My daughter was learning to spell words like Leprechaun correctly in Kindergarten. Thank you MWPV!
Dimple Agarwal, M.D. (6th grade parent)
If you had the opportunity to create a school curriculum, from Preschool to grade 12, what would you do? A quick look across the country will demonstrate that with 50 states each designing their own curriculum, along with thousands of private schools having their own slant on academic programming, there is no single answer that fits all.
At Marywood-Palm Valley School, we began our curriculum development by asking the question, "What will a first year college student need in the areas of content, skills and attitude to be successful?" After all, our main goal is not to simply have our graduates get into college, but to have them be successful there. Our greatest satisfaction is when returning graduates explain how their first year of college was easier than their last year of Marywood-Palm Valley! That is truly what a college-preparatory education should do for a student: make the transition to college life, at least from an academic perspective, easy.
Having determined that first year college students would need a strong foundation of knowledge in a wide range of subject areas, we determined that our graduation requirements would be the same as the entrance requirements for the University of California schools, the highest entrance requirements in the country. Every graduate of MWPV must take four years of English courses, three years of math courses, four years of lab science courses, four years of humanities courses, three years of foreign language courses, four years of arts electives and three and a half years of physical and health education. For most students, this path will include several Advanced Placement courses: courses that have the challenge and demands of a first-year college course.
With challenging courses, we add the importance of good daily work habits, the practice of good study skills, and the interplay of serious thought and discussion. Students not only write exams at the end of each semester, but return to school to take those exams up in detail, both to understand the expectations of the test and to reflect upon the study skills they must improve to do better on the next set. There are regular assignments and a high level of written and verbal feedback from faculty. Seminar presentations by students are common and motivating.
At the Middle School, every teacher sees the development of independent work habits as the core skill to be taught, regardless of the subject. Students are taught how to take notes, how to research and write papers, how to prepare for and take exams, and how to organize their time and materials to get the most from their own abilities. While content is used as a "motivator" for study, with the exception of grammatical sophistication, literary analysis and sequential mathematical skill development, the content is flexible to the interests of the students and the topics related to current events. The Middle School is NOT driven by lists of facts, but rather by the skills it takes to gather and analyze such facts to create new and interesting ways to process the information. Learning how to learn is the best way to summarize the main emphases of Middle School.
Lower School sets down the foundation on which all future learning is based. It is here that students learn to interpret the written word, express themselves in writing and begin to develop the numerical literacy that will allow complex mathematical concepts to follow logically. Much has been debated about the emphasis put on reading, writing and arithmetic, but the simple truth is that students who develop strong basic skills are more confident learners and enjoy learning much more than those who struggle with such skills. One of our main goals is to emphasize the "joy of learning," and we do so through developing students' skills in a logical and sequential manner while providing the support and encouragement necessary to master such skills. It is during this time that the relationship and communication between home and school is so important to ensure that a student is given the help needed to do well.
Our view of education is not radical, nor particularly unique. We have not invented a learning methodology that we are touting as superior to anyone else's. We recognize that students learn in many different ways, and we understand the importance of providing support for those various learning styles. What we believe we do, that few school systems do, is to see the big picture of skill development from early primary school to the end of high school, and to discuss this development regularly with faculty from all departments and divisions. From there, we come up with a curriculum that is motivating and successful for most students. We offer a seamless learning trip from Preschool to college!