Thales Academy, a non-profit company that owns and operates eight private schools in North Carolina, is coming to Nashville.
Founder and CEO Bob Luddy, the entrepreneur who also owns CaptiveAire, the nation’s leading provider of commercial kitchen ventilation equipment, and Chief Academic Officer Dr. Tim Hall will be among the Thales Academy team members who will be addressing the public at an informational meeting that will be held in Nashville on Friday, July 19 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at West End Community Church, located at 235 White Bridge Pike in Nashville. The event is free and open to the public. You can confirm your attendance here.
Nashville joins Richmond, Virginia as locations Thales Academy has identified for expansion in the 2020-2021 academic year. In each community, Thales Academy is working with local groups who want to give students and parents in their area the opportunity to be part of a high quality, low cost private education based on traditional Judeo-Christian values. The Thales model emphasizes Direct Instruction rather than Common Core to learn the basics of reading, writing, and arithmetic for K-5 students, and a classical curriculum for 6-12 students.
Direct Instruction is a teaching method that was invented in the 1960s by Siegfried “Zig” Engelmann, who “thought there should be a more scientific way of teaching reading, math, phonics, reading comprehension, and spelling to students,” Luddy told The Tennessee Star in an interview.
“It’s absolutely by far one of the best methodologies of teaching, but it involves a high level of emotional and academic effort on the part of the teacher. It’s highly organized, and it’s scripted,” Luddy said.
Direct Instruction involves grouping students by ability level, as opposed to strictly organizing classes by grade, but every student ultimately reaches grade level. This method, according to Luddy, makes class size far less of an issue.
Another factor that sets Thales Academy apart is its ability to provide a private education at a remarkably low cost. Tuition is $5,300 annually for elementary students and $6,000 annually for junior-high and high-school students. These costs, Luddy told The Tennessee Star, are roughly half of the “quality private school price” in North Carolina, where Thales Academy was founded.
The school doesn’t have “virtually any bureaucracies,” Luddy said, and doesn’t provide transportation, a cafeteria, or large athletic stadiums and programs—all factors that help keep costs down. But it does provide some athletic activities for students and sets aside space in each of its buildings for physical education classes.
Luddy launched Thales Academy in 2007 using a “temporary facility in the back” of his corporate office and had just 30 students. As of December 2018, the school had 3,100 students enrolled at 10 campuses across North Carolina.
“Primarily because in my life I had a reasonably good education and I realized how much it contributed to my life and to the American way,” Luddy told The Tennessee Star when asked why he decided to start Thales. “So in making observations after being in business for many years, I felt like too many students are deprived of the opportunity to reach their fruition in life by having a good, sound education.”
Thales Academy is now in its eleventh year and is named for the Greek Philosopher Thales of Miletus. The school aims to provide students with an “aesthetically appealing environment” by focusing on the importance of “order and beauty” in its facilities.
Luddy and the Thales model are producing impressive results. On the Iowa Test of Basic Skills and the PSAT, Thales students consistently rank in the 98th percentile nationally.
“We get results. If you look consistently over a period of time, kindergarten students come in, they can barely walk in the door, they can barely sit down, and then you see them progress as they learn sounds, and they learn to decode. By the time they progress into the 3rd or 4th grade they’re doing very sophisticated work, which is going to prepare them to be excellent students in the long term,” Luddy says in a video on the Thales Academy website.
Thales Academy also offers an optional sequence of Career and Technical Education (CTE) courses through its Luddy Institute of Technology. The curriculum “covers a wide range of engineering-related content, beginning with the fundamentals and gradually moving toward more complex content and skills,” its website explains.
Thales Academy is in the process of identifying the first incubator location in Nashville that will be able to accommodate 50 to 60 K-6 students by the summer/fall of 2020. By the fall of 2022, the school hopes to have its own building on a four to six acre campus that can handle an anticipated increasing number of students, eventually to include a 7-12 junior/senior high school building.
Key points to be addressed at the July 19 informational meeting will include:
- What is Direct Instruction and why is it more effective than other instructional models, including Common Core?
- What is Classical Curriculum and why is it important?
- Dress code
- Scholarship availability
- Will Tennessee vouchers be available for attendees?
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