“We grew once word got out that we work to meet kids’ needs by offering differentiated instruction,” said Cason. “We assess them when they come in the door, and we’re teaching children at the level they come to us on. Our biggest advocates are the people who are already here: They tell friends, and every day we have people who want their children to attend.”
The new 30,000-square-foot school, outfitted with connected classrooms and STEM labs, also distinguishes itself by offering Spanish instruction at every grade level, focusing on reading and mathematics, and capping class sizes at 25. In addition, every classroom is equipped with laptops, and 300 third, fourth and fifth graders are issued personal computers they can take home.
DuBois recently partnered with PowerMyLearning, a nonprofit that offers digital programs designed to involve parents in the technology-based learning and to offer more options for teachers by adding educational programs to the laptops. In addition, the program provides workshops for instructors and parents to familiarize them with the online resources and to offer strategies for helping their children with homework and activities.
“We are a technology school; that’s what differentiates us,” said Cason. “And we’ve found that taking the laptops home helps close the digital divide as parents sit down with their children and work on them together.”
Payne points out that the future workforce will demand technology skills. “But we also know that while our students live in a technology world, that may be a foreign language to many parents. This is the best way to get technology into these students’ lives.”
Individual laptops also allow teachers to work with students at various levels, Payne added. “A student may be in third grade but working on math skills at a first- or second-grade level. Teachers can make additional assignments and set up a play list, as it were, for students to master content at their own pace.”
Even kindergartners are introduced to learning technology, said Cason. “They’ve becoming laptop savvy, beyond just using an iPad that’s more for play. Introducing them to laptops gets them started early on mastering typing and motor skills that they’ll need later on.”
Students are selected for the academy through a lottery that takes place on the second Monday in March. Information sessions about the school will be scheduled for February.
Information about DuBois Integity Academy: duboisintegrityacademy.org.