Ben Franklin Academy offers a unique educational program designed to provide a college-preparatory diploma to students who seek the individualized instruction that is rarely provided in traditional high school programs. We specialize in providing high quality mastery instruction to students who want to learn, graduate, and attend a challenging college or university. Students are attracted to BFA because of its highly flexible schedule that enables them to accelerate their high school program or, in some cases, to accommodate illnesses, professions, artistic careers, or other factors that may interfere with regular school attendance from time to time. BFA currently admits students from 14-18, grades 9-12.
At Ben Franklin Academy, students follow an individually planned academic program that provides “catch-up” or accelerated instruction as needed and that fulfills all the requirements of the Georgia Board of Regents’ College Preparatory Curriculum. Students work one-on-one and in small groups with their instructors and complete assignments at their own pace. Students work on a subject until they can demonstrate mastery of it, which is indicated by a grade of 90% or better.
Academic instruction is provided in either the Morning or Afternoon Program of 3 ½ hours each. (We also offer two longer day options for students who wish to stay 4 ½ or more hours.) The school focuses primarily on the accomplishment of academic work, although we have added many extra-curricular activities, clubs, and sports in response to student interest. Ours is a Work-Study Program, and students are expected to work from 10 to 20 hours per week as part of their graduation requirements. Younger students, students with health issues, and students with transportation issues often choose an on campus activity, sport, or service project to satisfy this requirement.
Because of the individualized nature of our instructional program, enrollment is limited to 120-150 over the Morning and Afternoon Programs. We do not ever plan to become a large school, for we want to know each student personally.
Our determination to tailor our instruction to the needs of the individual learner is based on a long, well-established tradition of educators, philosophers, and researchers, such as Quintilian, Thorndike, Tolstoy, Dewey, Kilpatrick, Huey, Montessori and others. More recently, our approach to teaching draws from the experience and research of A. S. Neill, John Holt, Jeanne Chall, Jerome Bruner, Benjamin Bloom, Nancy and Ted Sizer, Ulric Neisser, Howard Gardner, Roland Barth, Elliot Galloway, Paul Bianchi, James Miller, and Robert Detweiler.
More specifically, our instructional approach depends on the cognitively and developmentally-based learning theory generally known as "Brunerian" (after the work of Jerome Bruner), although many researchers have contributed to its development. At the heart of Brunerian theory is the concept that any subject can be taught to almost anyone in an intellectually honest way if one can find the appropriate method of teaching it. Between the learner and the subject matter are teachers who facilitate learning by finding and pursuing the appropriate teaching approach for that individual.
The influence of Jerome Bruner on our work and teaching is everywhere. A modest, self-effacing man, Bruner is a giant in the world of psychology, autobiography, and education. His influence is strongest in his insistence on the connectedness of instruction and ideas. We want our students to learn the facts and ideas of a subject, but we also want them to think about how these facts and ideas fit with what they already know. We want them to see and make connections.
Recognition of individual differences is the hallmark of a Ben Franklin education. The focus of the school involves respect for individuals and consideration for each other and our small community. Part of that respect lies in acknowledging and accepting that each individual brings differing strengths and weaknesses to the school. The student who hates math may be an exceptional poet or guitarist; the English-phobic child may be a computer whiz. We use the insight of Howard Gardner’s “Multiple Intelligences” in order to understand and teach our students more effectively.
by: Betsey Russell