kitchen table math, the sequel: Marna on Morningside Academy

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Marna on Morningside Academy

Marna writes:
My daughter is learning disabled from a stroke at birth. This is her 3rd VERY SUCCESSFUL summer at Morningside Academy. When she started, she had completed 5th grade and was testing at 2nd Grade 0 month for writing. This year at the end of 7th grade, she tested 6th grade 6th month on most of her writing EXCEPT on the essay portion, which she scored 9TH grade!!! When she started Morningside academy, she couldn't construct a paragraph, let alone an essay. This year she is in their Study Skills class and loving it. I have taken many of their ideas about fluency and applied them to my math tutoring and math class business (I teach homeschooling math classes at co-ops) with much success.

I TOTALLY agree with Catherine. I wish our local schools would take a page from Morningside Academy. We are local;you would think they would, especially after the big flap in Seattle about the horrid math curriculum that parents did not like
It's the best.

No question.

1 comment:

palisadesk said...

Morningside's summer school for students is as impressive as the teacher academy that Catherine and I attended (at different times). They guarantee a measurable 1-year gain in achievement in the specific skill(s) targeted, and the student is enrolled in one class, which is a half-day, leaving the rest of the day free for summer activities. The classes I saw varied in size, from around 8 to 15 pupils, and ranged from primary through middle school. The children are placed based on assessment data; to be eligible for the learning guarantee (a tuition refund), the parent must commit to getting the student there on time every day and to review the daily report card at home. The daily report card was amazing -- it provided each student with detailed descriptive feedback on a number of different goals, several times per hour. I was impressed by the efficiency of the teachers, who incorporated this feedback and marking the report card (which was on a clipboard by each student's seat) seemingly effortlessly during every lesson. Along with the academic skills, Morningside emphasizes teaching kids to "act like a student" with detailed goals on having the correct materials, attending to instruction, responding appropriately (including expressing frustration or confusion in a constructive manner), completing seatwork in a timely manner, and much more. Of course we all know that paying attention to the behavior you want reinforces it; Morningside has this down to a science, and I could see its effect in the classroom I regularly was in.

One thing that Kent told me offhand in a conversation I found very intriguing. When they first began the summer school (which serves mostly kids who are not regular Morningside students), the session was 5 weeks long to produce that guaranteed 1-year growth. Then they found it could be done in 4 weeks. Now it is 3 weeks! Their teachers that I observed shared some characteristics: they were low-key and warm but very well organized, kept everything moving at a snappy pace, and constantly provided positive feedback in a 5:1 or higher ratio. You could see surly, shy or disengaged kids come alive over a period of a week or two and really blossom. The teacher would target specific things for each child with a keen eye for detail and consistent raising the bar while recognizing small steps to improvement. Regular CBM-type assessments were charted and the students shown how the semi-log graph indicated how well they were learning (see "learning pictures" on Regina Claypool-Frey's site or

It was (and is) very thought-provoking that the students could make a year's progress in a mere three weeks of half-day instruction, especially considering that these were (for the most part) struggling students -- that's the reason they were there in the first place. Some of Morningside's practices would be hard to transfer to general ed across the country, but many would not be. It's more a matter of will than of possibility.