The vision for Adams Traditional Academy began at a kitchen table with a group of parents who wanted to incorporate some of their own ideas into starting a charter school. The parents drew from their wide array of backgrounds and their belief in traditional education to set the foundation for the public charter school’s approach and philosophy.
These parents believed that students could accomplish the extraordinary if they mastered the basics. That means if the school integrated phonics, civics, history, cursive writing and Latin with art and science, it could spark their creativity.
Nearly a decade later, Adams Traditional, has grown into an A-rated K-8 school and one of the top public schools in the state.
“We want to make sure they have those basic skills because the research shows that if they have those basic skills, their creative juices will kick in,” said Lisa Fink, Board President for Choice Academies, Inc., which operates Adams Traditional.
Fink was one of eight parents who gathered around that kitchen table years ago to help form the blueprint for their future school. Adam Traditional Academy’s success is the fruit of some hard labor undertaken by the parents when they set out to open the school years ago.
The group researched specific programs to use as part of the school’s curriculum, adopting a math program from Singapore, a language arts program that emphasizes phonemic awareness and lab-based science lessons. Today, it’s not uncommon for students to work on an assignment combining their work from history, science or language arts with art, music or technology.
They also wanted to heavily emphasize civics and history, including the Constitution, founding fathers and past presidents of the United States. Adams Traditional kindergartners recently finished a “President’s Project,” studying each President and First Lady. The culmination of the project included well developed displays of the findings and even dressing up in presidential costumes.
With support from the federal Charter Schools Program grant, Adams Traditional founders were able to find and furnish their first facility, partnering with the Arizona Charter Schools Association and Charter School Development Corporation to search for properties.
After encountering some obstacles, the school found its current campus in North Phoenix’s Deer Valley area, which featured a brand-new building that sat vacant during the recession. The school eventually expanded the existing building and constructed another facility on the site.
“We went in phases because we didn’t want to build a huge facility and not have the revenue to be able to sustain it,”
The school now enrolls about 660 students and includes a preschool. Although it’s grown in both size and academics, Adams Traditional still maintains a culture that promotes active parent involvement.
“This is a community center with the parents and the other kids,” said Cindy Richards, whose seventh-grade son attends the school. “This is where his friends are, this is where a lot of my friends are.”
Richards, who has served on the school’s site council and parent teacher organization, sought out Adams Traditional because she was looking for an alternative to her son’s neighborhood school.
“They talked about hands-on, having a science lab, art and what they were learning in history, they would do a project in art involving that. They would tie the disciplines together,” she said. “They promoted good citizenship. It’s important to raise kids that are going to make a good, healthy contribution to the world.”
Richards knows the school is challenging her son to rise academically and that it will pay dividends in the future. “He knows he’s supposed to work hard and strive,” she said. “It just sets him up academically for a good path in life.”