When Jane Armbruster joined Providence Spring Elementary as principal last year, she and her staff strengthened the commitment to the school's Paideia program and targeted a new certification from the National Paideia Center (NPC). The hard work paid off – Providence Spring has won the first NPC certification in the U.S., an achievement the school celebrated with two assemblies Jan. 27.
Providence Spring's commitment to Paideia goes back to 2002, when Diane Adams (now retired) was principal.
"Paideia takes a lot of process, but it's just the best place for children to learn," Adams said. "Paideia students learn to show the world their own voice. They make a difference in the world."
"They are the groundbreakers," said Dr. Terry Roberts, NPC director. "They are devoted to Paideia and have been for years."
Paideia comes from the Greek word for the holistic education of a child and requires learners to practice critical thinking, communication skills and attitudes necessary to be successful world citizens. The cornerstone is the Socratic seminar, which Dr. Roberts said is designed to teach divergent thinking and nurture the individual to take a place in society. According to NPC, consistent seminar practice results in improved achievement scores in reading and writing, especially among traditionally underserved populations; improved student motivation; and a more respectful school culture with fewer behavior problems.
CMS Talent Development specialist Benna Haas said Paideia levels the playing field for students, making education equitable for all learners. Some CMS schools have been exposed to the program in past years, and Quail Hollow and Community House middle schools are currently working toward certification. This year, Haas said, TD teachers and academic facilitators at the secondary level are doing ground-level work and modeling Paideia at schools where principals have expressed interest.
Providence Spring's instructional program is built on four pillars: Paideia philosophy, 21st-century learning, outdoor learning and character development. Armbruster said the school community is thrilled that their commitment and focus on Paideia learning earned this distinction.
"This journey represents respect, compassion, love, inclusivity and diversity," said Armbruster at the school celebration. "And in the age of social media, we know the importance of human connections."
Schools in Columbia, S.C., and Chattanooga and Nashville, Tenn., are expected to obtain certification in the next six months. Some of those schools are demographically different from Providence Spring, which has a low poverty level. At least one of the schools with a high at-risk population is thriving with the Paideia program, Dr. Roberts said.
"Paideia is not just for the affluent," he said. "It works for everybody."