The school is featured in the NCDPI’s Promising Practices Clearinghouse, which focuses on “promoting practices that motivate, engage, and provide measurable results in North Carolina’s public school units.”
The feature shares Peak’s use of Personalized Learning, also called Differentiated Instruction, which refers to the use of a variety of instructional practices and school conditions to help students learn to their potential in each subject.
Students are often divided into tier groups, usually 3-5 in number based on their understanding of a topic, with each group focused on a different benchmark. Students struggling to grasp a concept may be led in more foundational work, like knowledge building and comprehension, while students who excel early can be led through techniques in analyzation and real-world applications.
“Small group instruction allows for greater time between teacher and students,” Pond said. “During small group time, students work on their learning plans to progress through the academic standards at their own pacing. Instruction at Peak is tiered, and tiered lessons are planned with target standards, rigor, and relevance at the forefront.”
Dan Hastings, a math curriculum specialist for National Heritage Academies, has seen Peak students prosper because of this technique.
“That's something that I feel like their team has really dug into is like, ‘what do you have kids working on and then what questions are you asking them?’” Hastings said. “Because I can give the whole class the same problem, but we all know 30 kids don't all have the same need and understanding.
“The most important thing about this is figuring out where that student is at, and you don't know where they are unless you ask questions. Peak is having a lot of growth and success because they’re asking those questions.”
Peak is a diverse school with students representing 39 countries and 25 languages, and they received an “A” grade and exceeded growth expectations post-pandemic.
“It's a mindset shift that’s focused on growth,” Pond said. “They’re not all going to be at the same place.”
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Peak Charter Academy is a tuition-free, public charter school in Apex, North Carolina, serving students in kindergarten through eighth grade. It is part of the National Heritage Academies network, which includes 99 tuition-free, public charter schools serving more than 65,000 students in kindergarten through 12th grade across nine states. For more information, visit nhaschools.com.
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