For more news and articles about Sequoia Village School, please click here.



Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images

Sequoia Village School puts an emphasis on small-group learning

Posted On: 2017-11-06 02:49 PM
From AzCentral.com...


Cara O'Donnell, for Edkey® Inc.

In the old model, students moved from grade to grade, traveling – along with their classmates – through subjects and skills, regardless of individual achievement. If you struggled, you could feel left behind. And if you quickly achieved, you could become bored easily.

What if, instead of following the herd in your grade, you had the opportunity to learn and challenge yourself, independent of your grade or fellow students?

If Sequoia Village School is any indication, it's a solution that works.

This K-12 charter school in Show Low, Arizona puts an emphasis on student-centered and student-paced learning. This means that students learn at their own pace, getting extra help when they need, and receiving a boost to a larger challenge when they're ready to achieve even more.

"We feel that when children come to Sequoia Village School, we're part of a team," said principal Mindy Savoia. "When a child feels safe, then the learning can begin. We look at who they are and how they perform. Our goal is to meet them where they are and then, hopefully, help them to fly and give them ownership over their education."

Approximately 300 students attend Sequoia Village for grades K-8. Another 100 students attend its high school. The school is a member of the Edkey® Inc. family of charter schools in Arizona, and has been a destination for families in the White Mountains and beyond for 20 years.

Early on, in elementary school, students are taught in small groups based on individual skills and aptitude, not grade.

"We differentiate learning based on their learning level where they come to us," Savoia said. "If a child is six months behind in a reading level, we would hope to have a number of reading ability levels within each classroom. We don't have a lot of full-class learning experiences. It's important for us to work in small groups."

Behind the scenes, teachers work with one another to track progress and weave themes into lesson planning.

"Our staff works really well as a team," said Beth Kulish, assistant principal. "We meet within our grade-level teams once a week. In these meetings we talk about upcoming absences, activities and also share ideas on what's working in the classroom."

By the time students reach high school, the opportunities for learning expand even further. Students who have achieved beyond expected levels for grade 12, for example, can concurrently enroll in college courses and earn credit. It's possible for a Sequoia Village student to graduate with both a high school and college diploma at the same time.

"We have a good percentage who are taking college-level classes," Savoia said. "We send them to Northland Pioneer College five miles down the road to take college classes. All of the sudden, they get on a fast track where students can graduate with an associate's degree."

In addition, Savoia said, students also can receive instruction in trades such as cosmetology, fire science, and automotive repair. All the opportunities give students the chance to not just think about their futures, but also actively prepare for them.

It's a big reason why students come from a 1,000-square-mile to attend the school.

"We have five buses," Savoia said. "We have a lot of students in rural, northern Arizona. Some students drive to get to their bus stop. Our goal is that a child should be on the bus for less than an hour if possible."

In addition, students also benefit from a grant that helps Sequoia Village School feed its students breakfast and lunch, free of charge.

"We really try to focus our resources on hiring an amazing staff," Savoia said. "We have before and after school programs, extra learning time, tutoring time, electives. And when your child travels so far to go to school, it is nice to come to school and have breakfast, and have a lunch. We know it matters."

For more information, visit SequoiaVillageSchool.org.

Members of the editorial and news staff of the USA TODAY Network were not involved in the creation of this content.

Photos: Photo: Getty Images