Our Approach

The wider the range of possibilities we offer children, the more intense their motivations and the richer their experiences.Loris Malaguzzi

Approach and Curriculum:

An Acton student tests a prototype during a physics project.

Acton is fundamentally different from traditional schools. No bells ring, and there are no lectures. You will never find us “teaching to the test,” because we replace external motivators like high-stakes test scores and grades with an intrinsic growth mindset.  We don’t apply the traditional methods of education involving, lectures, homework, or standardized testing.

Instead, Acton’s approach is supported by the latest in cognitive science and logic.  We use hands-on projects to master the tools and skills needed to solve problems in the real world. We include daily Socratic discussions about history and governance to hone critical thinking skills and the ability to powerfully think, write, and speak. We use adaptive technology programs for self-paced core skills like reading, writing, and math, which means that students stay in their challenge zone.  Students who quickly master the material are free to race ahead, while those that need more time have it in a supportive environment. They showcase their mastery by meeting their goals, earning badges, assembling portfolios and taking part in public exhibitions of their work.

Why “mastery learning”:

In most schools, a certain amount of class time is devoted to a particular topic or concept, and teaching occurs as though all students are starting from the same point. All homework and assignments are equal for students, and when the set amount time is over, the entire class moves on, despite widely varying degrees of mastery and comprehension over the material. In those classrooms, standardization misses learners at both ends of the range of learning and comprehension.

Acton’s approach of mastery learning allows students proceed at varying rates toward the same level of mastery. Quite simply, students don’t move on until they know the material. Our approach allows the students at Acton to work on their level of comprehension at their own pace which is impossible in traditional classrooms. For more on mastery learning, watch “Sal Khan on Digital and Physical Learning” or read “5 Myths about Mastery-Based Learning.”