The Reach for Excellence curriculum focuses on developing critical thinking and problem-solving skills in several core areas: language arts, mathematics, and social studies. Reach exposes students to concepts, ideas, and models of thinking that prepare them for challenging college-preparatory programs and high schools. The program encourages interdisciplinary projects and activities.
Reach for Excellence teachers use placement tests to evaluate the level of each student’s mathematical ability. The goal of the Reach for Excellence mathematics program is to help its students to become proficient first in algebra, then in geometry.
As it does in all courses, Reach for Excellence encourages its teachers to create interdisciplinary projects in math classes. In one recent math class, students created personal brochures that included a poem about the importance of mathematics, as well as word problems that related directly to their lives. In other math classes, students combined math and science skills to build solar ovens and newspaper towers that were strong enough to support a baseball.
The Reach for Excellence language arts program is designed to build three essential skills: reading comprehension, vocabulary, and writing skills. The language arts program includes a required book club whose reading list is similar to those used in college prep high schools.
The Reach for Excellence social studies program, like language arts, is designed to improve students’ skills in reading comprehension, vocabulary, and writing skills, while focusing on world and current events. The Reach for Excellence social studies program also integrates current events into classroom work.
Reach for Excellence uses various assessment tools to measure student progress. Among those tools is the SSAT (Secondary School Admissions Test), the admission exam required by most independent schools. Teachers devote one hour of each Saturday session to preparing students for the SSAT.
The SSAT measures Reach for Excellence scholars against peers who are competing for college prep high schools. It also identifies areas in which students may need additional help. Reach for Excellence scholars take the SSAT at least once during the eighth grade and Enrollment Management Association generously provides vouchers to cover the cost of these exams.
To deepen the students’ intellectual curiosity beyond traditional academic subjects, Reach for Excellence offers electives in the areas of visual arts, performing arts, etiquette, physical fitness, and business. During summer sessions, off-campus field experiences complement and enhance core and elective coursework.
Prior Reach for Excellence field trips have included:
- Visits to other independent schools
- Visits to colleges and universities
- The Warner Robins Museum of Aviation
- Dahlonega Indian Mounds
- FDR’s Little White House
- CNN world headquarters
- The Wren’s Nest
- Bremen Museum
- Zoo Atlanta’s Overnight Program
During Saturday sessions there are no off-campus field trips. However, speakers come to the program to complement in-class learning. Examples of guest speakers include Mary Ann Rodman, who wrote Yankee Girl, and Sheila P. Moses, author of Legend of Buddy Bush.
Reach for Excellence scholars also receive ongoing instruction in how to study, perform research, and organize their work.