Frequently Asked Questions

Individualized Learning Plans (ILPs) are not as uncommon as one may think. Our individualized curriculum is carefully crafted by master teachers, so every child works at a level that is most relevant and appropriate for him/her. Enrichment programs don't have to be limited to a select few.

Most of us have also, fortunately, had experience with at least 1 or 2 outstanding teachers who ended up leaving a lasting impact on us. What if we had great teachers more consistently?

A deliberate and purposeful approach is therefore not just desirable, it is also possible.

If your child is in a nourishing and values-based environment and his individual needs are being met across the different areas, then your child should probably stay at his/her current school.

On the other hand, if you see that your child is not taking enough risks or is not being challenged enough, then he may need an environment that provides more stimulation and novelty. In other words, you should assess if the current school is addressing your child's needs vis-a-vis his core competencies (empathy, critical thinking etc.):.

A rich and consistent value system and an environment that honors a growth mindset are essential for helping children develop agency and become the best seekers they can be. If this is lacking at your child's current school, then Sankalpa may be an option that you should consider..

In a wide range of social contexts and across many nations, we find that the most consequential innovators are often not those who have had the best educational outcomes. We should ponder for a minute on why that is the case. Why wouldn’t best education always produce the most effective disruptors? In a way, the dichotomy between these two groups represents the potential that exists for an individualized education that is both holistic and foundational.

Even so, there probably isn’t a right answer to this question that would apply to all children and all families. We can certainly speak to the potential, but the cost-benefit analysis will vary according to individual circumstances and available private school choices. While there are many narratives such as the one in https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2015/03/why-im-a-public-school-teacher-but-a-private-school-parent/386797/ that extoll the virtues of a specific private school, these still largely speak only to the potential since not all private schools are created equal.

There are several reasons for why providing a holistic, foundational and individualized education could be challenging for many public schools.
i. Funding models make public schools more accountable to state legislatures than to parent communities. That can make it difficult for schools to deviate from historical ideas on education and curriculum.
ii. Since school districts are often quite large, it can be quite challenging for an individual school to break free from its district’s curriculum. In other words, the inertia of large organizations can slow innovation and make individual schools less nimble.
iii. Individualizing curriculum can add to the initial cost structure. For example, talented and gifted programs for acceleration or creativity (such as TAG, PACE, QUEST etc.) are often not available to all students. Similarly, it can be expensive to ensure that history and language arts curricula are equally relevant for all children.
iv. Finally, there is often pressure on schools to deliver short term results. They may not have as much of an incentive to make really meaningful investments in longer term development (such as character development or qualities such as empathy and grit).

Charter schools still need to meet several state regulations, often with an even smaller budget than a regular public school. The mandatory regulations can be an onerous tax on teacher and student time that do not always add value.

Mindfulness is one kind of awareness, focused awareness of the present moment. While heightened awareness of the present moment can help in some cases (https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2013/05/study-meditation-improves-memory-attention/275564/), it turns out that it can also hurt our ability to analyze or evaluate past information (https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/ulterior-motives/201511/does-mindfulness-meditation-affect-memory). In any event, it would be more helpful to improve overall awareness and understanding and thus a child’s metacognition.

Many of these foundational competencies have been shown to be teachable.

Programs such as QUEST in Leander Independent School District in Texas have been shown to develop critical thinking and creative problem-solving skills in children.

A study in Child Development called "Promoting Positive Youth Development Through School-Based Social and Emotional Learning Interventions: A Meta-Analysis of Follow-Up Effects" by Rebecca Taylor, Eva Oberle, Joseph Durlak, and Roger Weissber analyzed the residual benefits of 82 different socio-emotional learning programs such as MindUP, RULER and Roots of Empathy. These programs involved more than 97,000 students from kindergarten to middle school in the U.S., Europe and the U.K., from six months to 18 years after the programs were completed. The researchers found that social-emotional learning resulted in significantly better longer- term positive life outcomes.

Dr. Dweck and others have shown that well designed feedback and appreciation culture can reinforce resilience and produce a growth mindset that can motivate children to take on increasingly ambitious pursuits.

Dr. Mischel's marshmallow test at Stanford in the late 1960s has shown that building tolerance for delayed gratification can result in significantly improved grit and more positive life outcomes. Even more interestingly, it was shown that one can even design exercises for boosting a child’s self-control (and thus slowing their hunger for gratification).

We definitely need to be very judicious in curriculum planning so as to make the best use of every child's time. Developing core competencies such as ambition, grit and emotional intelligence through awareness should help children become faster and more opportunistic learners and thus help them accomplish more than they would otherwise. In addition, traditional academic objectives are used as vehicles to develop these core competencies. So, these should not slow down a child's growth. Finally, these are foundational competencies and not soft skills.

Since every child will have an individualized plan that identifies and prioritizes the child’s best opportunities and empowers her/him to approach her/his activities with intention and purpose, every child should experience optimized growth.

Sankalpa Academy is a secular school that does not adhere to any specific religious doctrine or tradition. However, we do cherish each child’s desire and right to explore existential questions, ethics and emotional engagement. Respect for self and others, courage to be honest and authentic, gratitude, compassion, wisdom to discriminate between available choices, willingness to put in an honest effort and to take responsibility and resilience in the face of failures are some of the key values that we cherish at Sankalpa.

Our small classrooms and climate and core competency assessments and our individualized curriculum are all designed to reach and understand every child and to empower them to find her/his voice. Helping every child find a strong anchor in his/her own personal value system is one of our key objectives.

We value and embrace the goals of project based learning (PBL). While we do not require that every learning experience include a project (individual or group), we do periodically monitor a child’s understanding of the relevance of their work and its real world connections. In the case of group projects, assessment of individual learning is also a key objective even though such assessment can sometimes be a challenge.

Austin is home to many talented teachers. Since we value individualized mentor-mentee relationships and authentic child-led education, we seek specialist teachers who are highly qualified, passionate about teaching and have a diverse background. They may be specialists in educational psychology, language immersion or a specific pedagogy. We seek individuals who have a growth mindset and embody the values that we wish to see in our students.

At Sankalpa, we strongly believe that education is most effective when a child is ready and eager. So, while there will occasionally be a modest amount (not to exceed about 10 minutes per grade level per day) of homework (either to help the child gain mastery or to allow the child time to explore further), we would like to make sure that the heavy lifting is always done at school. Homework that is assigned would be relevant and consistent with the child's ILP (i.e. just behind the learning edges) and not unrelated busy work. This reinforcement is to help the child stay passionate and interested in further exploration of a subject.

We host a parent in-take meeting at the start of the academic year during first-year enrollment and once every semester (or twice a year). We also offer open houses and parent education opportunities all through the year. Additionally, parents can seek appointments with individual teachers, as needed to discuss specific issues as they come up. We believe that parents are vital partners in a child's education.

We are still finalizing our itinerary for the field trips. We will communicate this information at a later date.

As with any school, environment and classroom climate are a significant consideration at Sankalpa Academy. An intentional, holistic, awareness-based approach where we all are responsible to each other is the closest one can get to the nationally renowned Conscious Discipline program. Parents will be notified about any behavior that is deemed disruptive so we can collectively come up with a holistic solution.

Currently, families are responsible for providing lunches for their children. We are exploring potential on-site lunch programs  for the next academic year.

Nutrition and health are key elements in Sankalpa Academy’s holistic curriculum. We encourage a healthy diet and discuss nutrition and mean planning with our students. We also take up gardening and cooking projects in the school. Finally, we strongly recommend that you don't send candy to school.

Uniforms can help minimize distractions caused by clothing and accessories. There should also be less fashion related peer pressure if everyone wears similar clothes. Regardless, we don't have any prescribed school uniforms.

As a new school, we currently do not have the means to offer scholrships to deserving families. However, we strongly believe that education is a right and not a privilege. We are looking at different ways we can offer equitable access to our programs.

Given the community benefit, educational institutions are legally able to and often choose to organize as a non-profit in the US. Historically, there have been several advantages to organizing as a non-profit, 501(c)(3) in US, primarily tax exemption for the organization and tax deductions for donors.

 

In return for these benefits, non-profit organizations are required to be governed by an elected board. While this can often be helpful for most organizations, seating a qualified board can be a challenge, especially over a longer time-frame, for organizations that embrace a more ambitious vision that deviates significantly from the norm. It is not easy then to ensure that the board and the school stay true to the founding mission. Our school therefore relies on an Advisory Board (and not on a Board of Directors) for guidance and counsel. In addition, there is a second and more important reason for why we have chosen to organize as a for-profit school. It is our belief that we cannot build great teams without giving them a strong financial stake in the organization that they serve. We have therefore chosen to set aside 40% of the profits for the faculty and leadership of Sankalpa Academy.


Regardless, since the financial viability of private schools is often very challenging in the US, for-profit schools in a legal sense are often "no-profit" schools in practice, just not a legal "nonprofit". 


We also understand that, with the recent passage of the new tax law, the definition of a 529 plan "qualified education expense" has been expanded to include K-12 expenses. Starting in 2018, annual withdrawals of up to $10,000 per student can be made from a 529 college savings plan account for tuition expenses in connection with enrollment at an elementary or secondary public, private, or religious school (excluding home schooling). We understand that such withdrawals are now tax-free at the federal level. This description has been prepared for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as tareliesx, legal or accounting advice for your circumstances. You should consult your own tax, legal and accounting advisors before engaging in any transaction.