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High School Myths and Mysteries Solved!

March 29th, 2018

Not long ago we shared SLOCA Myths and Mysteries Solved – a blog post addressing questions we’ve heard about SLO Classical Academy. Today we bring you it’s companion post, which explains a few myths, mysteries, or misconceptions we’ve heard about our high school and the truth behind them.

Our current high school families shouldn’t be too mystified by the statements below, so this post is aimed at current SLOCA families with younger kids who are thinking about high school, as well as anyone who is considering SLOCA High School. We hope this clears up any misunderstanding that may be floating around – feel free to share this post with friends, family members, and anyone in the community who is curious.


Myth #1: SLOCA High School is not a complete high school program because it only meets three days a week.
Our university-model high school is designed to create the atmosphere of a collegiate, intellectual, supportive academic community. Class sizes are small (16 or fewer), allowing for strong student/faculty rapport and seminar-style/discussion-based learning. SLOCA High School students have a high degree of freedom but are expected to take responsibility for their education, both at school and at home. These values are reflected in and reinforced by our three-day-per-week school schedule (MWF). While we are formally in session three days each week, students have a normal workload to complete on their home days. For this reason, we ask students to factor in 1 hour of independent studying for every hour spent in the classroom per week. The average SLOCA high school student spends 15-20 hours per week on homework - realizing this includes Tuesday/Thursday home day hours.

Myth #2: SLOCA High School is a homeschooling program.
SLOCA High School is not homeschooling. Parents can be as involved or as hands-off as necessary. Even in cases where parents are involved in assisting students and helping them stay organized, all student work is evaluated by teachers, who provide the complete curriculum and do all grading and assessments. That said, some students may need some additional parental support in the 9th-grade year as they develop good study habits and organizational skills.

Myth #3: Classical education is not practical for the modern world.
An education that requires students to think independently, write confidently, and reason effectively is one of the best ways to promote success in any career field. This is especially true these days, when employers don’t want to train new workers but expect them to hit the ground running. Our graduates are strong writers and thinkers with training in reason, logic, and rhetoric. We have a strong focus on leadership. Most of all, our graduates love to learn. This desire to learn and grow, coupled with the skills mentioned above, gives us the confidence to know our students will be able to navigate the great unknown of their adult lives.

Myth #4: SLOCA is a religious school.
SLOCA is an independent, non-sectarian organization unaffiliated with any particular sect or creed. We promote and respect differences in our community and encourage each student to explore and grow within his or her family’s philosophical or religious tradition.  As a part of their education at SLOCA, different religions are explained in historical context relating to the time periods and literature that students are learning about.  At the upper levels, students engage with a variety of philosophies, ideas, beliefs, and texts, and are expected to be able to discuss these diverse movements with sensitivity and respect.

Myth #5: Small high schools don’t prepare students for the “real world.”
While some families favor larger high schools, which are said to expose students to “the real world,” we have seen that our environment, while small and nurturing, simulates adult life in meaningful ways. Students are expected to cooperate and be in community with a variety of students across ages and backgrounds. Perhaps most importantly, the environment at SLOCA is one of healthy but high expectations, respect, deep relationships, and professionalism, without the distractions common to large schools such as drugs, violence/fighting, preoccupation with technology, bullying, displays of sexuality, and alcohol.

Myth #6: Small class sizes don’t provide enough tangible benefits.  
At SLOCA, we have a 6 to 1 student to faculty ratio and our curriculum is designed with small classes in mind. Small class sizes have numerous benefits. Teachers develop close relationships with students, monitor student progress effectively, and provide excellent classroom management. This leads to a more peaceful, engaging, productive environment for students. Teachers can grade effectively and provide detailed, individualized feedback on intellectually stimulating projects and papers. Our teachers are versed in the Socratic Method, plan engaging lessons geared toward thought-provoking classroom discussion, and have close mentoring relationships with their students.

Myth #7: SLOCA High School does not prepare students for careers in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM).
SLOCA HS absolutely prepares our students for careers in STEM. Our math and science curriculum covers everything a standard math and science curriculum would cover, and more. We have a fully equipped science lab, and experienced, capable faculty with advanced degrees. We currently have alumni and prospective graduates heading into fields such as nursing, computer science, and geology.

Myth #8: SLOCA High School is not A-G certified.
As of 2016, we are pleased to offer a full suite of A-G Certified Courses. Please reference our course catalog for a full list of courses and information on how our graduation requirements and course offerings align with A-G.

Myth #9: SLOCA High School is at a disadvantage because it does not offer AP courses.
At SLOCA High School, we are interested in creating a rich academic experience characterized by deep discussion, personal engagement, and character formation. Sometimes that means we use exams to monitor progress. Other times it demands that we slow down, contemplate, and dig deep into our subjects and selves. This gets at a larger principle: we want students to enjoy and value their high school years.

AP is an exam system that funds the College Board, an organization that offers college admissions services and examinations. While AP courses have both benefits and drawbacks, we think AP courses are best suited to schools that need to provide a more challenging academic experience for a high-achieving/advanced segment of their populations. At SLOCA, all of our classes are both rich and challenging, with many courses taught at the university level. That said, high AP exam scores do allow some students to test out of college courses. For this reason, AP courses are designed with the purpose of preparing students for these exams. In addition to moving along at a clipping pace, AP courses involve regularly drilling for standardized tests, something necessary to prepare students to pass these exams. Given what we are excited about (promoting an intrinsic love of learning), the AP system – especially teaching to a test – just doesn’t fit with our philosophy. To spend high school training and drilling for exams with the sole purpose of securing college acceptances is to waste four perfectly good years of learning.

If you want a college professor’s view on AP tests, check out John Tierney's article in The Atlantic. It’s eye-opening, to say the least. You can also read this Down Home blog post about AP Classes.

Students interested in testing out of college courses can still take the AP exams without having taken a certified AP course. Exams SLOCA students may do well on (with proper study and preparation) include: AP Biology, Literature, English Language, and World History.

Myth #10: SLOCA High School is at a disadvantage because grades do not go above a 4.0 GPA, while other high schools offer higher averages.
We do not offer GPAs higher than a 4.0. Inflated GPAs are endemic in our modern academic system, and GPAs above a 4.0 are recalculated by universities anyway. When students apply, colleges are provided with an academic profile of each high school, which explains our grading policies, procedures, and course difficulty. All colleges make note of whether applicants were graded on four or five-point scale, so they can compare apples to apples. Our four-point grading scale has not been a disadvantage to our students.

Myth #11: SLOCA High School does not value athletics.    
Athletic training and competition is a core classical value (e.g., the Olympics!). We believe in educating whole people, body and mind. Sports fit into our mission of building character and fostering community and being people who are always learning. While we are a small school and cannot compete with high schools ten times our size, our teams are competitive in our league and, win or lose, our athletes get lots of playing time and have lots of fun. In 2014 we joined CIF (California Interscholastic Federation) and in the Fall of 2018 we will be full members of the Coast Valley League. This year, we offered six sports options – for girls: volleyball, basketball, and track.  For boys: cross-country, basketball, and volleyball.  Additionally, we have ultimate frisbee in the spring.

Myth #12: SLOCA High School does not offer electives.
We have a variety of elective classes that cycle year to year. Electives offered at SLOCA High School have included Art, Current Events, Life Skills, Inner and Outer Nature, Creative Writing, Film Studies, Data Science, Food, Woodshop, U.S. Government, Theatre, and Psychology.

Myth #13: SLOCA High School students won’t get into the colleges they want to go to.
SLOCA HS teachers are not just knowledgeable and passionate about their subjects, but are proactive in helping students succeed; 95% of our graduates have moved on to a college/university.  SLOCA students have been accepted to many colleges, including: Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, University of Dallas, Calvin College, Boston University, University of Richmond, Hillsdale College, Wheaton College, Westmont College, CSU Long Beach, Gonzaga University, Point Loma Nazarene, UC Santa Cruz, BIOLA Torrey Honors Program, University of South Dakota, University of Houston, Montana State University, Colorado State University, Seattle Pacific University, Bennington College, St. Olaf College and more. Click here for a list of all SLOCA High School College Acceptances.  

Myth #14: SLOCA High School students are not prepared for college:  
We have received consistent feedback from our graduates and their faculty that our students are amply prepared for the demands – both personal and academic – of college life. Our graduates have a firm grasp of time management, are self-motivated, are accustomed to seeking help and mentorship, and have ingrained habitual study habits and discipline. Several of our students have been chosen for overseas studies in Rome, Spain, London, Denmark, Oman, and Morocco. And they are earning honors, awards, and rewards – here are several examples:

Awards/Honors

  • Kennedy Center/American College Theatre Festival (KC/ACTF) Meritorious Achievement – Costume Designer for Stupid F**king Bird 
  • Kennedy Center/American College Theatre Festival (KC/ACTF) Meritorious Achievement – Make-Up Designer for Black Comedy
  • College of Liberal Arts' Senior Recognition Award for Service to the Community 
  • Honorarium for Students with Disabilities Scholarship
  • Trustee’s Scholarship award – the largest merit scholarship available for all four years (two of our students received this)
  • Art scholarship recipient
  • Art piece selected for display in a university art show
  • Multiple publications in a university literary journal, including the only staff editor’s poem to be published
  • People’s choice award in national undergraduate art contest (Imagining Others Initiative)
  • Greatest Class Contributor, Sophomore Class
  • Freshman approved for a 400 level science class
  • Student leader (chosen by faculty) in a great books honors program
  • President’s List 
  • Dean’s List

Social Clubs/Activities

  • Student Government Association Senator
  • Student Government Association Secretary
  • Student Government Association Vice President of Administration
  • President of Debate and Forensics
  • Vice-president of a university literary journal
  • Travel to Ottawa, Canada and Clearwater, Florida for a debate tournament
  • Travel to the Gulf Coast and New Orleans, Louisiana for a service trip
  • Train travel from Chicago to San Francisco for a selective literature class

Study Abroad

  • Critical Language Scholarship to study Arabic in Ibri, Oman (a prestigious honor as well)
  • One of four students invited to Denmark for a special tour with prestigious Danish artists (also a presigious honor)
  • Summer Study Abroad to Morocco
  • Study Abroad program in London, England
  • Great Books classes in Cambridge, England and Rome, Italy
  • Pilgrimage to Andalusia, Spain; focusing on interfaith relationships and the convivencia period of Spanish history

Jobs

  • Resident's Assistant and Head Resident's Assistant 
  • Writing tutor for a university writing center
  • Graphic designer for university writing center and English department, as well as some clubs on campus
  • Stewardship Assistant for the University Department of Donor Relations 
  • Campus security guard
  • Student assistant to the Dean’s office 

Grad Schools Admission

  • Purdue University
  • San Diego State University

Are you harboring any additional myths, mysteries, or questions about SLOCA? Please let us know by leaving a comment below, or you can email admissions@sloclassical.orgor call our Admissions office at (805) 548-8700 to speak with someone.