At Chicago Grammar School, students excel because the curriculum is structured in ways that it meets every student’s needs, whether they are working at or above their grade level.
“Our entire curriculum is designed for students working above grade level. Seventy percent of the students here qualify as gifted or academically talented,” says Phillip Jackson, founder and principal of the school. “That being said, we have students who are up to an even greater challenge.”
For subjects like math, it’s easy to challenge them when they achieve above their grade level.
“Our math program is organized in such a way that students who complete the required topics before other classmates are able to move into an ‘intensive practice’ book,” he says. “This book consists of far more challenging problems within the topic being taught.”
Writing and literature have ways to challenge students to achieve beyond their grade level as well, he says.
For example, if a second-grader is writing about a book and finishes the assignment, they can be challenged to rewrite a new ending for the book.
“If a class is all reading the same book, what do you do? You offer them different versions of the book,” he says. “So fifth-graders read a middle school version of the Illiad or they read a more sophisticated translation.”
Or eighth-graders study Greek history, culture and literature and can add more individual challenge by adding research projects on Greek warfare or how exactly to make a Trojan horse.
Analysis as a skill needed for critical thinking is taught in grammar, math and formal logic classes, he says, while visual arts are incorporated in the study of history, literature or science.
Subjects such as science are taught on a cycle, so first- and fifth-graders learn biology; second- and sixth-graders learn astronomy and earth science; third- and seventh-graders learn chemistry; and fourth- and eighth- graders learn physics.
“We offer them a high-level curriculum, but if they still need more, we believe there’s always something more they can do that’s a natural extension of the topic,” he says.
Part of Making the Grade, a special advertising education guide.