Grant will let 3 schools track progress, use plan as
by Steve Pardo, The Detroit News, October 6, 2002
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Educators at the Charyl Stockwell Academy charter school
emphasize improving a student's character by teaching that
their choices have repercussions.
The school, along with two other charter schools in Michigan
with character strategies, will measure the achievement of
their students and eventually showcase their programs to the
rest of the nation.
A federal grant totaling $1.6 million over four years and
shared by the three schools will allow them to do this.
The other schools to share the grant awarded by the U.S.
Department of Education are the Livingston Technical Academy
in Howell and Grand Traverse Academy in Traverse City.
The grant is part of $25 million divided up among schools in
at least five states.
All three Michigan schools are part of the Smart Schools
Management Inc. organization created in 1996 by Brighton
resident Chuck Stockwell and Dr. Steven Ingersoll, a
The grant will allow the schools, working together, to measure
and track the learning and development of students.
Results of the four-year study could have national
implications. If the results show strong academic achievement
and low rates of disciplinary problems, the federal government
could move to implement the teaching methods in other schools
in the nation.
"It's an opportunity for us to take the ideas that we've been
working on for the last six years and teach it to the regular
school system," Stockwell said.
The grant comes from money created by the No Child Left Behind
The legislation, signed into law Jan. 8, 2001, by President
Bush, centers on four education reform principles: stronger
accountability for results, increased flexibility and local
control, expanded options for parents and an emphasis on
teaching methods that have been proven to work.
The schools will start by developing an educational model and
training their educators so the results of the program can be
measured according to federal standards.
While the grant is in effect, the schools will work with
Central Michigan University's department of education, which
will monitor the progress of students.
All three schools use an educational theory that stresses
individual responsibility and how it relates to the classroom
and relationships. In the Stockwell Academy, for example,
students don't move up in grades until they show a mastery in
the subjects. So the school has multiage classrooms with
students as young as 5 or as old as 9.
"The school system in the U.S. is designed so that
kindergarten is age 5, first grade is age 6 and so on," said
Diane Vance, principal of the Stockwell Academy.
"Yet we know children grow at different rates -- they grow
physically, emotionally and academically at different rates."
Following academic rules set by the state, students progress
at their own pace. A student is considered to have mastered a
lesson when he or she gets at least 80 percent of ot test
"All the kids in the school have the potential to move up at
the end of a 10-week term if they master the curriculum,"
All three schools focus on educational principles created by
Dr. William Glasser, who teaches that a person's most basic
needs are for love and understanding.
The philosophy stresses management without coercion and works
to show students that choices they male have consequences that
"What we're trying to do is teach the kind of values that
reduce what leads to violence and disruption," Stockwell said.
Kaye Mentley, the principal of Grand Traverse Academy, said
the integration of personal responsibility with lesson plans
is a goal of the educators.
"We want children to learn about work ethics when they're
working on economics," Mentley said. "We want them to learn
trustworthiness when learning about historical figures."
All three Michigan schools are operated by Smart Schools Inc.,
which runs after-school remediation centers in Brighton,
Northville, Grandville, Battle Creek and Midland. The schools
all boast high parental involvement and student-teacher ratios
of about 12-1.
For Highland Township resident Christine Murray, the Stockwell
Academy has been a perfect fit for her two daughters,
Alexandria, 10, and Victoria Slack, 7.
"We really like the close- knit, loving family atmosphere,"
Murray said. "We really like the philosophy to give kids
choices and hold them accountable for their choices.
"One of the biggest things for me is that the school has set
up a partnership between the parents and the teachers and
administrators. I didn't feel that or see that in other
The schools and the grant are drawing kudos from local
"Educators and parents across America are looking for ways to
make classrooms more learning focused," said U.S. Rep. Mike
"Congratulations to these academies as they come together to
pool resources and expertise in an effort to create classrooms
that teach children to practice good study habits and better
The schools will be aided by Larry Lezotte, a Michigan State
University researcher and other professionals.
"It is exciting to see an idea initiated here in Livingston
County that could touch the nation for generations to come,"