Socrates and the Search for Meaning at His Academy

Socrates and the Search for Meaning at His Academy

Janis Dellinger-Holton (Socrates Academy, USA) and Michael Green (University of North Carolina at Charlotte, USA)
Copyright: © 2015 |Pages: 16
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-6367-1.ch020
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The chapter describes a partnership between the University of North Carolina – Charlotte and Socrates Academy, a public charter school in suburban Charlotte, North Carolina. The historical framework of this collaborative work is summarized, and the implementation of a unique math program, the Comprehensively Applied Manipulative Mathematics Program (CAMMP), is detailed in its most important elements. From inception through its current implementation, the program has inspired both teachers and their students to become mathematical thinkers. Beginning with primary grades students, this developmental math program encouraged deep thinking and inquiry-based understanding of mathematical concepts. The history of the partnership's development and its most salient characteristics are summarized. Perspectives from teachers and parents are incorporated, and data-based evidence of the partnership's success is described.
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The mission statement of Socrates Academy developed and written by the founders in the original charter application, focused on developing proficiency in reading, writing, and mathematics both in English and Greek languages through inquiry-oriented instruction embodied in the Socratic Method.

The use of questions, as employed by Socrates, is to develop a latent idea, as in the mind of a pupil, or to elicit admissions, as from an opponent, tending to establish proposition. The Socratic Method is an integral part of instruction at Socrates Academy. This method of thought and analysis has been in use since the time of the ancient Greeks and has been recognized as not only an effective teaching tool, but also an engaging way for students to take an active role in their own education. (Socrates Foundation, 2011)

The original framework of the curriculum for the Academy was designed by curriculum specialists at the University of North Carolina Charlotte in the spring and summer of 2005. The founders of the Academy also knew that partnerships with parents, the university, and community leaders would provide an intellectual foundation for the expectations and attainment of higher achievement for students and staff. In order to design the most appropriate curriculum and obtain the resources to provide support for professional development, math education professors, a language immersion professor, the principal, and selected members of the Board of Directors began the work of the university-school partnership a year before the school opened its doors to the first class of students. When opened, the school would serve kindergarten and first grade students, thereafter adding one grade level each subsequent year.

University faculty later described this relationship as entirely novel in their experience. While all have participated in many professional development activities for teachers, none had ever been involved in designing a school curriculum from the ground up. Such a situation could not be more ideal.

The core subjects were addressed through an integrated thematic approach. The curriculum objectives were based on the mathematics objectives of the North Carolina Standard Course of Study, and more recently the adoption of the Common Core Standards for K-12 mathematics specifically adapted by the North Carolina State Board of Education (National Governors Association Center for Best Practices, 2010). As a public charter school, some flexibility was allowed by law for the curriculum design in order to adapt to the school’s mission and individual needs of the students.

A process for improving meaningful instruction was developed by the school’s Curriculum and Instruction Committee. Each spring all participants and stakeholders met to evaluate the school’s performance using the Plus/Delta Process of Facilitative Leadership (Schwarz, Davidson, Carson, & McKinney, 2011) to answer three essential questions.

  • Is the curriculum relevant and rigorous?

  • Is effective teaching of the curriculum being accomplished? And

  • Are students learning at the highest levels?

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