An Academic Family is a cohort of students, teachers and support staff who remain, grow and learn together for at least three consecutive years.
As illustrated by the graphic above, an incoming group of kindergarten students will share the same group of 3-4 teachers who remain as a “family” until the end of their 2nd grade year.
Within our Academic Families, both the individual teacher and the “family” of teachers are able to fully understand students’ individual learning styles, capacity for growth, and how to overcome any academic challenges to better assist in their overall development. This approach contributes to the development of communicative and trusting relationships between faculty and parents and allows for more opportunities to tailor the curriculum to an individual student’s needs. A culture of accountability is created with all stakeholders (teachers, students, and parents), in part because of the sustained period of time spent growing together as a team.
Effects of retaining a teacher for several years have been studied in depth, including the following as outlined by David Burke in his article in Clearinghouse on Elementary and Early Childhood Education (Eric 1997):
- improved student achievement
- increased time-on-task with the assignment of high-interest reading and project activities
- more time for slower students to learn basic skills without the need for retention
- more opportunities for bonding between teachers and students and teachers and parents
- diminished apprehension about a new school year
- more time to establish positive peer relationships
- increased support for students who require school as a social safety net
- an enhanced sense of school and group as a “community”
- increased opportunities for shy students to develop self-confidence
Within an Academic Family, teachers continuously organize students in the most effective and efficient manner according to the content that is being taught in order to build upon students’ individual learning strengths and preferences.
Within our Academic Families, students are able to move fluidly, and learning will not be stagnant. In essence, our Academic Families insulate each cohort of students and provide them with a safe and non-threatening academic environment in which they will feel motivated and secure to take educational risks and academically achieve beyond what they thought possible.
Furthermore, by connecting themselves with the same group of students for at least three years at a time, children find common bonds with one another, and positive, trusting, and non-threatening relationships are built and maintained that allow our students to feel safe in our school and with each other.
In some instances, Academic Families may remain together for longer than three years. The picture above is of our current 3rd grade Academic Family. They began as kindergartners together in the 2013-2014 school year and are in their 4th year together. We decided to keep this family of teachers and kids together for another year because of the incredibly amazing academic gains that they have achieved. Their unbelievable academic progress is illustrated in the graphs below.