I had the pleasure of hanging out with the Ridgeview Classical Schools governing board and administration this weekend. What a great group of people! I should first note that their stamina for long meetings was greater than mine and I arrived home exhausted! These people are all like the Energizer bunny!
In addition to being able to participate in several very thoughtful, interesting discussions I walked away with a greater respect for this school, which has been ranked 15th best in the nation by the U.S. News and World Report. By its fourth year of operation, Ridgeview Classical Schools (RCS) was the top-scoring high school in Colorado, according to the School Accountability Report. Clearly the school established quickly what it takes to have a successful high school educational program. Unlike almost every school in the state, Ridgeview doesn't base its curriculum on model content standards. Instead it focuses on a classical-liberal approach to education that takes students beyond the content standards.
Much of the weekend's discussion was about defining "the Ridgeview way." Several schools have asked RCS to explain their educational program and express a desire to replicate it. A few of RCS's unique characteristics are:
1. Teachers are hired for their capabilities instead of their credentials.
2. The school values moving all students forward, regardless of their ability level.
3. RCS classrooms may be observed at any time, simply by checking in at the front office.
4. RCS resists grade inflation and social promotion.
5. The school culture is close-knit, based on character pillars and the school maintains a closed campus.
6. The school uses original texts whenever possible.
But if I had to identify a single characteristic of the school, the governing board, administrators and staff, I'd say it's that they all hold "high expectations." The board demonstrated their own personal high expectations by the efficient and thoughtful manner they worked together this weekend. I've always found the Principal, Florian Hild, and the Asst. Principal, Dom Carpine, to be extremely interesting to visit with. I learned this weekend that Florian used to run the steeplechase and still regularly runs incredible distances.
Several participants this weekend expressed their commitment to holding a high standard for all students, even if the students periodically fail to meet that expectation. There was never an indication that the student wouldn't be accepted for not meeting high expectations, instead different people expounded on various ways they could help students reach better decisions in the future.
RCS recently esgtablished a foundation to deal with the numerous contacts they've received to find out what makes the school successful and replicate it in other parts of the country. George Sanker, the recent principal at Imagine Classical at Firestone, will be leading the foundation's work, along with RCS board member Rob Pait and Principal Florian Hild.