A non-traditional micro-school for neurodiverse students with a personalized approach that drives growth in every student, despite coming in with massive gaps.
Opened in 2011 address the education deficiencies of a wide array of students especially those with ADHD, Dyslexia, and Autism, SOAR Academy customizes education for each and every child, the anti-thesis of the 19th century factory model of education that still is the only system available to most US students. With many of their students having huge academic gaps, as much as 2-3 years behind their peers, differentiation is the key for success. Cognitive differences are celebrated and incorporated into the customized curriculum map for each student, which helps teachers get right to the basics of what kids really need. Small groups achieve their work together, and on a shoe-string budget, SOAR has changed the trajectory of more than 500 students struggling with learning disabilities. Reading scores upon arrival are on average two grades below where the student should be. But after completing two years or more in SOAR’s program, 81 percent of students are reading at grade level.
This untypical school that uses an untypical curriculum with untypical teachers because no student is typical has a “flexible” approach to everything, from classroom seating arrangements to outdoor place-based learning.
We know how to get to the basics of what kids need, which is reading. Our goal is to get kids reading and reading well. It changes the trajectory of their lives.
Why they stand out
When President George W. Bush announced his plan to ensure no child is left behind in American education, too many dismissed it. Not Kenisha Skaggs. A certified teacher, Kenisha saw too many students being left behind, especially ones with ADHD or autism, or ones who simply learn differently. Kenisha started the school in her attic with just $700, and now a decade later, sets out to offer a curriculum that focuses on each student’s individual learning styles and paces, and to create a non-traditional school design for students who thrive in different learning environments. Kenisha works with what she has, rents spaces from churches and other schools, and even partners with homeschoolers to offer electives on leased properties in order to do what’s right for students.
How they STOP for education
SOAR guides its 75 percent minority-student body toward academic success by innovating around project-based learning, a custom curriculum, and the proper mental and emotional support.
Using the ‘one room schoolhouse’ approach, their overhead costs are significantly lower because there is no cost to rent large traditional school facilities with multiple classrooms. By housing students in one room and setting up learning stations students can learn in one large area together and teachers are also trained across multiple grade levels.
The proven model students do not require remediation as their remediation lessons are built into their grade level work. SOAR also started mobile tutoring meetups, using public libraries and parks.
Winning their award
The STOP Award and the relationships and recognition the Yass Prize has created will enable SOAR to build and grow throughout Georgia and into South Carolina and to advocate for more parents to have the option of using publicly-funded scholarship programs to pay for their child’s education.