Take the joy of having fun, mix in a rigorous curriculum, and you have the recipe for success at Elm City College Prep in New Haven.
It’s called "joyful rigor," a phrase used by teachers at the elementary charter school to describe how their students learn. Instead of traditional classroom instruction, it means a lot of hands-on, high-energy activity.
“I just got to do the moon walk and that really got my energy up,” explained third-grader Joshua Moody.
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School Dean Zack Vose said interest in this Achievement First school is high, with five students on the waiting list for every one student that enters.
The demand to get in is only matched by the demands on teachers and students to perform. The class day is two hours longer than at traditional schools, which allows for deeper engagement and more exploration of the material.
“What we've seen over the years is that you have to love what you're doing if you're going to meet those expectations,” Vose said.
Students like fourth-grader Kristian Morales embrace the challenge, taking Saturday classes for extra enrichment.
“On the weekends, I don't really like to be home. I like to be at school, because of the way the teachers teach at Elm City,” he said.
As for proof that their system works, school officials say that students at Elm City typically end up at Amistad for high school, an institution where 100 percent of graduating seniors are accepted to college.
“I'm bringing it, they're bringing it," said Tina Rendon, a fourth-grade literature teacher. "You make it exciting, they're going to have that dynamic classroom, building off of each other, their skills, and their thinking. It's amazing.”
If you want your child to make the grade at Elm City College Prep, the deadline to enroll for the 2014-15 school year is Friday, March 14.