BY RACHAEL BRADLEY, ADMINISTRATOR, THALES ACADEMY FRANKLIN
Last spring, in the middle of the pandemic, I packed up my family and moved from North Carolina to Tennessee to help open a new school in Williamson County–Thales Academy Franklin. Thales Academy is a college preparatory network of K-12 independent schools based in North Carolina, and Thales Academy Franklin is Thales Academy’s tenth campus, and its first campus in Tennessee. Thales Academy works hard to provide the highest quality education possible for our students. At the K-5 level, we achieve this by using Direct Instruction (DI), a fast- paced, highly structured teaching methodology originally developed in the 1960s by an individual named Siegfried Engelmann. Direct Instruction is designed to maximize student learning for every child and now boasts over fifty years of positive research.
Direct Instruction’s design allows children to be engaged, on task, and truly enjoying the learning process, and it is a model that produces impressive educational progress and happy, fulfilled students. When I first began teaching over fifteen years ago, I often became frustrated when I observed students struggling due to a lack of structured, consistent, proven curriculum. I was quickly sold after I witnessed the mastery and confidence students achieved with Direct Instruction. Listening to a room full of kindergartners reading within a handful of months, solidified my belief in and passion for Direct Instruction, and I continue to be impressed seeing math concepts internalized and expanded upon with actual understanding. Students learn logical facts that serve as real, foundational building blocks, broadening their knowledge over time rather than simply cramming and soon forgetting.
I also appreciate that Direct Instruction’s structure allows Thales Academy teachers to meet students where they are in the learning process. Students are skill-grouped according to their baseline ability level, but we continually assess progress and shift students to other groups as needed. Students may accelerate at any time, if it is so indicated by classroom progress and performance, which allows for students who excel in Math or Reading to be placed appropriately, thereby also reducing boredom and frustration in the classroom. Similarly, students who may need extra help are placed in a group of others at the same skill level, ensuring every student gets exactly the type of support they need. Direct Instruction is data-driven and mastery-based, which ensures no students are “falling through the cracks,” and regardless of level, the pace is engaging, every lesson includes review of old material, and new concepts are introduced in a way that creates logical bridges and ensures retention. I especially love the sense of success Direct Instruction creates for students. DI’s consistency and structure build students’ self-esteem and inner confidence in their ability to learn as well as a joy for learning. These positive intangibles serve as critical foundations in students’ educational journeys, paving the way for them to be self-assured, critical thinkers who are independent, self-motivated, and set up for long-term success.
At Thales Academy, we work to create lifelong learners. Our mission is to provide the highest quality education at the most affordable price to as many students as we are able to serve. Direct Instruction and its efficiency and effectiveness serve as a bedrock in the foundation of success for our students. Ancient philosopher, Plutarch, noted: “The correct analogy for the mind is not a vessel that needs filling, but wood that needs igniting.” We are proud to use Direct Instruction at Thales Academy because we have found that its ability to create lasting sparks is unrivaled, and when done well, it is a truly transformational tool in education. For more information on Thales Academy visit: thalesacademy.org.