College For All Children: IDEA Carver Academy and College Prep

IDEA Public Schools IDEA Carver Academy San Antonio Texas public open enrollment charter school accelerated reading zone libraryLast Friday, I toured IDEA Carver Academy and College Prep, an open enrollment, tuition-free, public charter school on San Antonio’s East Side. The campus started by David Robinson as The Carver Academy is now part of IDEA Public Schools, with Robinson’s continued involvement and leadership.

I got to watch their teaching methods up close, and I am convinced that bringing the IDEA academic model to San Antonio is a great thing for our families. This blog will feature a series of posts about IDEA’s curriculum and their plans for growth in San Antonio.

First, I want to tell you about this young man, a 6th grader at IDEA Carver. On Wednesday evening, he was assisting at an event for Choose to Succeed at the Southwest School of Art. After talking with him and his classmate, I was impressed with their poise and confidence. When I told him I was going on a tour at IDEA Carver on Friday, he said to be sure and stop by his 6th grade class, and gave details on how to locate him.

When I saw him on Friday, he spotted me right away, even though he was busy reading a book in the Accelerated Reading Zone. It looks like a library, but in addition to books there are computers that take students’ reading to the next level. During reading time, each student selects a book and sits down to read it. When they are finished, they take a comprehension test. Younger children might read several short books a day, whereas the 6th graders might read a book over several days. Principal Mackee Mason encourages students to carry a book around with them all the time in case they have a quiet moment to fit in a little more reading.

Teaching strategies like this are what help IDEA to live up to its motto of “College For All Children.” I visited campus on a Friday, and instead of school uniforms, everyone was wearing college T-shirts. My 6th-grade friend is wearing a burnt orange University of Texas T-shirt. It’s never too early to start: even the kindergarten classrooms have college pennants above the doorways.

There are so many more stories about IDEA Carver that I would like to share with you. Next up: Who’s that guy going around asking, “What are you reading?”

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  1. I am so extremely proud of my son, who is the 6th grader in the picture that is referred to above and all of his accomplishments. IDEA definitely gets the kids thinking college early. Absolutely love that about that school.

  2. “reading a book in the Accelerated Reading Zone. It looks like a library, but in addition to books there are computers that take students’ reading to the next level. During reading time, each student selects a book and sits down to read it. When they are finished, they take a comprehension test.”
    It may look like a library, but it is not. Students are restricted in what they read, cannot advance until they test, and it is manned by an aide… Not a librarian, not even a teacher. Accelerated Reader kills children’s intrinsic motivation to learn to read.
    If you really want to see what your child is learning, ask him what questions he asked at school. What he asks about will be a great indicator if he really doing any original thinking.

    • I appreciate your interest in my blog, and thank you for taking the time to comment.

      I can tell you what I observed while visiting the AR Zone at IDEA Carver, and what I have learned from my research.

      The AR Zone is staffed with certified co-teachers called AR Zone facilitators. They receive training during the summer and ongoing professional development during the school year. They are not babysitters: they work with each student to select books that are appropriate for their reading level; they monitor students’ progress on a weekly basis and adjust their reading according to the test data; they provide motivation and encouragement to help students develop a love for reading; and they praise the students for exceptional effort or discuss the areas that (based on the testing) need improvement.

      Maybe you are looking for a different kind of experience, but the AR Zone works. At the close of the last academic year, IDEA was able to report that 100 percent of kindergarten students (all of whom had the AR Zone as part of their daily program) were reading on or above grade level.

      I can’t help making comparisons between what I saw at IDEA Carver and my son’s public school experience. He is in kindergarten, and his class visits the school library once a week. The library is staffed with a full time certified librarian. He has learned how to select his own book and take it to the circulation desk to check it out. He gets to bring that book home and keep it for a week. On the plus side, now when we go to our neighborhood public library branch, he is eager to grab a book off the shelf and use the bar code reader to check it out. However, the books my son brings home from school are often dramatically below his reading level. It’s up to me to take him to the public library and get more appropriate books for him. Also, only once a week?

      The best way to learn more about IDEA Carver is to visit and see for yourself. I encourage you to contact Principal Mackee Mason and set up a tour. The phone number at IDEA Carver is (210) 223-8885.

  3. My son attends Idea Carver as well and he was below his grade level when he first came to Carver. The charter school he came from was teaching way below his grade level. He is now going to the 7th grade and I have seen a major improvement in his grades and his attitude. The Idea Carver Academy was the best school choice for me and my son.

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