The Independent School Advantage
By Monica Van Aken, Ed. D, Head of School
The advantage of being an independent school is that it allows us to create an ambitious and creative curriculum that truly challenges our students to be intellectual and moral leaders. At MMS faculty hold each of their students to the highest academic achievement that they could possibly realize, using our curriculum as the guide. A strong curriculum coupled with the belief that students learn more if given the freedom to set their own pace is realized here again and again. Children like to challenge themselves; they enjoy mastering material and competing against their own successes. If adults set the pace of student learning for the whole class at a time, the danger is that they educate to a less ambitious middle which underestimates the capacity of what children can do if given the opportunity to set a pace that works to their advantage.
An example of the perils of setting student pace was highlighted in a recent newsletter from a local suburban public school. They report that this January, K4 students “…will begin counting objects from 1- 10, and learn to write numbers 1-10 in correct formation.” In K5 classes, students are “working on letter sounds…hearing the sounds that our letters in the alphabet make.” Students in the first grades “will be introduced to basic addition facts,” while fourth-grade students will work on “multiplication skills, rounding, and writing big numbers.” At MMS, K4 students are learning to read, and K5 children can read, having long since learned letter sounds. In fact, our K5 students add and subtract, and first-grade students begin long multiplication and memorizing math facts to 20 in all operations. By 4th grade, our students are well into fractions and decimals in all operations.
Our independence allows us push the envelope of good educational practice, allowing our students to produce exceptional academic work while also providing unique solutions for each individual’s needs. This is why we do not isolate students who come to us with developing English fluency or who exhibit periodic academic challenges. We work with them in their classrooms, holding all students to the same high curricular expectation and the same intense work ethic. Though students at MMS work at their own pace and under individualized instruction, each student is expected to learn the material that will be essential for success. Along with academic rigor and a technology program unseen anywhere in the region, we develop the right-brain skills crucial for 21st century workers: creative vision, tolerance of ambiguity, resilience, and strong moral character.
In an era of intense competition, we know you have made a choice to add the value of independent education to your child’s development, and we honor this commitment by using the very best practices we can to enable your child to contribute his or her unique gifts successfully now and in the future.