Our learning philosophy at Acera:
Learn based upon ability
We believe that all students should have a chance to learn at a pace and in a way congruent with their individual ability. We aim to keep students engaged and challenged by meeting them where they really are—not where they should be based on their age. Acera’s flexible ability groupings in math and reading allow students to work at their own pace, and engage in learning and discussion with like-ability peers.
We see age norms and curriculum frameworks as a reference point—not the goal—as we customize a learning plan and experiences that engage each child both as part of a school community and in a way that honors their capacities and interests. Acera employs assessment, Individual Learning Plans, differentiated instruction, independent projects, and flexible groupings to enable a customized learning experience for each student.
Topics and ideas are explored within a larger context, as teachers customize curricula built around essential questions and define projects and culminating events in which all facets of learning can be developed concurrently and connected to broader topics of inquiry. This enables students’ development of systems thinking capacities, while garnering knowledge in all areas (history, science, engineering, economics, philosophy, world religions, geography) in a meaningful framework. Along the way, as students ask questions or initiate project ideas, teachers facilitate and tailor the learning pathway to align with high engagement topics. Taking a thematic approach and honoring students’ interests enables them to have a higher sense of purpose in their learning, to be motivated to make progress and gain skills in their areas of deficit, and to have a high sense of engagement—and joy—at school. Real projects are hatched from this inquiry-rich approach and are conducted in partnership among students and teachers, enabling students to test out the impact they can have in their immediate community.
Build social and emotional intelligence
Acera seeks out future leaders, scientists, artists, mathematicians, musicians, writers and explorers alike. We believe intelligence comes in many forms, and we focus on each. We focus on developing the whole child, with emphasis on each child’s social and emotional well-being. We embrace Daniel Goleman’s theory of Emotional Intelligence, and believe EQ is just as important as IQ. We emphasize social responsibility, self-awareness and character development, encouraging students to make a positive impact in their communities.
Enable creative problem-solving and complex thinking
The Acera philosophy emphasizes analysis, synthesis, evaluation, and creative application of ideas to other domains—the top levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy—instead of focusing solely on “knowledge.” We expect 80% of class time to be spent in the realm of complex thinking; during these times, students are engaged in asking, writing, solving, and making. With teachers as coaches and guides, students experience Acera’s walls as porous to the world beyond and engage in new and complicated topics that align with ideas and innovations current in the world and not limited by any text or teacher. Who are we to say what students of today will need to “know” when they are adults? We believe that the role of school is to develop students’ capacities to engage effectively within teams, solve problems, and to persist through challenges, all while keeping their innate curiosity alive.
Safeguard the spirit and curiosity of each student
Core to Acera’s mission is to offer each individual the freedom to pursue interest, nourish curiosity and foster exploration. In addition to Individualized Learning Plans, each student has a chance to further pursue an area of particular interest by engaging deeply in particular parts of a theme in a way that honors their unique interests. In Middle School, all students bring alive their own “Inquiry, Maker, Passion” project, but from a unique personal interest and aligned with a mentor whose background is well suited to offer them support through the IMP Project Process.
Acera’s core values of community, openness, integrity, curiosity and innovation play a key role in our approach to behavior management. We believe in giving students space to experiment, observe themselves, improve, grow and learn.