curriculum and Classroom experience
At SPA, students are challenged by what we believe is the best academic curriculum in Minnesota. They are supported by the individual attention that is made possible by the lowest average class size of comparable independent schools in the state: Lower School classes average 13 students; Middle School classes average 15 students; and Upper School classes average 14 students. Across all three divisions, our student/teacher ratio is 8:1.
Small class sizes, however, are just the beginning. The SPA curriculum takes advantage of those small classes through an academic program that is designed to build both skill and confidence at every grade level.
- In the Lower School, these small classes, each led by a teaching team of two homeroom teachers, allow for a thorough and age-appropriate introduction to intellectual inquiry. The careful use of differentiation--grouping students into small learning cohorts--allows master teachers to offer plenty of attention and indivdiualized guidance to our youngest students. Academic technology is introduced in Kindergarten and is integrated into learning in both the homerooms and specialists classes.
- In the Middle School, an increasingly rigorous curriculum is supported by Developmental Designs for Middle School, a social-emotional pedagogy in which teachers push students intellectually while still offering them the support they need to navigate young adolescence. The advisory system is a fundamental component of this support, as is the continued use of academic technology with an emphasis on digital citizenship and online safety.
- By the time they enter Upper School, students are ready for SPA's challenging and innovative college preparatory program that emphasizes discussion-based learning, advanced inquiry, lively discussion around Harkness seminar tables, and deep engagement with ideas. As students prepare for life after SPA, our extenstive College Counseling program begins, with each student assigned one of three full-time College Counselors in Grade 10.
To learn more about our curriculum in all three divisions, explore Academic Life.
As they move through the divisions and master subject matter at each grade level, students are supported by and contribute to a very definitive kind of classroom culture which we call "the accountable classroom." The accountable classroom has proven to be an extraordinarily effective approach that appeals to teachers and students because it’s such an engaging learning experience. The approach depends on a student-teacher ratio of 8:1 that allows unique talents to be discovered and realized. It’s a place where children of all ages learn they have a responsibility to engage and contribute—every day, every class, and every activity—because the school is only as good as the students and teachers make it, together. The discourse teaches students to respect the ideas of others, even as they begin to recognize their own talents. Whether it’s around a Harkness table during an Upper School seminar or a circle of kindergarteners on the floor, the constant at every age is an expectation of accountability within an intimate learning community. To learn more about the accountable classroom, explore Academic Life, schedule a visit to campus or read the story from the Spring 2013 issue of SPA Magazine.