. 

MWA seeks to make post-secondary and higher education relevant for Wave-Makers by helping them identify their passions and interests as early as possible and linking those passions and interests to a potential career. This approach recognizes that students may need multiple pathways to succeed in college and that their studies are relevant to their aspirations.

3. Help students develop self-awareness and advocacy skills that contribute to our Wave-Makers being good citizens. 

MWA provides opportunities for students to practice becoming conscientious and responsible people who will positively contribute to their communities.

Curriculum and Instruction

Making Waves Academy (MWA) upper school courses are aligned with California 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. Furthermore, the upper school’s high school graduation requirements are aligned with the California university system’s “a-g” course requirements, supporting our students’ ability to apply to California’s public four-year colleges and universities.  While maintaining high expectations and an unwavering commitment to helping all 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.  This approach supports students in making a successful transition to college, both academically and social-emotionally

College and Career Readiness

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 and experiences with 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 (high school students from the area are also invited to participate in this event). 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 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 3:30 pm and 5:30 pm.

English Language Development (ELD)

Making Waves Academy’s (MWA) English Language Development (ELD) Coordinator oversees and supports teachers with common strategies that support English Language Learners (ELL) continuing to progress in their English language listening, oral, and writing skills. The ELD Coordinator monitors school-wide academic achievement and progress for all MWA students. Our goal is to help all Middle School students successfully attain Reclassified Fluent English Proficient (RFEP) status by the start of their ninth-grade year. For remaining ELL students, the coordinator works with them to attain RFEP status as soon as possible.

Special Education (SPED)

Making Waves Academy (MWA) is a member of El Dorado Charter SELPA and either delivers or makes arrangements for supporting students with Individualized Education Plans (IEP). MWA employs a site-based team consisting of a director, RSP teachers, aides, and service providers for instruction, support, and assessments.


At 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 (SBAC & CAST) Assessments. As a public school, our students participate in the California statewide testing called the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP).  As part of this statewide system, our upper school students in the eleventh grade take the Smarter Balanced Summative Assessments (SBAC) in math and English. Upper school students also take the California Science Test (CAST).   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 SBAC.
  • 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. The assessment data derived from this exam help students and faculty determine where individual students are with respect to college-readiness as well as being used to predict which Advanced Placement (AP) courses the student would be successful in taking.

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 for faculty, admin, and staff.
  • 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.