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1513 S. Hwy. 67
Cedar Hill, Texas 75104
CEDAR HILL PREPARATORY ACADEMY’S
Cedar Hill Preparatory Academy exists to build a strong, sequential foundation for the purpose of creating successful lifelong learners. Our goal is for each student to graduate with a set of skills and solid background knowledge to enable them to continue learning throughout their lives when new opportunities present themselves.
How do we work towards accomplishing this mission?
Our students have many different learning styles with different strengths and weaknesses; therefore, we must approach their educations with a variety of techniques, materials, etc. Based upon direct experience, this begins with theories of learning which we have determined work for our students.
Theory #1: Foundational Learning Abilities/Developmental Learning
We believe that a strong base of foundational learning abilities is imperative for learning to take place in an effective and efficient manner. When foundational learning abilities, as identified in the research of Drs. Robert and Mary Meeker, are not developed, developmental learning – learning that takes place as a normal part of cognitive development – is affected. The student is not prepared to benefit from teacher instruction. When developmental learning does not take place at the appropriate time, it impedes the learning of skills which in turn affects personal development and academic skills. This base begins with a physiological foundation in the areas of sensory-motor integration and focusing skills, followed by a strong foundation of learning abilities (i.e. cognition, memory, evaluation, convergent production and divergent production). When the multiple skills found in each of these categories are in place, academic skills can be more efficiently and effectively taught because the student is equipped to learn.
By determining any deficits and then concentrating on building a physiological foundation and a strong foundation of learning abilities, students are able to move forward to the next level of learning.
Theory #2: Mastery Learning of Basic Academic Skills
While we agree with the school of thought that scores and grades do not define a learner, we do believe that education consists of a mixture of different levels of both mastery of skills and learning of content. They are both essential. Every day, we see students that cannot continue to learn because of lack of mastery of the most foundational academic skills. There is no place in education that mastery matters more than on basic foundational academic skills. For example, mastery in a traditional setting is 70%. Which 30% of the alphabet is it okay not to learn? Which 30% of the multiplication facts is it okay not to learn? Seventy percent mastery is simply not acceptable in regard to some skills. Multiple foundational academic skills need to be mastered. Therefore, our goal for our students at this level is 100% mastery. Upon enrollment in Cedar Hill Preparatory Academy, students are placed in language arts and mathematics curriculum continuums at their current level of functioning, regardless of grade placement. As soon as students master an academic instructional objective, they are moved to the next. The flexibility afforded by this approach allows us to spend more time where it is needed. High School students are not scheduled in high school level courses until they are developmentally ready to learn the materials. (For example, a student is not scheduled in an Algebra I class when they have cognitive and/or academic skill gaps which prevent them from learning Algebra I. When those skills have been completed in a foundational course, they are scheduled for Algebra I. At this point they should be able to successfully complete Algebra I and move on to actually be successful in Algebra II. Note: We have found that most students who come to us having barely passed Algebra I and are not ready for Algebra II. In this scenario, we go back and reteach the skill gaps in Algebra I prior to scheduling a student to begin Algebra II.)
A strong foundation followed by mastery learning of basic academic skills allows for growth to continue.
Theory #3: A Core Sequence of Content
In the area of content, we closely follow the Core Knowledge Foundation’s recommendations. As stated earlier, mastery of skills is essential, but a systematic, structured approach to teaching Science and Social Studies knowledge is also essential. There is much knowledge to be presented and learned and the same content should not be taught over and over. Instead, it should be taught at different layers of complexity and/or in different settings around the world, so that knowledge is built upon versus simply repeated. This commonly shared knowledge makes schooling more effective. Objectives for these two subject areas are chosen for our students based on age/grade placement.
What are the Core Knowledge Foundation’s recommendations: The Core Knowledge Sequence is a detailed outline of specific content and skills, and as the core of a school’s curriculum, it is intended to provide a coherent, content specific foundation of learning. It is designed to encourage cumulative academic progress as children build their knowledge and skills from one year to the next. Learning builds on learning, and according to the Core Knowledge Foundation, children gain new knowledge by building on what they already know. It is important to begin building foundations of knowledge in the early grades because that is when children are most receptive, and because academic deficiencies in the first eight grades can permanently impair the quality of later schooling.
Fortunately, the Core Knowledge sequence is compatible with a variety of instructional methods and additional content when desired. Completing this sequence allows students to enter traditional high school classes with a knowledge base that enables them to learn the required content for traditional high school courses (i.e. World Geography, U.S. History, World History, Government/Economics, Integrated Physics and Science, Biology, Physics, Chemistry, etc.) We do put prerequisites on science classes such as Physics and Chemistry. We have found that specific math skills are required to truly benefit from these courses. We do not schedule students for these courses until the prerequisite skills are in place.
A strong foundation followed by mastery of basic academic skills and a strong background of knowledge equals a well-educated student.
Also important to CHPA’s approach to learning is the instructional setting in which our philosophies are carried out. Cedar Hill Preparatory Academy is first and foremost student-centered, allowing for the flexibility to make individual student needs happen. This occurs through a mixture of instructional settings from one-on-one instruction to instruction presented in mixed-age groups, all based on student needs.
One-on-One Instruction/Mixed-Age Groups
It should be no surprise that research has shown that one-on-one tutorial is the most effective form of schooling, in part because a teacher can provide tailor-made instruction for the individual student. While we have made this a priority for certain components of language arts and mathematics instruction, it is not necessary for all students and not possible for all classes. For example, Social Studies and Science are taught in mixed-age groups. In a non-tutorial situation (such as a mixed-age group) an instructor cannot effectively impart new knowledge to all the students unless each one shares the background knowledge that the lesson is being built upon. When all the students in a class share that relevant background knowledge, a classroom can begin to approach the effectiveness of a tutorial. Even when some children in a class don’t have elements of the knowledge they were supposed to acquire in previous grades, the existence of a specifically defined core makes it possible for the teacher to identify and fill the gaps, thus giving all students a chance to fulfill their potential in later grades. This is where the Core Knowledge Sequence of Social Studies and Science content plays an important role. It provides the necessary background knowledge, making mixed-age groups effective for teaching subject areas such as Social Studies and Science.
More on Mixed-Age Groups
As a method of teaching, one-on-one instruction is easily understood, but frequently multiple benefits of mixed-age groups are overlooked. By both necessity (we are a small school) and choice, we embrace mixed-age groups. Traditional elementary schools are one of the few places that students are placed in single/same-age classrooms. By high school, classes have become inner-mingled and adults certainly are not segregated by age. Age is a crude indicator of what learning experiences children are ready for. Regardless of age, in a mixed-age class, the students are all learning in the same vicinity, instead of being grouped by age or grade level. They receive education in a more rounded way, and they learn to be more tolerant of each other. Differences within a group of children can be a source of rich intellectual and social benefits. In addition, mixed-age grouping allows for a great deal of flexibility, allowing for teachers to capitalize on the differences in the experience, knowledge, and abilities of the children. Finally, there is no evidence to show that a group of children who are all within a twelve-month age range can be expected to learn the same things, in the same way, on the same day, at the same time. In a mixed-age group, it is acceptable for a child to be “ahead of” or “behind of” his or her same-age peers in social competence and/or multiple subject areas, which is reality for many students. A strong foundation followed by mastery of basic academic skills and a strong background of knowledge equals a well-educated student! Add one-on-one help when needed in important subject areas, followed by positive, exciting group activities equals a well-rounded, well-educated student who actually enjoys learning!
Finally, how do we measure success? Success can be measured in multiple ways (traditional or not). Our evaluation begins prior to enrollment. Before enrolling in Cedar Hill Preparatory Academy, we require that current Structure of Intellect Learning Abilities test results be on file. This test, which is administered monthly by Cedar Hill Preparatory Academy, allows for rolling admissions. This evaluation is not to determine admission, but rather to allow us to assure an accurate and appropriate education and to make sure that we are an appropriate choice. Every component of the test results are utilized in developing an appropriate plan – helping to determine the best materials, as well as the sequence of the materials, and appropriate classes – for each student. Needed accommodations are also developed utilizing these test results although all of our students do not require accommodations. Please call for current test rates and space availability for testing. Space is limited.
We feel strongly that success in foundational abilities is measured by 100% mastery. Grades for these foundational abilities are included in the subject areas which they affect directly. In all subject areas, different levels of mastery/success can also be measured by a variety of projects, essays, speeches, discussions, and/or traditional paper/pencil tests, as well as growth, attitude and effort. When appropriate, lesson tests and unit tests which serve as benchmarks are administered. Students do not move on until they demonstrate readiness to do so. This commonly occurs at a much faster pace upon completion of foundational materials. Finally, in high school, Course Mastery Tests are administered. What is standard across the board is that students are not moved on until they are ready.
As a direct result of this previous statement, if a student does not master something (traditionally known as failure), it is our responsibility to regroup and reteach immediately – before moving on. This may mean backing up; it may mean changing to different materials; it may mean utilizing different teaching techniques or strategies; it may mean putting a particular skill “on hold” temporarily; it may mean changing teachers. We work diligently to do whatever it takes for the student to master what is in front of them, so that they can successfully move on. Too many students have too many gaps!
In grades K-6, nine-week report cards indicate “Satisfactory” or “Unsatisfactory” progress in each of the following subject areas: Language Arts (includes reading, spelling, grammar, spelling, handwriting, and the writing process); Math (includes arithmetic and mathematics); Physical Education (Integrated Practice Protocol Program which addresses gaps in sensory-motor integration and focusing skills); and Social Studies/Science.
In grades 7-8, nine-week report cards indicate letter grades in each of the following subject areas: Language Arts (includes reading, spelling, grammar, spelling, handwriting, and the writing process); Math (includes arithmetic and mathematics); Physical Education (Integrated Practice Protocol Program which addresses gaps in sensory-motor integration and focusing skills); and Social Studies/Science.
In grades 9-12, nine-week report cards indicate number grades in each subject area. When a course has been completed, the final grade and amount of credit awarded appears on the report card. Once credit has been awarded, it is transferred to the student’s transcript, and it disappears from the report card.
A 90-100 (4.0)
B 80- 89 (3.0)
C 70- 79 (2.0)
No credit is awarded for a grade below 70.
Two running grade point averages (gpa) are kept on all high school students – one for “Core Courses” only and one for “All Courses.”
Cedar Hill Preparatory Academy is accredited by Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) – Council on Accreditation and School Improvement (CASI). This accreditation is recognized by the Texas Education Agency.
In addition, Cedar Hill Preparatory Academy offers Accommodations Testing (A Battery of Tests including measures of intelligence, achievement, and learning abilities) for students who need them to further their education upon high school graduation. This is a “for fee” service for those students who need it as well as for the general public.
IT IS NOT OFTEN THAT A SCHOOL EXISTS TO TRULY MEET THE NEEDS OF INDIVIDUAL STUDENTS. WE ARE THAT SCHOOL!