St. Francis School is a progressive school, and as such, our mission and vision statements both speak to tenets of progressive education:
The St. Francis Mission
St. Francis School cultivates a joyful, compassionate, intellectual community that celebrates individuality and inspires independent thinking for life.
The St. Francis Vision
St. Francis School is the regional center of progressive learning where students grow into mindful, informed young people. Specific ways in which we are unique in the Louisville metro area (and we are the only progressive school in Kentucky):
We maintain an environment that fosters active, engaged learning. From Preschoolers mixing their own paint colors and building a bus out of a large cardboard box to Lower School students using manipulatives to add and subtract; from Middle Schoolers building a structure to support textbooks out of nothing more than paper and tape to High School students exploring downtown to find architectural features reminiscent of the Middle Ages and using the multiple levels of the school building to calculate gravity and other forces of physics, St. Francis students love their school and love learning. And we believe there’s nothing more important. An engaged student is a motivated student, one who will continue on to not only success within the boundaries of education but will be a lifelong learner.
Service to the community is a hallmark of the St. Francis education. This is much more just assigning students to record a certain number of service hours on their own each year (although that is something extra we ask of our Middle School students). From the Preschool coat drive to the student-driven projects in Lower and Middle School to the six half-days per year devoted to service by the High School, St. Francis students understand their responsibility to do what they can to help others and make the world around them a better place.
The world around our students is, of course, a diverse one. St. Francis strives to maintain a student body that reflects the Louisville metro area. We have succeeded at the High School and are on our way for the Preschool and Lower and Middle Schools. This is no lip service: we are committed to having a school community that is diverse in its race, ethnicity, etc. Our diversity statement says:
At St. Francis, we believe there is inherent strength in a community, a city, and a world in which members exhibit a breadth of talent, skills, and attributes. We define diversity as differences embodied in (but not limited to) age, ethnicity, race, family composition, gender, geographic origin, learning styles, religion, sexual orientation, socio-economics, and ideologies. We seek to prepare student to live in and contribute to their world by acknowledging and celebrating who they are and who they wish to become. In addition, given the fact of profound inequalities of opportunity that still exist in our world, we strive to foster a respectful and welcoming school community for us all as a model for the challenges that face us each day as global citizens.
We also believe, as the School of Thought, that diversity of ideas is to be prized: we foster independent thinking (as noted in our mission statement) and value ideas in their own right.
Celebrating individuality is another aspect highlighted in our mission statement. In this, we mean both the kind of attention we give our students and the way we honor who they are (and who they are becoming). Tom Pike, co-founder of the Lower and Middle Schools and founder of the High School, once noted that however many students we have, that’s how many “tracks” we have. Progressive education was conceived of as a response to the idea of “one size fits all” education, and the ideal contained in that response is at our core. There simply isn’t one way in which all children learn, so our teachers work to find the best way to reach every single student. Whether that means extra time spent giving additional challenge or extra time explaining a difficult concept, that’s what happens during and outside of class every day.
Inasmuch as we work with an age range from two-year-olds to 12th graders, we understand well the progression from toddler to child to adolescent to young adult. St. Francis students know that they have the freedom to explore who they are, and that these attempts at figuring out a more grown-up self will be honored. There is no box in which the St. Francis student needs to fit; rather, we support each of them as they grow.
Student voice is essential in maintaining the St. Francis environment. This education is not an endeavor in which we, the adults, are engaged alone. Education at St. Francis isn’t something cooked up by the teachers and served to the students, whose job is to sit passively and receive it. Rather, in keeping with the notion that student should be active, engaged learners, we feel they have an important role in creating and maintaining the kind of school they want. Free-choice play in preschool, our elected student government representatives (starting in 2nd grade), Middle Schoolers weighing in on what the colors and mascot of the merged school ought to be, the student-run Disciplinary Review Board at the High School: what the students believe and want is an essential component of our environment. And they honor this responsibility beautifully. Perhaps the most apt proof is in the Graduation speeches. Each year, at both the Goshen Campus Graduation (8th grade) and the school Graduation (12th grade), any student who wishes to speak may do so. At the High School, we do not ask for rights of censorship over these speeches, because we trust fully that the students know what is appropriate for this occasion. We have not been disappointed. A couple of excerpts from the 2013 graduation speeches:
“I wasn’t used to so much love in a school. In all my years of being in public school, I’d never seen teachers hug students or even ask our opinions. I know it’s cliché but at St. Francis we’re a family. You guys accepted me, though I was hesitant to accept you. St. Francis helped me more than I thought a school could; it made me a better person, a more open-minded person, and a more confident person.” – Tyneshia Carter ’13
“How lucky am I to have found the best teachers anywhere. How lucky am I that today, I am graduating with a group of people so interesting and brilliant, that I couldn’t help but to invest every fiber and sinew of myself into being a part of it. Class of 2013, you know no bounds, and it is the ultimate honor to be a part of something so accomplished. I have you and the faculty of St. Francis to thank for making me look forward to the four years ahead with an eagerness and excitement that I didn’t possess four years ago.” – Teddy Finkelstein ’13
St. Francis is an extraordinary educational experience. If you haven’t visited our campuses to see it for yourself, please do so! Click here to schedule a tour.