Why ACDS? The K-8 Model

We've had two open houses this year and I found myself answering a range of queries from prospective parents that centered on the big question, "Why ACDS?"

There are about 250 families at Almaden Country Day School, and it's possible they have 250 reasons for being here as parents. I won't try to catalog them all here but as a teacher, school leader and parent of an ACDS alumna, I'll offer one reason that you might not have considered.

There are powerful advantages of a K-8 school (or PK-8 at ACDS), chiefly the benefits of keeping friends and siblings together in a safe and caring place, largely insulated from risk behaviors and peer pressure, until they are ready for high school.

Across San Jose, many schools embrace the middle school model as a vestige of the baby boomer era, when there were too many children to cram into K-8 schools, and they split off the older kids in new "middle schools" that were designed to run like mini high schools.

After the middle school model was created, educational researchers spent decades trying to build an educational rationale that would justify the configuration and to develop curricula that supports it pedagogically. Interestingly, in the past ten years, public schools across the nation (including several in East San Jose) have begun to reconfigure using the K-8 model, as many of those same researchers discovered the advantages of K-8 schools.

ACDS reflects the best of the PK-8 model, and embodies its many advantages in addition to qualities that are unique to our school's culture and community:

  • Continuity of purpose: For 10 or 11 years, children benefit from a consistent educational philosophy and school-wide instructional mission.
  • Developmental emphasis: Children grow in a coordinated developmental curriculum and program that promotes discovery and understanding rather than memorization and acceleration.
  • Relationships: Children enjoy a more natural, family-like environment, surrounded by older and younger peers and friends, and a variety of groupings.
  • Caring and belonging: In the ACDS Big Buddies program and in day-to-day interactions, older students are tasked with caring for younger ones. The youngest look up to the eldest while the older children learn responsibility and empathy for their Little Buddies.
  • Leadership: Older students have meaningful opportunities to mentor their young admirers, and learn that they need to set an example for younger children.
  • Respect: Children enjoy a longer childhood at ACDS because they're sheltered from risk behaviors and excessive peer pressure. They are taught from the early grades how to treat one another with respect, kindness, and empathy, which helps create the joyful campus atmosphere that's a hallmark of ACDS.
  • Child-centered faculty: Especially compared with the middle school model that operates like a mini high school and emphasizes subject matter, ACDS teachers are attuned and committed to children's needs in addition to the delivery of content
  • Safety: In addition to keeping students physically safe, at ACDS our teachers work with their students to develop skills the children need to recognize and manage their emotions, build positive relationships, demonstrate concern and care for others, make good decisions, and handle difficult situations positively.

After teaching and leading at PK-12 schools, K-12 schools, and middle schools, perhaps the strongest endorsement I can offer of our K-8/PK-8 model at ACDS is that I chose it for my own daughter Juliette, an ACDS alumna who like her 43 classmates is now thriving academically, cherishes her memories as a Little and Big Buddy, thinks fondly of her ACDS teachers, is engaged in a wide variety of high school activities, and enjoys vibrant ACDS friendships that will last a lifetime.

So that's a personal endorsement of the K-8 model – and it's "why ACDS."

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