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June/July 2008

Ron Clark Academy
A World-Class Education
by Carrie Whitney

True to his roots, Ron Clark teaches class every day.

The Ron Clark Academy is a world-class school—literally. Located in South Atlanta, the Academy incorporates innovative teaching methods and a one-of-a-kind global education. Global awareness is gained through global travel, and during the four years students spend at the school, they visit six of the seven continents. Founded by teacher Ron Clark—who is known for his book The Essential 55: An Award-winning Educator’s Rules for Discovering the Successful Student in Every Child—the Ron Clark Academy welcomes young students going into grade five and says farewell to eighth graders who have become young adults prepared for much more than high school.

“We want these kids to change the world,” says Clark. “Teachers are told to teach to the test, but students don’t come out [of school] being learners or students with a thirst for knowledge.” At the Ron Clark Academy, students travel each year and are able to truly see and experience the world, which allows them to appreciate other cultures.

The school accepts incoming students of various academic levels, but the curriculum encourages students to reach their highest potential. Once enrolled at the school, students are academically challenged in traditional class subjects, as well as global studies. Additionally, the use of cutting-edge technology is ongoing, and every child is given a laptop for his or her own use.

The Ron Clark Academy offers an after-school program with courses almost as fascinating as world travel. Students might engage in Spanish, art, robotics, gardening, soccer or drama, just to name a few. What’s more, thanks to the Mendez Foundation and the Seeds of Nutrition program, all food served in the school is organic, and an organic on-site gardener teaches students how to tend crops and harvest produce.

Founded just two years ago, the Ron Clark Academy developed from Clark’s teaching experience in North Carolina and Harlem, for which he earned top teaching awards and a guest spot on Oprah. His successful teaching methods have been used around the world, and the Academy includes a Teacher Training Program. True to his roots, Clark still teaches at the Academy every day.

Students apply to the Ron Clark Academy only during their fourth-grade year for entrance into the fifth grade at the school. Staying with the school for all four years, of course, allows students to get the most from the experience. The students come from all areas of Atlanta; one student even commutes from Athens. Ninety-six percent of the students receive generous scholarships, and tuition is computed on a sliding scale. In exchange, parents are required to perform 40 hours of community service in the school each year.
  Ron Clark Academy students travel the world. Here, they visit the Louvre
  in Paris, France.

Like the curriculum, the campus of the Ron Clark Academy is unique. Although the entire campus is not yet complete, the main classroom is housed in an old factory. “We renovated it into one of the most beautiful schools you’ll ever see,” says Clark. The school is indeed beautiful and state-of-the-art, but most surprising is the electric blue tunnel slide, which is what students and teachers use to get from the second-floor classrooms to the first floor.

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