By Kelly Lichter
Founding Board President
Mason Classical Academy
American 15-year olds rank 35th out of 57 developed countries in math and literacy proficiency.
So says the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), which measures 15-year-old students’ reading, mathematics and science literacy. By eighth grade, American students are a full two grade levels behind their international counterparts in mathematics.
In our nation’s largest metropolitan areas, 50 percent of children never walk across the stage in their caps and gowns to receive their diploma. Sixty-three percent of Americans give our nation’s public schools a grade C or lower, yet refuse to admit there is a problem with their own schools, because people tend to value intentions above results.
Whether or not you have children or grandchildren enrolled in school, it is the responsibility of all American citizens to demand that every child have the right to an excellent education. The next generation of Americans must have access to schools that are effective, motivating and challenging.
Every child is different; therefore the one-size-fits-all model of education is ineffective. Parents must have the freedom to choose the type and quality of education that is best for their individual child.
In August 2014, Mason Classical Academy, a tuition-free public charter school in partnership with Hillsdale College, will open its doors in Collier County, giving local families access to a classical liberal arts model of education. From the time of the Greeks until the late 19th century, classical education produced the western world’s greatest thinkers, leaders and scientists.
The rigorous and rich curriculum uses teaching methods that boast a 2,500-year successful track record and have inspired an education movement across America.
Mason Classical Academy students will learn in a scholarly setting with their desks in rows facing the teacher. They will be taught American and world history beginning in kindergarten and will also study Latin, which enriches vocabulary development and grammar, and improves reading and writing in English.
In the elementary grades, math classes will be taught in a single “block” for all students, allowing the children to be assigned to the appropriate math course based on their abilities. Students will also learn science every day and the academy will give special attention to the importance of music and the arts.
We must have an educated population to preserve a thriving democracy. Children need a strong foundation of knowledge regardless of their career path. Mason students will read history and literature’s great books with the purpose of making connections and developing ideas. They will wear uniforms, follow a strict code of conduct and commit to high academic standards and strong work ethic. The academy will provide lessons in virtues and teach the essential skills and knowledge needed for life.
Teachers will give direct instruction and be the “sage on the stage” not the “guide on the side.” They will use the Socratic method and return to the art of teaching. They will not be consumed with endless data-tracking and other distracting responsibilities that have little to do with educating our children.
Mason Classical Academy will model its school after Ridgeview Classical in Fort Collins, Colorado. According to U.S. News and World Report, Ridgeview ranked number two in that state and 98 percent of its high school students were reading-proficient. Ridgeview students had an average score of 25 on the ACT compared to the national average of 20.
Numerous studies show that parental involvement is one of the most important indicators of academic success. By giving parents the opportunity to choose their child’s education, they immediately become more actively engaged. At the Academy parents will be encouraged and empowered to help their children with homework and provide reinforcement and support.
Americans often take for granted the benefits of living among educated people who tend to be upright citizens, respectable neighbors and productive members of society. Although education spending is at record highs, and continues to climb each year, student proficiency has stagnated. This is why all citizens should support school choice for all families, because it improves the public education system and gives parents the freedom to choose public, private, or charter education models that best serve their individual child’s needs.