As education reform brings sweeping changes at the state and national level, private school systems, such as the Seventh-day Adventists, have re-evaluated standards and curriculum to be sure expectations are kept current.
At Bowman Hills School, a local Seventh-day Adventist school, Principal Matt Korp said the Adventists have not changed too much of what is being taught.
Korp said the Adventist school system is the second-largest private school system in the world. The Catholic school system is the largest.
The local school is a part of the Georgia-Cumberland Conference of Seventh-day Adventists. The conference is a part of the Southern Union, which is a part of the North American Division of Seventh-day Adventists. The global office for the denomination oversees the divisions.
“We have some benefits from that — curriculum, standards-based teaching, staff training, in-service training. Because we are such a large group we do track a lot of the latest research,” Korp said.
The North American Division of Seven-day Adventist wrote the standards used at Bowman Hills.
“I would say in some ways they are similar to the public school system’s standards. Since we are a denominational group we do have some religious standards, Bible (and similar studies) that are incorporated in with our teaching,” Korp said. “The standards are just research-based guidelines that we incorporate into our teaching to ensure that the students are progressing.”
The worldwide Adventist School System has not adopted the Common Core standards.
“I think some of that we were already doing,” Korp said.
A new math curriculum was adopted a few years ago. The curriculum chosen was written in line with the Common Core State Standards.
Korp said the curriculum emphasizes, “understanding the process rather than just manipulating the numbers.
“It’s always good to be evaluating what you are doing, in any system. What’s working? What’s not working? What can we do better?” Korp said.
A team of teachers and administrators in the system came together to select the textbooks.
Textbooks are generally selected by the Southern Union or North American Division.
However, Korp said individual schools do have choices.
“We are given the flexibility to address the needs we have locally at our school,” Korp said.
Textbooks are a combination of those developed by the denomination and some selected from mainstream publishers.
A new science curriculum is being developed by the denomination.
While the curriculum is being updated to include “inquiry-based learning,” Korp said the curriculum would approach the subject from a creationist rather than evolutionary standpoint.
Incorporating technology into the classroom has also been an emphasis in recent years.
“Here at our school every one of our classrooms has an interactive smart board,” Korp said.
Nationally the North American Division of Seventh-day Adventists schools is being recognized, according to Korp. A documentary, “The Blueprint,” about the North American Division is set to air on PBS in 2014.
“We believe in teaching to the total child. Academics are important and we believe in preparing our kids to do well academically, whether it’s college or whatever track they decide to go into, but I think what makes our system unique is … we also have an interest in developing that child physically, spiritually, developing character (and) teaming up and working with the family,” Korp said.
Another way the school system measures student success is by having them complete Riverside Publishing’s Iowa Assessment each year.
Korp said this is a nationally recognized assessment.
“Our children generally perform very well on our standardized test — many, many points above the national average across the board,” Korp said.
Korp said he felt the small class size and holistic approach at Bowman Hills makes this possible.
Bowman Hills has 66 students enrolled in pre-K through eighth grade.