Academic Philosphy

Our curriculum in the Las Cruces Academy is designed around the needs and abilities of advanced and motivated students. These students need stimulation and presentation of materials that challenge them. At the Academy the students are in small classes (average size, 10), so their needs can be easily be assessed and then met. Each student gets an individualized schedule. We know that any one student’s academic giftedness varies widely by subject, from low to high. We choose a level in each class to match (and stretch) the student’s ability, not by age.

Our teachers are experts and we give them academic freedom to develop their own curriculum within their subject. Students thrive in small classes, at an average of 10 in a class. Our students, free from the current pressure of standardized testing, spend their time in creative study. They are diverse in national origins, creeds, and socioeconomic groups, and they learn about each others’ cultures.

Curriculum Overview

Our curriculum in the large resembles the International Baccalaureate. Students in K-8 learn three languages – English, Spanish, and Chinese, which span the world. We emphasize science and math, using Singapore math as an international standard which has seen great success. Our teachers hold advanced degrees and wide experience in their careers, and collectively have been to over 40 nations; accomplished career scientists teach the sciences and technology. We cover a full range of other subjects – social studies, physical education, art, music. In early K-8, students learn phonics, spelling, and grammar along with math, science, and languages (K). There are several specialty classes for older students, such as computer programming, Chinese history, and geography; these vary between academic years, with a new set of courses, World Culture, originated in the Fall 2021 academic year. We are one of the rare schools teaching cursive handwriting, from early K onward, along with touch-typing in grades 3-8.

Many special projects develop in classes. In our special middle-school curriculum, students designed, constructed, programmed (in Python), and made audio content for a periodic table of the chemical elements. Students also have the opportunity to participate in a number of academically enriching clubs – engineering, theater, and math.

It is also important that students learn to grow socially and emotionally. They cooperate in creating twice-yearly performances in song, dance, and plays at the school, as well as in public venues such as City Hall, the Confucius Institute, and the International Festival.

Early K – K

Students have their own classroom with all the teaching materials and equipment needed. Our teacher is Arielle Lane, educated in the Montessori method. Kindergarten students leave the class for Chinese lessons for 5 periods each week. PE is in our enclosed courtyard and tennis is on our professionally striped parking area.

Grades 1 & 2

Students also have their own classroom with very diverse teaching materials and equipment. Our teacher is Janet Hain, with 20 years’ experience in early childhood teaching. Other teachers come to the classroom to teach music appreciation. Students leave the classroom for classes in Chinese (one of two levels, according to their ability), Spanish, and science 1-2, as well as for PE and tennis.

Grades 3 – 5

Students have classes in four different rooms, by subject and by level. PE is in our enclosed courtyard; tennis is on the parking lot where regulation striping has been painted professionally.

Middle School

We made an innovative curriculum for this group, beginning in the 2015-16 academic year. Students have 15 subject classes each week, 10 of them specific to their group. Classes in each subject meet from 1 to 5 times weekly, totaling 52 periods of group learning. A huge group project is the light-up periodic table of the chemical elements.

All students have free access to our vast collection of books (3,000 on display). Older students access our networked computers for class research and composing content for the student newspaper club. Most students have several periods not assigned to a subject, using these periods for reading.

Beyond academic learning, our students learn leadership and service. Besides initiatives within classes, they participate in projects in the greater community by organizing events for charitable donations. Our outreach page tells the story.

Meeting Student Needs

Our academic curriculum is designed to meet the needs of advanced and motivated students, in a number of ways:

  • Students get classes that challenge and reward them by ability level, not age group. Our classes do have nominal age groups, such as English 3-5 or math 3-5, but students progress at their best pace. An advanced 2nd-grader is found in math 3-5. In a math 3-5 class, one finds students working in Singapore math books spanning 4 years.
  • Classes are small – 15 is a maximum, 10 is average
  • We set the range of subjects for effective learning. For example, there are classes in both reading and writing for English, with distinct pedagogies
  • Math, science, and languages are our core, meeting the demands of the modern world. Students learn three world languages, English, Spanish, and Mandarin Chinese. We fill out the curriculum fully.
  • The level of classes is advanced. Singapore math is a world-leading method, about 1-2 grade levels above nominal grade levels of ordinary math. Our kindergarteners learn phonics. Science and technology are taught by scientists who have had prolific careers in research and teaching.
  • Subjects are not siloed. Writing ability comes up in science; math comes up in science and technology, of course. Student projects blend several subjects.
  • Our teachers are proven experts in their subjects. No teacher has to span the curriculum, sacrificing mastery in some subjects. Our teachers hold advanced degrees or certifications, up through PhDs in the hard sciences.
  • Teachers develop their own curricula, which we review for progress. We do not impose a restrictive outline. Overall, our curriculum most closely resembles the International Baccalaureate. We plan to certify that we meet IB criteria.
    Only Singapore math has standard textbooks. The coverage of topics in all classes is reported in our weekly newsletter by every teacher.
  • Students spend their time learning, not taking standardized tests or preparing for them the way that public schools spend an estimated 28 days annually. Our teachers give their own tests. We will be implementing very selective standardized testing, using the results the proper way: guiding our curriculum, not imposing consequences for students or teachers. Our students are already doing well; upon moving to public schools, they typically get advanced or very advanced placement.
  • It may be of real interest to know how we schedule classes with so many individualized schedules, in which advancing a student above even our grade levels makes a “collision” between subjects on different grade levels. In short, we use a powerful mathematical technique called “simulated annealing” to test about 1 billion alternative schedules, each new year. Board member David Gutschick, as a PhD student in Material Science and Engineering at the Ohio State University, programmed the method.

Our Subjects

Outside of formal subjects, our students have other opportunities to grow academically. We have six after-school or lunch-time clubs: engineering, theater, yearbook, student newspaper, gardening, and American Sign Language. Students as young as in early kindergarten participate. Interesting projects also arise; students have come before the semester began to build PCs from scratch, learning about electronics, mechanical and electrical construction, operating systems, and user accounts.

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