Research indicates students who fail to reach grade level in reading by the 3rd grade are more likely to drop out of school before earning a high school diploma. That data motivates Élan Academy Head of School Melanie Askew as she works to build an elementary school where students get “a classical education school for the 21st century.”
Élan Academy, a college preparatory charter school in Algiers, opened in August. Now 50 Orleans Parish students in kindergarten through 2nd grade attend the Park Boulevard school from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
From Askew’s perspective, a school can be dedicated to teaching Williams Shakespeare and the Greek poet Homer as well as leadership development and computer coding.
Her work at Élan focuses on “merging both of those worlds,” bringing classical education and teaching it from the 21st Century perspective.
Élan plans to grow one grade level a year until it adds an 8th grade. In addition to regular coursework in math and English, students learn computer literacy and coding Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Latin is taught Tuesday and Thursday.
On a recent Thursday morning, 2nd-grader Soleil Young was taking a literacy lesson in teacher Jacquelin Miller’s class. Askew explained how at least 60 percent of English words trace their origins to Latin. The class learned about the Greek god Apollo and Rome’s Coliseum the day before.
“One of our students said ‘I was speaking to my mom in Latin yesterday and she didn’t know what I was saying,’ but she was so excited,” Askew said. “She felt like ‘I know something that my mom doesn’t know,’ but she was teaching it to her mom.”
Askew said Élan’s long-term goal is to do “generational work.” The school holds “university nights” where it teaches parents the material being taught to their kids and, ultimately, the tools to aid their children with homework, she said. Askew said the school plans to offer life skills training to families as well, including nights that…