Clovis Christian School’s new Middle School Academy, complete with personalized instruction, is getting rave reviews from parents after the first nine weeks.
The new instructional model, created by Superintendent Ladona Clayton and Elementary Principal Linda D’Amour, has students moving forward when they can prove mastery of a subject rather than by age or grade.
The curriculum includes integrating arts, world and biblical history, and reading, writing and math. It is also taught through a Christian world view.
Clayton and D’Amour said student performance in the new academy concept is exceeding their expectations, even though the school raised its academic standards this year across the curriculum.
“That’s your hope. We raised the bar, and our students surpassed it,” D’Amour said. “You can know intellectually this will work; however, until you do it, you don’t know how it will turn out.”
D’Amour said parents are coming back to the administration with praise. She said parents are finding that their students are more invested in each assignment and are taking ownership of their education.
Parent Dixie Coffin said she enjoyed that her child had more input on what an assignment looks like.
“They have more of a chance to get out and do something different than the student next to them,” Coffin said.
As an example, Coffin said her son was out of school for a short period of time showing a steer. Instead of having to catch up on assignments he missed while he was out, his teacher instructed him to do a report on his steer. The report included history, science, math and writing.
“He was able to learn and use all those subjects, and it circled around that one thing,” she said. “I liked that.”
Coffin said her eighth-grader has always been a good student but his grades have improved.
“Really, he’s more excited in getting those grades,” she said. “He’s having to work harder to get those grades.”
Coffin said her son is enjoying a component of the Middle School Academy called the Mystery of History, in which world history is placed parallel to Biblical history.
“All the stories he’s read about in the Bible, he’s learning what was happening worldwide when it happened,” she said. “I’ve learned from it. I think it’s putting it all together for them.”
Coffin said besides the algebra I her son is taking, he also uses math in other subjects, which she said helps him learn how to use math in everyday life.
D’Amour said the program has had a heavy emphasis on reading, writing and math. Students have used multiple sources, rather than depending solely on a textbook, and begun to do research and learned what information on the Internet is a valid source and how to identify a valid source.
“We are doing everything we can do to connect what they’re learning to real life situations,” she said. “We bring out as much current events as possible and have them start asking questions. We’re teaching them how to be an informed citizen.”
D’Amour said the original plan for the academy has been tweaked a little. Teachers meet regularly to discuss what’s working and what can be better. D’Amour said each component of the program has been or will be analyzed to see if it needs adjustment.
Clayton said the students have enjoyed the new program.
“Our students have actually demonstrated a real desire to expand their learning, and they’ve also been very quick to learn new concepts that are challenging. I believe they are connecting so well with them (the concepts) because of the way we’re approaching instruction,” Clayton said.
Clayton said writing from the students has been exceptional in content and quality.
“These students have personalized attention in writer’s and reader’s workshops based on their current levels, and they are producing high-level questions around those readings as well as producing very thorough and creative responses to particular writing prompts and topics,” she said.
Clayton said she has been impressed with the faculty’s ability to adapt to the students on an individual basis.
“You wonder when you implement a personal-paced approach to learning if we really can keep in step with each student. We’ve exceeded our expectations in keeping in step and making needed adjustments,” Clayton said. “As a result, academic progress has gone beyond the traditional nine-week benchmarks for several of our students.”
Clayton said teachers are committed to the personalized attention.
“It doesn’t matter where we find a child, we take them from where they are, and we move them forward successfully. It’s a partnership. The parent, teacher and student all working together.”
Coffin said teachers are often available to students after hours.
“When the students do need help, they’re here for them,” she said. “Even at 5:30 p.m., teachers are still here because someone might need their help.”