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“Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself.” – John Dewey

Adda Clevenger is a school founded in the Deweyan tradition. As such, the curriculum for the core academic courses – math, English language arts, science, social studies and history – is developed for and around the individual students. The common core and state learning standards provide a useful framework on which to build. Yet the changing world in which our students live today, and the world in which they hope to live tomorrow, must be taken into equal or greater account alongside an otherwise static set of learning standards. Teachers are challenged to know their students and to know themselves, and in doing so they are able to create dynamic courses and lessons such that students never need to question the relevance of their learning.

Consequently, the assessment of academic performance and progress takes the student as the point of departure rather than distant and abstract standards, and considers performance in relation to the curriculum that has been developed around and for the student. In this educational model, there is no notion of the “average child,” though we can speak of a particular child’s “average performance.” By taking this approach, we open the door for every child to achieve excellence without requiring every child to achieve the same thing in the same way. No artificial limits are imposed on a child’s progress; classmates learn and grow together instead of competing with each other.

"We can create giftedness through designing enriched environments and opportunities, or we can destroy it by failing to create those environments and opportunities." - James J. Gallagher

Although originally established to serve the needs of children who have above-average learning ability, Adda Clevenger teachers found early on that the performance of all learners is enhanced by a fast pace and high expectations. Even as early as Kindergarten, students begin to think of themselves as responsible learners and to appreciate that anything and everything they learn creates value for them personally. With this outlook, the students become the engine that pushes the class forward; the teacher uses the momentum of the class to go deeper and farther with students' learning than strict adherence to the standardized timeline would otherwise allow.

Because of the high energy and motivation of our students, Adda Clevenger teachers have the additional and critical responsibility to ensure that students are spending sufficient time with material and concepts to develop strong conceptual foundations. Particularly with the youngest students, who often possess astonishing skill in memorization, it can be tempting to let them move through material much more quickly than their conceptual capacity can sustain. This faux-rigor, while initially impressive, leads to real difficulties and frustration for students as they get older and the subject matter becomes increasingly abstract and complex. By building strong conceptual understanding in their students early on, our Lower School teachers set the stage for the fast-paced and enriched Upper School experience.