Updated: May 28
Photo by Nathan Anderson
We do not need to label a student in order to provide the necessary tools to educate our children here at Maricopa Christian Academy. All students are instructed at their skill level with the goal of progressing forward.
An Individual Education Plan (IEP) is what is required for all students placed in special education in public and charter schools.
But an individualized education is not only for those students who were labeled in public institutions and now attending here at Maricopa Christian Academy. No, all students who arrive at Maricopa Christian Academy Academy have individualized goals their teachers have developed daily based on each student's previous day's accomplishments.
Usually, after six months, though sometimes occurring after the first month is not unheard of, students who arrive at Maricopa Christian Academy accompanied by an IEP and/or a label forget about their past learning difficulties and classroom issues. Success in learning is their new habit, instead of the constant failure and misbehavior experienced in traditional teach-and-move-on instructional systems that are intended to mask an inadequate education.
The arguments from public and charter schools for labeling students include the idea that meaningful differences in learning or a child's behavior require a label before taking the next step in improving a child's education. In this belief system, there are limited ways to help a student without a label. With a label and an IEP, public and charter schools segregate students into special education classrooms.
Sounds good, right? No. It is not. The new special education model of providing services is not to teach to increase a student's academic skills. Instead, accommodations are created to help a student to pass classes. The goal is not in learning skills but obtaining a high school diploma.
What does this mean for the student? If a student can't read, a tape recorder allows a student to listen to a story and work on comprehension skills. Or much smaller assignments are given. Learning how to read or perform math is not necessary. The only thing needed by the students is to pass a class so they can graduate. This is a big reason why around two-thirds of Arizona high school graduates do not meet state expectations in reading and math skills.
But as a private school, Maricopa Christian Academy teaches skills. We are a skills-based system. What does that mean?
All students in first through ninth grades begin their classes here where they test. We call it a linear learning system. Third-grade and performing math at a sixth-grade level, that is the level where the student begins. Sixth-grade and reading at a second-grade level. That is where the student begins.
I met the other day with a school I advise in Chandler. Wonderful Christian school! And they are considering using some of our methods as they expand by adding high school students. Their big question was, How do you have so many levels working in the same class?
It works well because we have small class sizes with an aide supporting the teacher. Another important reason is that each student builds daily on previously mastered skills, and assignments are focused on adding a new skill to the previous skills already mastered.
In our educational program at Maricopa Christian Academy, our students do not have to be labeled gifted or special education in order to meet their unique educational needs. The same can be said for those "regular" students. They are allowed to have extra attention focused on them to assist them in meeting their potential.
At Maricopa Christian Academy, all students are "special" in their education.