How do I know if my child can thrive in this sort of academic experience? What if they are coming from an academically rigid school?
Bennett Day School does require a level of self-motivation to be successful. However, our advisory program and 1:1 engagement between teacher and student is designed to foster that intrinsic motivation in students. We believe that when students are pursuing meaningful and personal learning with real accountability, they will be motivated to succeed. Because we have built our program on our competency map, some students will likely feel a little disoriented due to the lack of grades. Students coming from particularly rigid schools should talk with advisors and their parents about how they see themselves as learners and how qualitative, specific feedback without grades might make them feel. We’re happy to meet with potential families and discuss this anytime.
Are there other successful high schools out there with a similar model?
Nationally, schools have been implementing similar models for over 15 years. Some of the most prominent schools currently engaged in a model similar to Bennett Day School include:
Watershed School (Denver)
High Tech High (San Diego)
Holy Family Academy (Pittsburgh)
Mt Vernon Presbyterian (Atlanta)
Big Picture (Seattle)
Nueva (San Francisco)
Blyth Templeton Academy (Washington DC)
Francis Parker Charter School (Boston)
Additionally, the Department of Education has laid out an explanation of competency-based learning and provided a number of links to schools and programs successfully implementing it. The state of Illinois began a program to even certify public schools (who are usually subjected to many more bureaucratic hurdles) in competency based education in 2017.
Does the school have a program for gifted students?
Of course. Because Bennett Day School’s work is rooted in personal learning, gifted students are able to pursue their learning at a pace that works for them. Additionally, students, working with their learning advisor, can map out their learning plan in a manner that is commensurate with their learning speed and style.
How does this school support students who have academic, social or emotional difficulties?
The school has a counselor on staff specifically geared towards the needs of adolescents, and through our 1:1 advisor program, expert teachers are trained to work specifically with individuals in order to meet all of their needs.
How do you select teachers?
Our expectations of teachers can be found here. Additionally, our job description for lead teachers can be found here. Our 360 degree teacher evaluation process can be found here.
How are colleges going to view this model?
Colleges have engaged with this model for several years, and two years ago rolled out a portfolio transcript process for all students. Additionally, over 80 independent schools have begun the process of creating a platform for demonstrating mastery in a transcript. Nearly 70 schools in New England alone, including Harvard and MIT, have announced that competency based transcripts do not disadvantage applicants in the admissions process to their schools.
Will you offer AP courses?
AP courses were originally designed as an artificial way to standardize teaching, provide a structured and specific curriculum, stratify students within a course (regular, honors, AP) and lead to a culminating exam presumed to be equivalent to a college placement exam. We believe that not only do AP courses fail to prepare students for university study, but they actually inhibit learning by forcing students to rush through work without internalizing the concepts to which they’re exposed. Bennett students are expected to go well beyond the expectations of the AP curriculum and engage in real and authentically rigorous learning, assessed by experts in the field.
Do You Have a College Counseling Department?
Absolutely. We will have both an on-site and dedicated college counselor on staff and partner with local college counseling services to offer a robust, thorough and personalized college counseling experience for every learner beginning as early as 10th grade.
Is the school truly committed to diversity? How?
We feel that the term “diversity” is often used by schools to mask inequity that exists; that by simply having a wider variety of students, goals are met. Bennett Day School is committed to equity for all students by developing personalized relationships with each student and working with them to advance their own learning in a way that both meets rigorous standards and is personal to them as learners. Personalized learning is founded on principles of equity and we believe that our model, by eliminating the silos that divide and rank students, is key to an equitable school. Further, every project-based learning activity (comprising 10 weeks of study each) is required to have an equity component. Students are met where they are, and every learning experience is geared towards advancing equity in the city and beyond.
What kind of extracurricular activities will you have?
Everything a student does is curricular. Bennett Day School makes no distinction between “curricular” and “extracurricular.” Everything a student does, from sports to music to math and science is equally valid and important learning and should be applied to the student’s transcript. We will absolutely have a robust sports, music and arts program for which students will not only be encouraged to participate, but be able to incorporate the skills learned in those activities into their transcripts to qualify for graduation.
How do the arts fit into the curriculum? Is there a school choir, band or orchestra? A drama program? Art classes?
Arts is prominently placed on our competency map and students must demonstrate arts proficiencies in a number of ways. We will be partnering with local arts programs to allow any student who so chooses to pursue arts, music or theatre.
What is expected of my child with regard to homework?
Bennett Day doesn’t distinguish between homework and in-school work. Because students must demonstrate competencies based on our map to gain credit, students will have to do enough work both inside and outside class time in order to demonstrate competencies to experts in the fields of study as well as our faculty. We believe a student, working with an advisor, needs to do enough work to demonstrate a competency satisfactorily, whether that work is done at home or during the school day.