The Renaissance Preparatory Academy has been under development for over two years! We are finally at the stage where we can begin to share our journey with others.
Early on, Dodi Hodges (at that time an associate professor in Education at Coastal Carolina University) and I decided that we could no longer stand by and just remediate students who arrived weak in academic skills because the deficiencies had grown beyond poor writing, reading and math skills. Students were now arriving weak in social skills as well!
Any day we could walk down the halls and walkways of campus and see students engaging with their phones and not each other! This was especially problematic in my field of entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurs have to be able to interact well with many different types of people. Students didn’t interact even with their peers! Students were very reactive and even passive aggressive. We ached for the lost opportunities.
Dodi and I began designing a school that had what we felt were the best educational practices. Dodi had a special education (including gifted programs) background. Her experience and research indicated that using a strengths-based model which takes a positive orientation that emphasizes success from needs assessments tended to have the best long term results. However, it needed to be coupled with challenging learning goals that allowed for failure and the learning from failure along with an acceptance of the consequences for one’s actions. This placed the school soundly in the area of creating a positive support environment for creativity and learning, curiosity and exploration, experimentation and learning cause and effect. We adopted this orientation.
Dodi took a strong stance that each child learns at his or her own pace and therefore some learning of basic skills needed to be customized to that fact. I agreed and felt also that students shouldn’t have to wait a full year to move to the next official level. Together we decided on a school that used demonstration of competence as the requirement for advancement across grades. This pattern of school program design is called, “Advancement By Competence” or an ABC pattern. A traditional pattern is one that advances grades in age cohorts. To be clear that we support students who can move more rapidly through a program than one grade a year, we decided on a design where each class includes multiple grades.
Check out more about our school design at our website, renaissanceprepMB.org.
I’ll post more on our journey in the coming days. We are in the final stages of negotiating our site location so stay tuned in.
Janice A. Black, Ed. Sp., Ph. D.
The Renaissance Preparatory Academy
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