Mission & Vision


Conservatory Lab Charter School empowers students to be scholars, artists, and leaders of their own learning. Through the joy and discipline of daily musical engagement, experiential learning, and service to the community, students learn to effect changes as creative and active citizens.


At Conservatory Lab, we believe in the power of music and learning to transform the lives of our students and their families. At the core of our pioneering curriculum is the hybrid of two proven and exemplary programs: El Sistema and Expeditionary Learning. Both programs emphasize the experience of breaking through barriers in the pursuit of excellence – creating a culture and habit of perseverance. Taken together, these two programs motivate and nurture our students to become dedicated scholars, compassionate leaders, and skilled musicians.

A young woman with light skin and a puffy pony tail plays trombone during a performance at the Strand Theatre in 2019

“Music is practically the only way to a dignified social destiny. Poverty means loneliness, sadness, anonymity. An orchestra means joy, motivation, teamwork, the aspiration to success.” – Jose Abreu, Founder of El Sistema.

Engaged Learning

Conservatory Lab uses the workshop model, project-based learning, and inquiry-based learning for reading, writing, and math. This includes the use of standards-based curriculum, mini-lessons, individually paced work, student constructed meaning, processes, risk taking, portfolio/performance assessment, self-assessment, and individualized learning and evaluation. Our rich classroom environments have learning targets posted, classroom libraries categorized by reading level/genre/author/special interests, word walls, space for group learning and individual conferencing, and independent work stations.

Music Instruction

Beginning in the 2010-2011 school year, Conservatory Lab deepened its music education program by extending the school day by two hours and implementing El Sistema, an intensive, ensemble-focused music education program designed to effect social change and nurture promising futures for underserved communities. Conservatory Lab Charter School is the first U.S. public school to serve as a site for El Sistema within the school day.

El Sistema originated in Venezuela, where it has become a hugely successful program. The El Sistema program is a natural fit with the mission of Conservatory Lab, as well as our existing programs and student population. El Sistema has become a defining force in our school culture, significantly increasing our students’ musical and individual skill development, and their excitement for school and learning overall.

The goals of the El Sistema program at Conservatory Lab are to help every child 1) achieve musical excellence, 2) experience increased academic success, and 3) feel like an asset within her or his community, inside and outside of CLCS.

Learning in El Sistema is based in ensemble experience in which group achievement is balanced with individualized attention. The orchestra acts as a model society in which an atmosphere of competition between individuals is replaced by shared struggle.

The program consists of sequential repertoire, orchestral levels, and pedagogical practices that create a through line for every child’s learning. It includes general and instrumental music as well as full ensemble work, section work and individual lessons with continuity in instruction. El Sistema’s intensive, comprehensive approach to music education, combined with its joyful espirit de corps enables students to progress quickly.

Performance is an integral component of El Sistema. The use of frequent, informal and even impromptu performances in the El Sistema approach helps students students feel at ease performing and allows performance to become a natural part of their musical life.

Differentiated Instruction

The goal of differentiating instruction is to enable each student in our classrooms to continually progress and to stretch. The basic steps of differentiating instruction include the following:

  • Teachers are clear about the essential facts, learning targets, concepts, principles, and skills that frame their subject — “What do you want each student to come away with as a result of this activity?”
  • Teachers seek information to help them understand each student’s point of entry and progress in learning.
  • Teachers attempt to match curriculum and instruction to the learner’s readiness, interest, or learning profile.
  • Teachers expect all children to reach the same goals, but understand it may be by different paths.
  • Teachers use cycles of data review to recognize an individual student’s growth and refine instructional practices.

Assessment for Learning

These practices emphasize continual formative assessment to help students know their strengths and focus on what they still need to learn. Our assessment model allows us to:

  • Help students develop a clear vision of the content standards they are responsible for learning.
  • Offer effective feedback related to the learning targets.
  • Teach students to self-assess, peer-assess, setting goals for further learning.
  • Design focused practice and revision opportunities.
  • Engage students in tracking, reflecting on, and sharing their progress.


The Conservatory Lab Charter School is a community of teachers and families who have come together for one purpose: to provide the best possible education to our children. We use the phrase “our children” because we all take ownership in teaching not only academics, but citizenship, responsibility, respect, kindness, and friendliness. By positively embracing our children at both school and home, they will have the tools necessary to make positive and powerful decisions that will affect the way they move and grow and give back to their communities throughout their lives. Thus we believe that:

  • We stand together against bullying.
  • We view mistakes as learning opportunities.
  • We use kind, caring and empathic language with one another and problem solve through peaceful resolution and mediation.
  • We use logical consequences, reparations, and apology of action as ways to fix what is broken.

Strategic Plan

Conservatory Lab Charter School Strategic Plan 2019-2024: click here to download.