St. Johns Classical Academy is a not-for-profit, K-8, tuition-free charter school located in Fleming Island, Florida. We are partnered with the Barney Charter School Initiative of Hillsdale College and offer a high-quality, private school education at no cost to our students. An additional grade will be added per year until K-12 is reached.
The St. Johns Classical Academy Founding Board has established the following educational priorities for its students:
- Basic Cognitive Skills
- Reading, Writing, and Mathematics
- Core Subjects
- English Language and Literature, History, Geography, and Government; Physical and Biological Sciences; Mathematics.
- Other Classical Subjects
- Music; Art; Latin
- Auxiliary Subjects
- Foreign Languages, Physical Education, Performing Arts, other Social Sciences
- Extracurricular activities to support the mission of the school as defined by the administrative team.
Several very unique innovations characterize St. Johns Classical Academy:
- All students will study Latin roots to facilitate reading comprehension and vocabulary and bolster performance in all subjects.
- Upper-level students will study history mainly through primary source documents to foster analytical skills and essential insight into their culture and heritage.
- All students will be trained in study skills such as time management, organization, note-taking and research that are essential for building stamina for further academic pursuits.
- The intent to instill virtues of character in the lower grades through the classical virtues: courtesy, perseverance, self-government, service, honesty, and courage.
- Instruction in the classical virtues (prudence, justice, temperance, and fortitude) will be introduced in the upper grades as a continuance of the elementary character program and a necessary support of the classical curriculum.
A growing body of literature about the efficacy of school choice has emerged in recent years, providing empirical evidence in support of offering educational options to families. Hence, this opening statement in Florida Statute 1002.33 (Student and Parental Rights and Educational Choices) “Charter schools shall be part of the state’s program of public education”. Among the many benefits identified are increases in academic achievement, graduation rates, parental satisfaction, and student safety as well as placing needed competitive pressure on public schools and producing fiscal savings for states.
According to the 2012 Performance in Mathematics Literacy assessment by the (Program for International Student Assessment) the U.S. performance compared with other countries was disappointing. The results of the 2015 NAEP scores were disappointing as well. We believe that the classical model designed by the Barney Charter School Initiative (BCSI) of Hillsdale College will reverse that trend.
SJCA began as a K-8 charter school in year 2017-18 with a vision and plan to add grades 9-12 in successive years, eventually reaching a population of around 800 students. As a classical school, the curriculum will be rooted in the core subjects of history, literature, science, and mathematics—with complementary emphasis on art, music, and foreign languages. Our intent is to prepare students for the broader work of living well and being good citizens while also preparing them for careers and further education.
Our students will study the traditional liberal arts-language and literature, history and government, mathematics and the sciences, music and art in a coherent, orderly and content-rich program. The curriculum will run from the rudiments of basic literacy and math skills to the higher orders of thought and expression using proven, research-based methods. In the elementary and middle school, the curriculum will primarily be guided by the Core Knowledge Sequence.
This sequence was developed to provide comprehensive order to K-8 education, with the intention of training students in the arts, literature, science, history, math, and language that form their cultural and intellectual inheritance. The Core Knowledge Sequence was first published in 1988 and has been successfully employed and tested in hundreds of schools throughout the United States. In its ninth and current edition, the sequence aligns with Florida State Standards.
Combined with the Core Knowledge sequence, SJCA will use the Riggs Institute’s explicit phonics program for teaching literacy and the Singapore Math curriculum for arithmetic. The Riggs Institute’s The Writing & Spelling Road to Reading & Thinking is a multi-sensory, brain-based approach for teaching phonics, reading, and language arts. Singapore Math is a conceptual approach to mathematical skill building and problem solving. SJCA will use state required assessments and assessments provided by the Riggs Institute and Singapore Math curricula. In the high school, students will receive a classical liberal arts education that aligns with and exceeds Florida standards. Homework will be assigned daily and seniors will be required to compose and defend a Senior Thesis as a capstone to their academic experience at SJCA.
Several unique innovations will characterize SJCA. First, students will study Latin and Greek roots beginning in the upper elementary grades, with formal Latin beginning in 6th grade to facilitate reading comprehension and vocabulary and bolster performance in all subjects. Second, students will study history with regular attention to primary source documents, an emphasis intended to foster analytical skills and essential insight into our culture and heritage. Third, SJCA students will be trained in study skills such as time management, organization, note-taking, and research, which are essential for academic and future success. Fourth, students at all levels will be trained in the Socratic method to encourage intelligent, rational, and independent thinking.
We believe one becomes good only by practicing right behavior. Instruction in the classical virtues will be integrated throughout the curriculum and in all grade levels. At SJCA, high academic achievement, personal discipline, ethics, and personal responsibility will consistently be reinforced through the study of subjects in the classical tradition. Moreover, the school culture will require moral virtue, decorum, respect, discipline, and studiousness among both students and faculty.
The school has partnered with Hillsdale College’s Barney Charter School Initiative which assists in creating and implementing the school’s academic program, providing the curriculum design and teacher training as well as providing professional development for the Governing Board. This support along with guidance on the shaping of a vibrant and ennobling school culture will provide the foundation for this new school to promote an excellent liberal and civic education. Hillsdale’s BCSI has sponsored over sixteen schools around the United States. Currently there are two of these schools in Florida: Pineapple Cove Classical Academy in Palm Bay (www.pineapplecoveclassicalacademy.com) and Mason Classical Academy in Naples (www.masonclassicalacademy.org).
SJCA’s curriculum has proven to be successful for all students, including ELL students and those with special needs. Our emphasis on hiring well qualified teachers and staff will ensure that all of our students are academically challenged and supported.
Our Founding Board will form the initial Governing Board as we seek additional qualified members who also have a passion for quality Classical education. Founding board members are accomplished professionals living in Clay County and reflect strong backgrounds in Public Education, Leadership, Public Service, Business and Law. Board members serve on a strictly volunteer basis reflecting their commitment to Classical and Public Education. Along with the support of the Barney Charter School Initiative (BCSI) of Hillsdale College and its demonstrated record of success, we are confident that we can meet the certain challenges ahead and our students will graduate from SJCA as highly literate, well-educated and capable individuals, ready for the freedoms and responsibilities of adulthood.