The Kier Family
September 2nd, 2011
Mrs. Kier’s two daughters, Amanda and Grace, were both enrolled in a gifted program in their home district, but the mere two hours devoted each week to to their customized education was not enough to truly engage and nurture their eager young minds. Mrs. Kier explains, “The program at our district was about enrichment, not acceleration. When we asked for acceleration, they’d give us more work. When we asked for different spelling words that were harder, they’d give us more spelling words at the same level.” Grace, now in eighth grade, describes the philosophy of the program as, “’more of, versus instead of.’ Plus you had to make up all of the work you missed while you were there.”
“They would come home at the end of the day so tired with a large amount of busywork.” Mrs. Kier shared her frustrations with one of her girl’s teachers who told her about another option: Pennsylvania Leadership Charter School’s University Scholars Program (USP).
Through further investigation, Mrs. Kier found USP would provide her daughters with more rigorous academics as well as additional opportunities to work with other intellectual students. Its specialized curriculum for individual students emphasizes “meaningful work.” She enrolled Grace in seventh grade immediately. “The University Scholars Program has reinvigorated Grace’s love for learning. Instead of a focus on quantity, Scholars truly emphasizes meaningful learning.”
Beaming, Grace explains, “The work is never busywork at Scholars. I actually look forward to completing my assignments.” Grace feels she has had “more learning time” at Scholars than she has had during her “entire education.”
Grace loves the atmosphere at Scholars. She describes it as a “positive peer culture with like-minded students who are self-motivated. At my last school, I was the only one always raising my hand. At Scholars we’re encouraged to say when we don’t get it.” Mrs. Kier smiles, interjecting, “Now, she is surrounded by a whole class full of hand-raisers.” Grace also values the small class sizes. “The first year, I went from 30 students to three in my math class.”
“The learning is very hands-on. The University Scholars teachers really know how to make it interesting,” Grace enthuses, as she recounts a class about the Industrial Revolution. “We had to lug heavy suitcases up stairs, around chairs and over all sorts of other obstacles. We even re-enacted the daily tasks of factory workers as we learned about the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory. The day ended in the class going on strike.”
The blended model the Scholars program offers, two onsite days a week with virtual learning at home on the alternate days, has granted them the flexibility to pursue other passions. Grace, who takes Taekwondo with adults at lunch, is close to earning her black belt. She also plays viola, piano and electric guitar. Amanda enjoys basketball and gymnastics.
After watching her sister’s experience, Amanda can’t wait to start fifth grade at Scholars this fall. Since she attended many of her sister’s USP events last year, she already knows that the students are “just like me” and that makes her very excited.