An Innovative Approach to Designing a School Schedule that Meet Each Child's Needs

  • Give Each Child
Steve Wilkins, Head of School Blog

Organize a school’s educational program around the notion of giving each child what she or he most needs. Sounds good, right? This approach is really different from almost all of America’s schools that organize their programs around prescribed curriculum maps.  You know, on Tuesday, December 14th we need to be on page 136 of the textbook.

The reason that schools don’t organize themselves to give each child what she or he most needs is that it isn’t easy. In fact, it is remarkably difficult. As a result, most schools do the easier thing. They build a map of what an academic course is going to look like and then follow it religiously for the year.

At Carroll, we are working mightily to adjust. In a school that already customizes its programs for each student, how much further can we go? The Academic Leadership Team (ALT) is diving deeper into the challenge every week. Our department heads and teachers are already brilliant in their ability to adjust a student’s program within the given structures of their classes. Could we go further and adjust the actual array of classes a student takes?

Historically, every child at Carroll recieves roughly the same set of classes: a double language arts class, a focused language tutorial of small group, one math class, and a collection of science, social studies, gym/Bounders, and arts. This has been the approach for decades. In fact, student outcomes reveals that this program works for over 85% of Carroll students.

But what about the approximately 15% for whom a different alignment of educational programs would make more sense? Can Carroll gyrate to meet the needs of these students more effectively? Gec Washman - Carroll’s mythological guru who personifies the mantra “give each child what she or he most needs” - preaches that we must.

Early signs of Carroll’s new, nimbler approach are evident. For example:

  • 20% of Middle School students now receive two math classes in their program
  • All students in grades 1-2-3 have a period in the day called “cognitive development”
  • Every student now has a “Flex Block” which offers the possibility of precise interventions on what a child most needs; and
  • The “third language block” is now being used more broadly to meet a child’s unique needs.
  • We are evolving. Gec tells us that we need to. As modern science informs us about how dynamically education can build better brains for learning, we must.
  • Give Each Child

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