Since its inception in 1983, the Governor French Academy has developed a curriculum with a focus on its mission: successful preparation for college. Our goal is for students to be successful competitors in a global economy. Our curriculum is centered on basic skills of reading, writing, mathematics, science, social sciences, and world languages at all grade levels. The foundation for success is an emphasis on traditional values of hard work and individual accomplishment.
Our guidepost for the continued development of our curriculum is the question: What do colleges really want? Our original curriculum was developed through consultation with several major American colleges and universities. Continued development of the Governor French Academy curriculum is accomplished through on-going observation and consultation with colleges and universities throughout the world and through follow-up with graduates as they apply their skills in their own post-secondary institutions. Our curriculum has come to look much like the nationally renowned Core Knowledge Curriculum, developed by E.D. Hirsch and the Core Knowledge Foundation. This curriculum sets rigorous standards for students in individual grade levels, beginning with Kindergarten.
Two major distinctions exist between the Common Core Curriculum and that of the Governor French Academy. First is in the definition of grade levels. The Governor French Academy does not distinguish its students by the formal titles of Kindergarten, First Grade, Second Grade, Freshman, Sophomore in lock-step formation. Rather, the Governor French Academy uses a Form system, much like British private schools. In Forms, students are grouped in multi-grade classrooms, according to their individual development. This is a much more realistic system of placement that recognizes that no two children develop at the same rate.
Second, the Governor French Academy uses a Priority List in the assignment of tasks for student learning. Not all items on the curriculum may be addressed for all students in any given year. In elementary school, our curriculum emphasizes reading, writing, and mathematics over science and social sciences. In secondary school, the emphasis shifts to mathematics and science over reading and social sciences. Time may be borrowed from second tier subjects to assure mastery of first tier subjects.
The Governor French Academy Curriculum Structure is included with this curriculum description. So too, as a representation of our curriculum, is a copy of the “Core Knowledge at a Glance” curriculum guide.
Through the years, the Governor French Academy has earned a reputation for academic excellence.
- The Academy’s average ACT score is consistently above both the national and state averages even though we require all of our students to take the test during high school.
- Our lower school students rank in the 98th percentile on the IOWA Test of Basic Skills.
- Our upper school math team has brought home the first place trophy all but three of these last 34 years, bringing home the second place trophy the other three.
- The Academy’s “WYSE guys”, win many trophies and ribbons at the regional, sectional, and state levels of the Worldwide Youth in Science and Engineering Academic Challenge.
- Governor French upper school students who advance to the IJAS Regional Science Fair each year bring back mainly gold and silver rankings. Many advance to the IJAS State Exposition. One or two Governor French students have been selected to participate in the INTEL ISEF competition each the past five years.
- Governor French Academy students began participating in the Illinois Junior Science and Humanities Symposium (IJSHS) in 2013. Each year since then a GFA student has advanced to the national JSHS.
Philosophy of Curriculum
Most American schools develop their curriculum and then they try to squeeze their students into it. Governor French Academy lets the colleges determine what our curriculum should be. When the colleges asked for students who were proficient in foreign languages, we provided programs to achieve that proficiency. If the colleges demanded that students know Peruvian basket-weaving, we would be teaching Peruvian basket-weaving.
Simply stated, our philosophy of curriculum is that we do and teach whatever is necessary for each of our students to get into college, to stay in college, and to be able to afford their college education.
Not every student gets everything that he or she needs to learn concerning an academic subject or skill just by sitting in class. The Academy involves students who need help through the means of counseling, tutoring, supervised study, re-teaching, the eliciting of parental cooperation, and anything that we can think of the help the student. Every person is different, that means that every person learns in a slightly different way. The Academy supports its students by diagnosing how they learn and matching its action (what other schools call interventions) to the diagnosis. And, if something does not work, we change.