On Friday’s Tennessee Star Report with Steve Gill and Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 am to 8:00 am – the Report welcomed Thales Academy’s Dr. Tim Hall to the show to talk about the type of education they offer and how they are bringing it to the Nashville, Tennessee area in 2020.
As the segment came to a close, Dr. Hall described the curriculum offered at Thales Academy in more detail, noting that it’s a direct instruction and classical education that has proven to show it’s students testing higher than other students from both the private and public sectors.
Leahy: We are joined now by Dr. Tim Hall, the Chief Academic Officer of Thales Academy, a high quality affordable private school. Has eight schools and three thousand students. Been in business in North Carolina for eleven years. And they’re coming to Nashville. Dr. Hall, welcome to the Tennessee Star Report.
Hall: Well thank you for having me. I appreciate the opportunity to be here.
Leahy: So you’re coming to Nashville and you will be here in Nashville a week from today from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. for an informational meeting at the West End Community Church. At 255 White Bridge Pike. You’re going to talk a little bit about your method of instructions called direct instruction on reading, writing, and arithmetic. Tell us a little bit about what you’ve done there in North Carolina with that over the past 11 years.
Hall: Very good. Direct instruction is a type of instruction used at our schools K-5. It’s really kind of focused on the teacher directly instructing the students on the foundations of learning which includes reading and math. And so it really involves quite a few core responses. It also involves our students being an ability group.
Leahy: When you say coral responses. Its sort of like the teacher says something and all the students respond? Is that how that works?
Hall: Yes, very much so. So that’s exactly how it is. So it’s a coral response. And although that’s probably very robotic it is not. I mean if you go to our website at ThalesAcademy.org and watch our video our students are so engaged with that type of learning because it’s a lot of songs associated with that. A lot of sing a longs coming back to the teacher. The teacher is really giving them positive feedback the whole entire time. They’re responding with their students so they feel very confident about their learning. It’s just a great way to learn the foundations of reading and math and not be left behind.
Gill: Dr., one of the things that folks here in Tennessee are obviously going to be asking is what makes you different and as you’re expanding from North Carolina and into some other states. What’s the process of expanding your operations and how do you carry the best of what you’ve learned to do and learned from the mistakes of what may not have worked as well in your first years?
Hall: Very good, so our school culture is really based on the idea of kaizen, or continuous improvement. Definitely each year we re-evaluate ourselves and see how we can improve our fundamental programs, which include direct instruction. Our classical curriculum. Our character formation and the idea that we’re focused on both cognitive and non-cognitive skills.
So we’re always re-evaluating ourselves on that. I think as far as distinguishing ourselves from other schools I would say our focus on that idea of continuous improvement and also an idea that we’re forming a whole student. We’re focused on the entire student. Not just their cognitive skills although we very much appreciate that we also want them to do that non-cognitively and be very good people in their communities.
Leahy: So you are running commercials here on the Tennessee Star Report and I think you mentioned that the tuition is six thousand dollars a year. Now most private schools here in Davidson County are ten, fifteen, twenty thousand dollars a year. Was that a misprint or is it really six thousand dollars a year?
Hall: No it’s really six thousand dollars a year. And I appreciate you asking that. We are very serious about the idea of high-quality affordable cost education. And affordability comes with our ability to maximize classroom spaces and efficiencies to make sure that we keep that cost in the affordable range.
Leahy: So in some of the things that you don’t do, is you don’t have like a bus system. Parents are responsible to getting kids back and forth number one. You don’t have a cafeteria. And you don’t have big sports stadiums right?
Hall: Yes. Those are all pluses in able to keep the cost affordable for the families. With that being said I mean I think a great deal of families really appreciates that affordability. And for us, we believe very strongly in the type of education that we have and we’re wanting to keep that price low so we can spread this education to as many families as we possibly can because it is a life-changing education.
Gill: When people hear the term ‘classical education’ what’s different in kind of the curriculum at a classical school versus what you might get in a typical public school.
Hall: Good question as well. Classical education really is focused on the process of making sure that our students understand their own humanity, who they are, and their character formation. Where public schools really, in general, I would say, focus on the students’ vocational goals or educational outcomes. We’re really focused on the whole student.
That’s a focus of classical just inherently. In addition, we’re looking at the great books of western traditions so they have a firm understanding of where the Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution come from. And really understand where the United States comes from in relation to that western tradition. And then other things to add to that classical curriculum grades 6th through 12 that our students take Latin from grades 6 through grade 12.
So they understand Latin which is, everybody, will say “Well that’s a dead language.” But Latin is actually the font of western tradition. In addition, when you learn Latin you learn very strong logic and thinking skills, which is because Latin is a very logical language. So that’s important, and then finally we have a scope and sequence of trivium which includes formal and informal logic and rhetoric. It’s just an incredible education.
Leahy: So the performance of your students there in basics K-5, reading, writing, and arithmetic. I think the results have been astoundingly good when compared to other private schools and other public schools. Talk about that a little bit.
Hall: Yeah so for sure. When you look at the Iowa tests of basic skills and look at our performance in that we perform typically two to three grade levels above the mark. So if our students are taking say the third grade Iowa test most of them are scoring at a five point five grade level on that Iowa test. Just because of the way we go about teaching the foundations of reading and math.
And so that’s very important. And building those foundations and making our students very confident about these foundations make sit much easier when they move into the sixth grade to transition to the classical curriculum and really start developing out concepts and getting to the point to where they start having their own ideas and being able to kind of flush those out in a much better way.
Leahy: Now you’re starting out with K-5. Aspiring to do this in July, August, September for the next academic year. And if all goes well you’re going to be adding a high school. Tell us how the high school graduates at Thales Academy in North Carolina have done. Are they getting into colleges?
Hall: Most definitely. Of course, we’re scaling it up at all our campuses. Four years ago we had our first graduates graduate and there were only three graduates from that class. All those graduates go into UNC-Chapel Hill. Which is, if you know anything about North Carolina is a very prestigious public school and we’re very excited about that. And moving forward all of our students have been accepted. You can take a look at our Facebook page.
They’ve been accepted to a variety of North Carolina universities but also even at the University of Tennessee and other states as well. Just a huge list of college acceptances for our students. Because what I think what happens is colleges recognize the real viability of this type of education and our students really stand out because of their ability to critically think and be able to articulate very well what they’re thinking.
Leahy: Well Dr. Tim Hall, thank you for joining us today on the Tennessee Star Report. And you’ll be here in Nashville a week from today. 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. An informational meeting for parents interested in signing up kids K-5 in Davidson County, maybe even Williamson county. 6 p.m. next Friday at West End Community church here in Nashville.
Listen to the full hour here:
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Tune in weekdays from 5:00 – 8:00 am to the Tennessee Star Report with Steve Gill and Michael Patrick Leahy on Talk Radio 98.3 FM WLAC 1510. Listen online at iHeart Radio. Photo “Bob Luddy” by Thales Academy. Background Photo “Thales Academy” by Zachpw. CC BY-SA 3.0.