CSAS and CSLA Among Only Five Schools Nationally to Earn Paideia Accreditation
Posted on 05/21/2020
Photos: Students at CSLA actively learning in the classroom.The National Paideia Center as Paideia Schools for Critical Thinking announced this week that the Chattanooga School for the Arts and Sciences (CSAS) and the Chattanooga School for the Liberal Arts (CSLA) had earned accreditation by the national organization. During the 2019-2020 school year, only five schools in the country are on track to win accreditation, and Hamilton County Schools can lay claim to two of those five, as well as two out of only three accredited schools in Tennessee. CSAS and CSLA are two of the longest-running Paideia schools in the country, and the schools achieved this recognition during the very first year that accreditation became available.

“This achievement is a credit to the teachers and administrators at CSAS and CSLA who sustain a Paideia educational program, featuring rigorous thinking and communication skills,” said Terry Lee Roberts, Ph.D., director, National Paideia Center. “In addition, it speaks volumes about the parents and students who have also dedicated themselves to maintaining the unique mission of these two schools. We are pleased to announce this difficult attainment, especially in the midst of truly challenging times for public schools across the nation and the globe, and we look forward to celebrating this new status when we are once again back inside these two wonderful school buildings, bringing the Paideia Program to life!”

CSAS is approaching the school’s 35th Anniversary and has been Paideia from the inception. “Working with the National Paideia Center is always a rigorous process, yet a pleasure,” said Jim Boles, principal, Chattanooga School for the Arts and Sciences Upper School. “The accreditation process had us reflect on our beliefs and challenged us to question all that we do. It was refreshing to return to our roots and centered us as we work on the next 35 years. We want to be a model for the world, and we're proud to be one of the first to receive this accreditation.”

“The Paideia philosophy is such a gift as a touchstone for all we do for kids in the elementary school,” added Kelly Coffelt, principal, Chattanooga School for the Arts and Sciences Lower School. “Our goal is to challenge young learners to use their natural curiosity about the world, broaden their experiences, and deepen their thinking. When parents and teachers partner in that goal, like at CSAS, it makes school a very special place.”

The National Paideia Center (NPC) is one of the oldest, continually active school reform organizations in the country. Founded in 1988 at the University of North Carolina, it was created to provide equity in education through intellectual and creative rigor for all students. The program is based on the 12 Paideia Principles that include the belief that all children can learn; schooling should prepare all Americans to earn a decent livelihood, be a good citizen of the nation and the world, and make a good life for oneself. Teaching should lead to the acquisition of organized knowledge, the formation of habits of skill in the use of language and mathematics, and the growth of the mind’s understanding of basic ideas and issues.

“The daily work that I witness at CSLA makes me proud that our school is recognized as a Paideia School for Critical Thinking,” said Krystal Scarbrough, principal, Chattanooga School for the Liberal Arts. “Our teachers expertly create opportunities for students that produce great results, and the excitement around learning is obvious here.”

Paideia also focuses on three Columns of Paideia Instruction that include didactic teaching of subject matter, coaching that produces the skills of learning, and Socratic questioning in seminar discussion should be part of instruction. The three columns are best practiced in active synergy, such that each of the three modes of teaching reinforces the other two. The fully realized Paideia Classroom features units of study integrated across subject areas. In teaching these units, the Paideia teacher uses all three columns where appropriate, and most importantly, uses them in a complementary manner.

“It is significant that Hamilton County Schools has individual schools once again among the select in the state and the country to be recognized for excellence,” said Dr. Bryan Johnson, superintendent, Hamilton County Schools. “Our mission in our five-year strategic plan Future Ready 2023 is to provide educational experiences that prepare children for success in school and success in life after graduation. CSAS and CSLA are demonstrating at the national level the opportunities they provide to help students be future-ready.”

The National Paideia Center plans to visit the schools in the fall to celebrate the accomplishment with the staff, students, parents, and school communities.

Photos: Students at CSLA actively learning in the classroom.