Our results from a nationally-normed standardized test that measures thinking capacity against same-aged peers shows remarkable improvements in individual student’s scores compared to their previous year’s results. Iron Academy students have gained an average of 8.8 percentile points each year. From day one, it has been our contention that Iron Academy would deliver a superb education that resulted in measurable results; that we would make our students smarter in relation to their peers in all other schools. In other words, if a new student comes in at the 70th percentile, this “average” student after only two years at Iron Academy could go from a would-be 580 to a projected 670 on SAT Math and from 550 to 630 on SAT Verbal; improving a total SAT score of 1130 to 1300. This improvement in SAT scores can lead to students being eligible to be accepted at more selective colleges. How are these gains possible? Iron Academy’s proprietary Targeted Learning methodology builds mastery by teaching according to how the brain works, organically through the four levels of thinking, as shown in our chart below.
The importance of a well-defined educational philosophy cannot be overestimated. Without one, a school is academically rudderless. With the wrong philosophy, education is inconsistent and potentially destructive. It is not enough to be Christian. Hiring, evaluating, and developing a superior staff cannot happen without consistent expectations rooted in an educational philosophy that guides and defines the educational culture of the institution. Building veritable scholars is highly unlikely without an understanding of how to best develop higher-order critical thinking skills and how to take advantage of God-designed differences in young men and women.
Targeted Learning provides Iron Academy with an exceptional educational philosophy that staff, students, and families can embrace, understand, and evaluate.
TARGETED LEARNING PHILOSOPHY
Targeted Learning addresses the four most important questions:
1. How does the brain learn?
- MRI technology has revealed what may seem obvious, albeit woefully unaddressed, to effective educators. Knowledge builds upon knowledge and intellectual skills build upon previously-developed intellectual skills. Knowledge is the first step of building true learning. Next comes the capacity to sort, classify, and organize newly gained knowledge into more useful information. Afterward, the brain is able to further elicit pattern recognition to include such faculties as recognizing complex similarities and differences, comparing/contrasting, identifying underlying assumptions, and identifying most/least essential arguments. Finally, the brain is ready to begin tackling the most complex thinking skills—synthesis, evaluation, and creation.
- We know of no more accurate methodology for optimizing learning and matching how God designed the brain to learn than Iron Academy’s Targeted Learning. If we did, we would adopt it.
2. What is the best way to teach the higher-order critical thinking skills so highly esteemed by universities, businesses, churches, and the global market economy?
- Each unit of study at Iron Academy begins with targeting the higher-order critical thinking skills to be developed within the context of the curriculum. The development of those skills is what informs the teacher’s development plan for the entire unit. Success is measured largely in terms of how successful the student is in achieving the identified critical thinking skills. If a unit of study does not specifically target those skills and there is no methodology in place to hit that target, the achievement of those skills is accidental at best. A superb education is never an accident.
- We know of no finer methodology for the development of higher-order critical thinking skills anywhere in the world. If we did, we would adopt it.
3. How should an academic environment address differences between young men and women?
- An academic environment must recognize the developmental differences between young men and women and the differences in learning preferences between men and women. Intellectual optimization cannot happen in a one-size-fits-all, unisex educational environment. An institution can achieve good outcomes, but not truly superb results. Young men learn better when instruction is highly engaging, often correlates with real-life application, is frequently interrupted with vigorous exercise, is delivered by teachers whose students know care for them deeply, occasionally incorporates competition and teamwork, and regularly engages in open inquiry.
4. What should academic content be?
- Academic content should promote a biblical worldview, transfer an appreciation of and facility with the treasures of Western cultural heritage, prepare a young man to thrive in university, and build a well-educated and capable citizen.