2nd Annual Battle of the Badges

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Our Second Annual Battle of the Badges will take place on Saturday, October 21st, from 11am-2pm. A fun, community event with food trucks, touch-a-truck with police and fire vehicles, and then a rematch basketball game (at 1:00pm) between the Ellettsville Police and Fire Departments. Can the police retain their champion status? 

We will be selling concessions and t-shirts during the basketball game in our historic gymnasium. Will you support team Fire Department (red) or team Police Department (Blue)? 20% of the proceeds will go to a charity chosen by the departments.

Our goal with this event is to lead our students, and all students in the community, by example by recognizing and honoring the men and women among us that put their lives on the line daily to keep our community safe and by giving back to those who give so much to all of us.

Come out with the family for some food and fun at this free event!

A trip to the zoo

The first grade class takes a seat to watch the dolphin show. 

The first grade class takes a seat to watch the dolphin show. 

Last Thursday, the First Grade class took a trip to the Indianapolis Zoo. The class had been studying animal classification and habitats. The Seven Oaks curriculum offers a defined course of study in science beginning in kindergarten. Where possible, our teachers seek to bring students' book learning to life through direct interaction with nature.  

Seven Oaks Receives "A" Rating

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Seven Oaks earned an "A" rating last year from the state of Indiana. This grade is based on students' performance on the Indiana Statewide Testing for Educational Progress Plus (ISTEP+).

In a school's first year, the school's grade is based entirely on student growth. Of the students who came to Seven Oaks who had taken the ISTEP+ previously, all showed growth. The greatest progress was seen among the bottom quarter of students. This was especially the case in English/Language Arts. 

Seven Oaks is pleased with these results. As a school, we do not focus on test preparation. Time is precious, and we prefer to focus on giving students a solid foundation in the liberal arts and sciences. The growth seen in the ISTEP+ scores is gratifying because it came without making the ISTEP+ our focus. Our students' growth shows what happens when you give the gift of a knowledge-rich curriculum, high expectations, good teaching, and an orderly environment where intellectual and moral virtue are celebrated.

Music Theatre Club a Smash Hit

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Miss Holland's Music Theatre Club got underway last week. Student interest was through the roof. Enrollment was capped at 45 students in grades 3-9, and the cap was met. Over the course of the year, students will prepare and perform a full production.  

Other clubs starting this year include Art Club, Narrative Writing, Service Club, Junior Classical League, and Robotics, as well as Cross Country and Volleyball. The school is also looking for sponsors for Chess Club and Wrestling. 

Seven Oaks Athletics Programs Reach Milestones

Seven Oaks started several athletics programs last year with the hopes that they would grow into proper teams. Two of these clubs are taking their play to the next level. 

A committed group of students, led by coach Michael Summers, started running cross-country last Spring and continued through the summer. The Middle School Cross Country Team is now looking forward to its second meet this coming Monday against Bedford Middle School and a local home school team. The race starts at 4:00pm at Parkview Elementary. 

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Under the leadership of Coach Rebecca Chesser, the Middle School Girls Volleyball team has also taken off. After starting last spring and meeting through the summer, the girls have started dividing up for competitive scrimmages every Friday night. This past Friday, they stayed after school for dinner before showcasing their progress for the Seven Oaks community. The girls are already looking forward to competition with other schools next year. 

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Seven Oaks will continue developing its athletics offerings and looks forward to what her student athletes will achieve. 

High school students start reading buddies program

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Seven Oaks is excited to have all grades under one roof. Miss Holland has seized the opportunity by working with the 9th graders to start a reading buddies program. Last Friday, each student in the 9th grade was paired with a student in the 4th grade. The plan is for the older students to spend a portion of their end-of-day study hall each Friday listening to their buddy read, helping with harder words as needed, and offering encouragement along the way.  

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Violinist Visits Seven Oaks

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On Monday, students in Kindergarten through Fourth Grade had the privilege of a visit from a professional violinist. Dan Galat plays for the Columbus Philharmonic and the Terre Haute Symphony Orchestra and he is moving to Chicago to play for the Chicago Civic Orchestra. For the students, he played selections of Brahms, Mozart, and Tchaikovsky, along with some fiddle music. The students had the chance to ask questions and learn more about how the violin works and about the life of a professional musician. For some of the students, this was their first experience with live instrumental music. We are looking forward to all of the new musical experiences the students will continue to share this year!

Help Us Build a Playground!

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Time is running out on our playground fundraiser. If the school raises $40k by August 31, the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority will match the contribution. One of the distinctives of the Seven Oaks model is the time we give the younger students to pause from their studies and play outside. A large play structure would be a blessing not only to our students but also to the local community. 

You can donate here online or write a check made out to Seven Oaks Classical School with "Project Play" in the memo line and drop it off in the school office or mail to 200 East Association Street, Ellettsville, IN 47429.  

Students take a break to watch the eclipse

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Seven Oaks students are serious about their studies. But part of the purpose of those studies is to help them understand the world around them. Often learning begins with curiosity. That curiosity was piqued by the first total eclipse viewable across the U.S. since 1918. Students in grades 3-9 donned certified glasses so that they could watch the eclipse first-hand. Younger students watched a livestream from Nasa in their classrooms.  

Back to school!

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After optional reading and math camps, new student orientations, and a convocation and ice cream social, school officially started again on Wednesday, August 16. It was great to see our students, new and returning, marching into the gym for their first morning assembly, decked out in their school uniforms. Returning students set the tone as students settled down to business as usual. We're off to a great start! 

If you know of someone who would profit from a small school with an orderly environment and high expectations, let them know that we still have a few seats available in most grades. 

2nd Grade Class Publishes a Book

Seven Oaks is pleased to announce the newest group of published authors: Mrs. Walcott’s second grade class! Beginning with a collection of spelling words, students began creating a basic storyline.  They then implemented all the techniques of the writing process, including organizing, drafting, editing, and polishing in order to prepare stories for publication. The students experienced each step an author goes through and learned how difficult it is to create the books they enjoy reading. Students also illustrated their stories with the help of our art teacher, Miss Clarey. Finally, the class sent the final draft and illustrations to Student Treasures Publishing for printing. Seven Oaks is proud of their hard work and congratulates them on becoming published authors. 

Hog Roast Tickets Now On Sale

Mark your calendars! The 4th Annual Hog Roast will be held at the school on Saturday, June 10th, from 12-4pm. Come on out and celebrate the start of summer. We will have delicious food, fun activities, and a silent auction/raffle. Buy your tickets early and save! Pre-sale prices are good until June 9. Those are $8/adult and $4/child. Children 5 and under eat free. (At the door prices will be $10/adult and $5/child.)

5th Grader at Seven Oaks Wins Writing Competition

Matthew Nasir, a 5th grade student at Seven Oaks Classical School, has won the essay contest held by Ellettsville Parks & Recreation Board. The subject of the essay was “The True Meaning of Memorial Day.” Students in grades 1-12 were eligible to participate, with one overall winner from grades 1-6 and one from grades 7-12. Matthew will be reading his essay at the town's Memorial Day celebration at 11:00am on May 29, 2017, at Memorial Park behind the Ellettsville Library.

Two New Clubs

Off To a Running Start...

Seven Oaks has just started a running club for boys and girls in grades 2-8. In the fall, middle schoolers in the club will compete with other schools. This past Saturday, 15 students turned out on Saturday morning to run. It's not too late to join! Students are grouped by grade (grades 2-3, 4-5, 6-8). Practices will be on Saturday mornings through the end of the school year, then Wednesday and Saturday mornings through the summer. If you have any questions or would like to join or help out, please contact Michael Summers. 

A Story To Tell... 

Our upper school history teacher, Dr. Smith, is starting narrative non-fiction writing group on Mondays after school. Dr. Smith is the author of the award-winning book, The War Comes to Plum Street (Indiana University Press, 2005). Students will enjoy personalized attention as they practice the art of writing.  

Seven Oaks Students Distinguish Themselves on National Latin Exam

Seven Oaks Classical School students distinguished themselves on the National Latin Exam. In March, over 149,000 students in all 50 states and 16 foreign countries took the National Latin Exam. At Seven Oaks, 32 students from grades 6-8 sat for the Introduction to Latin Exam. Of these, six earned a Certificate of Achievement, meaning they missed 10 or fewer questions. Among these, three earned a Certificate of Outstanding Achievement and a ribbon for missing 5 or less. Seven Oaks is proud of the gains our students have made in a few short months. We are excited to think what the future holds. Special thanks go to Ms. Hoit, our many-talented Latin teacher. 

Spring Food Drive

In March, The Ladies of Seven Oaks Classical School Service Club studied Juliette Gordon Low, founder of Girl Scouts. In Low’s honor, the ladies hosted a food drive at the school to benefit Pantry 279, a food pantry conceived, built, stocked, and run by the cadet Girl Scouts of Troop 69279. 

The ladies gathered, sorted, and tallied donations each day. On Thursday, April 6, they delivered over 1,700 food and personal hygiene items so generously donated by the students of Seven Oaks Classical School. 

Many valuable lessons were learned through this service. The Ladies were inspired by the dedicated work of a small troop. They learned about real needs within the community and ways to help those in need. They overcame challenges associated with organizing a community service. Most importantly, they experienced a sense of community. 

If you desire to become more involved with Pantry 279, located at Trinity Lutheran Church in Ellettsville, you can learn more here. Summertime is the perfect time to get involved. The Pantry needs donations and volunteers to help throughout the summer months.

Throughout its inaugural year, Seven Oaks Classical School has sought to be a blessing to the community. Last fall, our families donated 747 pairs of socks to the Shalom Community Center in Bloomington. This winter, the Seven Oaks community gave 72 jars of baby food, 898 individual diapers, 50 packages of wipes, a highchair, and a pack and play the New Beginnings Pregnancy Center in Spencer.

Fathers & Daughters, Mothers & Sons

Father-Daughter Dance

Our gym was transformed to the theme of "Fly Me to the Moon" at our first Father-Daughter Dance on March 3rd. Dads and daughters all dressed their best -- dancing, socializing, smiling, and singing -- a night to make memories. Giggling girls requesting songs, dads giving dance lessons, photos being snapped, lots of fun being had. Let's not forget about the chocolate fountain!

Mother-Son Nerf Battle

A BLAST was had by all at the first Mother v. Son Nerf Blaster Battle on March 4th hosted by the PTCA! Mothers and sons got to dodge darts, find foxholes, and avoid crepe paper ‘lasers’ as they laughed and enjoyed a full morning of fun with one another. While not on the battlefield, participants could practice their aim in the gym or rest (for the moms, mostly!) and grab a snack. The jury may still be out on which side had the most hits; but, judging by the smiles on all the faces, we can be sure everyone won!

Seven Oaks Teachers in the News

Dear Seven Oaks Families & Friends, 

I’m writing because Seven Oaks once again finds itself in the news. This latest coverage raises questions about the qualifications of our teachers, who collectively have a hundred years of teaching experience. Our critics expect you to be scandalized to learn that we have teachers who don’t have a license in hand. Well, as I’ve been telling families from day one, it’s true! We do have uncertified teachers. We reject the notion that the only capable teachers are licensed ones. Some licensed teachers are good and some are bad. Some unlicensed teachers are good and others are bad. Our goal has always been to hire the best available teacher for each available position, whether certified or not, within the guidelines laid out in law. Thankfully, Indiana has given charter schools some leeway in hiring. 

Indiana intended for charter schools to be innovative. The hope is that they would offer parents a meaningful choice in education. To that end, they granted charters some flexibility in hiring and in the choice of curriculum. This flexibility allows us to offer a rigorous education in the liberal arts and sciences, with instruction in the principles of moral character and civic virtue. It also means that we are able to hire teachers like Ms. Hoit, who is finishing her Ph.D. in classics. Or Ms. Holland, who spent the last three years running a children’s music theater in downtown Chicago. Or Mrs. James, who spent time teaching in France and then worked for an education consulting firm before coming to Seven Oaks. Or Mr. Barnett, who knows eight languages and competed in the math olympics in high school and who turned down a funded Ph.D. program to teach fifth grade. 

The standard rule for Indiana charter schools is that 90% of their full-time teachers must be licensed or in the process of obtaining a license. As it happens, at the beginning of the year, 11 of our 16 full-time teachers did not have a license in hand. But, as the law requires, all are progressing toward a more permanent form of licensure. Here’s where there’s some potential for confusion. Unlicensed teachers start with something the state rather misleadingly calls an “emergency permit.” As long as a charter school teacher is progressing toward licensure, this permit is renewed annually for up to three years. In the case of our teachers, several of our teachers began the year already on the cusp of licensure. One needed to renew her Indiana license after having taught for a number of years in a private school; another was waiting for her license to transfer from another state. Several more are eligible for what is called an “advanced degree permit.” Dr. Smith (Ph.D., American History, Notre Dame), Ms. Hoit (Ph.D. [ABD], Classics, Bryn Mawr), and Mr. Moschel (MA, Humanities, St. Johns), are eligible to sit for content and pedagogy exams and receive a so-called “advanced degree permit.” In fact, Dr. Smith has completed his tests, and Ms. Hoit lacks just one.  

So why the news coverage? If you’ve hired good teachers and you’re following the law, what’s the big deal? Yesterday, I went before the State Board of Education to ask for a waiver from the 90% rule. The law invites schools to request a waiver, and so we did. We asked that up to 50% of our teachers be allowed to remain uncertified. 

And why did we do that? If all our teachers are in the process of obtaining licensure, why the request? The reason lies in a lack of clarity about something called a “charter license.” According to the law, someone is eligible for a charter license if they have a bachelor's degree from an accredited school with a GPA of 3.0 or higher and they take licensure exams for the areas they wish to teach. When we hired our teachers, we made the understandable mistake of thinking that "charter licenses" are licenses. (After all, charter licensure is listed as an option on the Alternative Licensure page of the Department of Education website.) We carefully read the statute; and in the end we were persuaded that charter licenses would satisfy the 90% licensure requirement. Shortly before school started, however, we discovered that the Indiana Department of Education reads the law differently. A charter license, we are told, is not a form of licensure. 

The DOE’s interpretation particularly affects our elementary and fine arts teachers. Their only other option is an alternative licensure program called a "transition to teach" (T2T) program. Problem solved, right? Unfortunately, T2T programs are typically 24 credit hours at roughly $500 per credit. 

A broader perspective is helpful here. Teacher certification is a novelty of the last hundred years. Even now, the states with the strongest growth in classical charter schools are the states that allow the greatest freedom in hiring. In Texas, Arkansas, and Colorado, charter school teachers aren’t required to be licensed at all. Other places allow a larger percentage to remain uncertified. In New Hampshire, for instance, 50% of charter school teachers have to be certified or have three years of experience. Some states require alternative certification programs, but at far less time and expense than Indiana. In Ohio, for instance, charter school teachers must complete an alternative certification program that is a mix of online modules and classroom experience, but it only costs $200 and is completed within six months.

Doubtless many in this state who have been through a T2T program have found the sacrifice worthwhile. In the case of a classical charter school, however, the usefulness of these programs is somewhat diminished.  The reason lies in the fact that these programs were not designed with classical charter schools in mind. Every certification program I’m aware of promotes a philosophy of education, methodology, and curriculum at odds with that of a classical school. 

And so I went to the State Board of Education on a fact-finding mission. The board of Seven Oaks wanted to know whether our unlicensed teachers would need to undertake the time and expense of an alternative certification program, or whether the State Board of Education would be open to a waiver—given our innovative philosophy of education, curriculum, and pedagogy. The State Board rejected our request for a waiver. And so now we know. Alternative certification is our only option for some of our unlicensed teachers. In the eyes of the educational gatekeepers, this step is necessary to make sure that teachers like Mrs. Helton, Mrs. James, and Ms. Holland, are fit to teach.  

Okay, so you asked and were denied. You’re moving on. You’re following the law. You have decent teachers. What’s the fuss? Ah well, here I can only speculate. There seems to be an orthodoxy in the educational community that every teacher must pass through a state-approved program that teaches the teacher to teach. The presumption seems to be that it is easier to learn content on the job than methodology. 

Where does that leave our teachers? Of course, the DOE’s interpretation of the law and the SBOE’s denial of the waiver fall hardest on our unlicensed teachers. They will have to divert time and money to a program that will add little to their ability to teach. But they have time. Again, charter school teachers have three years from the time they start teaching to obtain a permanent form of licensure. The typical alternative certification program takes no more than two years, even while teaching full-time. 

Very best,
Stephen Shipp, Ph.D.
Headmaster
Seven Oaks Classical School 

Press Release: Enrollment Update

The number of students currently planning to attend Seven Oaks Classical School this fall is up by an estimated 55%, according to new enrollment figures just released by school officials. 

Seven Oaks Classical School, which is located at 200 E. Association Street in Ellettsville, will be starting its second year of operation when the academic year gets underway this fall. Over 90 new students in grades K-9 have applied to attend the tuition-free charter school, said Dr. Stephen Shipp, the school’s headmaster. This enrollment number will bring the student population to an estimated 255, he said. 

“We have been able to offer seats to 92 new student applicants for the 2017-2018 school year,” Shipp said. “We will continue to accept applications on a first-come, first-serve basis until each grade level at the school is full. 

“It has been exciting to see the surge of support for Seven Oaks as the community learns that there is a public school option that offers a cutting-edgeliberal arts education with an emphasis on good character and civic virtue,” Shipp said. “We began the school year with 161 students in grades K-8. Over the course of the year, our enrollment has grown to 165. Even now, we continue to accept transfer students in various grades.” 

Shipp noted the Seven Oaks plans to add instruction in ninth grade this fall. “We’ll continue to add a grade each year until we are a full K-12 program,” Shipp said. 

“Our   current   families have seen the Seven Oaks difference firsthand,”  Shipp said. “Nearly all of our current students are planning to return to our school and we will have an influx of new students in the lower grades,” Shipp said. Kindergarten enrollment at the school is expected to top 55 students this fall and there will likely be up to 43 first-graders when classes begin. “The continued growth of students in these lower grades ensures the long-term stability of the school,” Shipp said.  

Seven Oaks Classical School is open to students from any economic background in South Central Indiana. “We already have students from Monroe, Morgan, Owen, Clay, and Greene Counties attending our classes daily,” Shipp noted. “Because we are a charter school, it doesn’t matter what district students live in. 

“I would encourage any parents who want their children to enjoy a content-rich, time-tested curriculum to contact me at 812-935-5003,” Shipp added. “Beginning in kindergarten, our students begin mastering a defined body of knowledge in reading and math, science and history, art and music.”

Seven Oaks’ innovative curriculum, which is based on a model by Hillsdale College’s Barney Charter School Initiative in Hillsdale, Michigan, uses the Latin language as a foundation for instruction in the liberal arts and sciences. “We don’t teach to the test. State standards are the floor, not the ceiling, of our curriculum. Our approach to education has been successful for hundreds of years and is now being rediscovered,” Shipp said, “I’ve seen it benefit students across the socio-economic spectrum. It is crucial in developing analytical techniques, critical thinking, logical reasoning and rhetorical skills in students. Instruction in Latin begins in the primary school grades and will extend through high school.”