What makes us different?

. . . just about everything.

We consider ourselves to be a very different and unique school.  We are proud and boastful of these characteristics of our school. We have taken what we believe and what research validates in most cases to be the best and most effective ways to educate kids.

We do not comprise on doing what is best for children, all of the time. Below is a list of these different characteristics. You may find schools implementing one or two of these, but we challenge you to find a school anywhere in the U.S. where such a comprehensive approach is being taken.  We do what is in the best interest of kids every single minute of every single day.


How do we measure a child’s and our school’s success?

We believe all kids should enjoy coming to our school and any school. Learning and school should be fun! They should be motivated and inspired by their teachers every single minute of every single day. Realistically this is not going to be case all of the time, but this is certainly what we strive for. Our school’s success is determined by two driving questions that can only be answered by parents – 1) Is your child happy coming to school? and 2) Is your child progressing consistently academically and as measured by their MAP scores and other academic indicators we use? If you can answer “yes” to both of these, then we as a school feel that we are doing right by your child. That is what we are concerned about, focused on, and how we determine if our school is a success or not. Click here to learn more about MAP and our students’ academic achievement.

Cleaning and Responsibility

While we do have maintenance/custodial personnel, we do not have any maids at our school. SAE students are taught and expected to clean-up after themselves, leave a place better than they found it, and to take pride in how their school looks. Children clean, mop, wipe tables, sweep and maintain the cleanliness of our school on a daily basis.

Learning and Being Comfortable

We believe kids should be comfortable while they are in school and learning. At our school, a child’s willingness to learn and feeling comfortable while they are learning are more important to us than whether they are sitting properly in a chair that is probably uncomfortable to them anyway.  Click here to learn more about our flexible and comfortable environments.

Letting Teachers Teach

Our teachers are left to teach our kids based on their own expert knowledge of both the learning standards and their students. Administrators do not dictate to teachers the order or manner which they are to teach. Furthermore, teachers create their own schedules while working with their Academic Family colleagues to determine the length of each of their teaching rotations and how to organize their students in the most effective groupings.  These groupings and anything specific to the kids’ learning is determined by teachers, as it always should be.

Life Coaching

Our students and staff begin every school day in Life Coaching.  Life Coaching is a sacred portion of our day solely devoted to building long-term, meaningful and trusting relationships between students and their peers, and between students and their assigned teacher or staff member. We do not interrupt this portion of the day for any reason. No, not even testing. This is a sacred time.

As students get older, the number of students in each Life Coaching group is reduced and become gender specific for both the students and their Life Coach.  It is our intent for these Life Coaching groups to remain together until students leave or graduate from our school.

Social issues, personal matters, peer relationships, current events, and other topics are discussed during this time, however, “what happens in Life Coaching, stays in Life Coaching” to ensure the trust and confidence of all involved. Anything that jeopardizes or is detrimental to the emotional or physical safety of students is immediately addressed by or reported to appropriate personnel.

The long-term goal of Life Coaching is for each child to have created a relationship with at least one additional adult and in addition to a parent, who the child will feel comfortable and safe going to in a time of need or serious life challenge.

Mixed Martial Arts

We believe all kids are going to punch, hit, kick and wrestle at some point in time. We expect kids to behave like this. They are kids. In our school, however, they quickly learn that this is only permitted in a controlled and supervised environment – our Dojo. Beginning at age 4 and for varying frequencies each week according to their age, students learn and participate in Martial Arts. Click here to learn more about our Martial Arts program.

Music, Noise and Sound

Music, noise and sound are good in our opinion. When you visit our school, you will hear kids singing, talking, asking questions, and making noise. They are kids FOR GOSH SAKES! We want our kids to talk to each other, their teachers, and to learn how to exist in an environment where there are noises that may distract them. We are trying to prepare them for the real-world where (unless they are working in a library) they will need to be productive, efficient and successful despite these distractions.


Walk into any school (especially elementary schools) in America during lunch time and you will more than likely see some type of noise management system in place. Cones, lights, raised hands, and whistles are generally used to quiet the crowd of rowdy eaters.  Eventually when the adults reach their arbitrary noise limit, they will put the kids on SILENT LUNCH.  That’s right, now the kids are told to eat without saying a word to their classmates.

Who of us like to eat with other human beings and not say a word?! Why in the world would we ask and/or demand this of kids? At our school, we do not ask the kids to be silent while they eat. They need, just as adults do, to socialize while they eat. We value this part of the day for kids. This is an awesome way for the kids to learn how to balance and manage their socializing and eating needs.

Substitutes and Teacher Absences

We do not use substitute teachers and are proud of this! Our teacher:student ratios are so low that when a teacher is absent, the other Academic Family teachers are able to absorb these students seamlessly and without any disruption to the learning of the students or the teachers’ instruction. There is no “substitute” for our students’ regular teachers, and in our opinion and experience using substitute teachers is usually problematic.

We believe this strategy is successful in part because of our policy of not providing personal or sick days for our staff. As is this case in almost every school in America, teachers are given a certain number of personal and sick days per year. In most cases, they will use these days regardless if they need them because they lose them at the end of the year if they haven’t. Instead, at our school if a teacher gets sick when they are at school, they only have to be provided with an excuse from our school’s nurse then they are sent home and paid as usual. If they get sick when they are home, they only need to provide a note from a physician upon their return and their day(s) is/are excused and paid. We do not provide personal days as we believe our calendar is such that it provides the frequent mental health breaks that both teachers and students need throughout the year. Our teachers are continually refreshed.

To date, our teachers miss far fewer days per year than their colleagues across the country. We believe by using this strategy, we have created a positive culture of accountability across our staff. Teachers are less likely to be absent when they have a bond, relationship and feel accountable to the people who their absence will impact.

Recess, Sun, Play and Outside Time

We believe kids need to see the sun, get outside, run around and play with each other. The sun is the nourishment to the soul, and getting outside away from the classroom is necessary and is just as important as the learning that occurs in it. It reenergizes both the kids and adults alike. Always at the teachers’ discretion, kids may even go outside multiple times per day.

What do the kids learn?

We use the highest rated learning and teaching standards in the U.S. Teachers use these standards to guide what they teach throughout the year and incorporate these into their projects. Since the teachers are the content experts and know the kids’ academic needs, they determine what order and to what extent these standard are taught. Our goal is always to go deeper, rather than wider. Three times during the course of a school-year, kindergarten – 12th grade students take the MAP.  This assessment provides teachers with ongoing data on each student and helps them determine how to adjust their instruction accordingly.

Year-Round Calendar

No educator will ever deny that the absolute best thing academic, socially, and emotionally for kids is to keep them engaged in school consistently throughout the year.  Schools and educators are left spending at least the first month of every school year reengaging kids and re-teaching the concepts, processes, systems and expectations that they need to know, and probably did a few months earlier.

In our school, we don’t do this. We always make the best decisions for and what’s in the best interest of kids. Our race is a marathon journey to high school graduation, not a 10 month sprint till May. We give our kids frequent mental health breaks of 1-2 weeks throughout a calendar year because this is what’s best for kids. Click here to learn more about our Year-Round Calendar.