At the John Dewey Academy, teachers and clinicians collaborate closely to create a thoughtful and caring learning environment for our college-‐bound students. With a highly credentialed staff of dedicated and passionate teachers, a small class size (five or six students on average), and high standards, we provide a challenging intellectual experience. We aim for students to master the subjects and skills required to excel in college. More fundamentally, we hope to inspire students with a love of learning and a desire for excellence.
Since many entering students have fallen behind in school, we work with them closely to place them in appropriate classes and coach them in their difficult subjects. The school has two different coaching methods. On the one hand, seniors serve as academic advisors and tutors to the younger students. On the other hand, each incoming student is assigned to a member of the faculty for guidance in academic planning; and teachers are available for one-‐on-‐one work with students who may either be struggling, or need to catch up on lost time, or wish to work at an accelerated pace.
We stress the active learning of skills that open, discipline, structure and free the mind. These include, principally:
in mathematics; in life, physical and computer sciences; in history, political economy, and psychology; in the arts, languages and literature; and in writing and public speaking.
drawing attention to the bonds between our emotional, intellectual, imaginative and ethical lives; developing social, emotional, and moral as well as academic intelligence.
As students discover, or rediscover, a passion to learn, they take initiative to pursue their own interests in required classes – and beyond. Each semester, we offer electives in both the sciences and the humanities. In addition, the more advanced students may choose to design an Independent Study, either by working individually with a member of the faculty or by pursuing a college-level class online under the supervision of a staff member.
Students carry a minimum of five courses a semester in the traditional divisions of Mathematics, Natural Science, English, Foreign Language, History or Social Science. Most students also choose to take at least one elective in these areas or in the creative arts, and therefore carry six or seven courses. Each class meets from three to five periods a week. In addition, students study outside of the classroom for a minimum of three hours a day. (This includes a school-wide quiet study hall for two hours on Sunday through Thursday evenings and another on Saturday morning for three hours). In the fall and spring semesters, we emphasize required classes. During the summer, we teach a full complement of classes, emphasizing electives, independent research, and remedial work.
The minimum requirements for graduation include four years of English, four years of Social Science (including a year of U.S. History and a year of Western Civilization), three years of Natural Science (including two years of laboratory science, usually Chemistry and Physics), three years of Mathematics (at least through Algebra II), two years of Foreign Language (usually French, Spanish, Italian, or Latin), two years of Physical Education, and one year of Art. Students are given appropriate credit for prior work. Even when they have met these minimum requirements, students continue to carry a full course-load. Teachers offer a wide variety of advanced courses such as:
- Organic and Biochemistry lectures
- Evolution of Animal Sexual Behavior
- Number Theory
- Statistics, Probability and Game Theory
- Differential Equations
- Quantum Mechanics
- Modern Middle East
- Post War Europe
- The Cold War in Film
- The History of the Future
- Economics: Markets, Institutions, Trading
- The Evolution and Future of Finance
- Crisis Economics: 1929 and 2008
- The Architecture of Europe’s Political Economy Today
- New Technologies: Accelerating Change and Our Future
- Political Philosophy
- Emotions and the Imagination
- Close Readings of Major Works
- Plato’s Symposium and Phaedrus, Aristotle’s Ethics and Poetics, Nietzsche’s Beyond Good and Evil, Freud’s Interpretation of Dreams, Beyond the Pleasure Principle, Arendt’s Eichmann in Jerusalem, The Human Condition, Harari’s Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow
Mentorship & Growth
Most entering students at Dewey need to develop better study habits, reignite their enthusiasm for learning, and bolster their academic confidence. To mentor them towards academic success, we assign each of them a student advisor and a faculty advisor. These advisors help students to set goals, choose appropriate classes each semester, decide when to get tutoring, and plan strategies for handling their problem areas. All students meet several times a semester with both advisors; the student advisors also meet separately with each member of the faculty every few weeks to make sure that every student is on track for completing the graduation requirements.
Classes that are especially demanding or time-consuming at Dewey are designated Honors classes; students who enroll in those courses should expect longer and more challenging assignments throughout the semester as well as higher expectations for graded work. In many other classes, faculty encourage students who are doing well to pursue Honors through an independent project of some sort.
Because many courses are already taught at a college-level and because the teachers at Dewey tailor their courses to engage the interest of individual students as much as possible, we do not follow the AP curriculum. For the few students who decide to study independently for the AP exams, the faculty is happy to answer questions or look over practice tests.
Students who have completed the standard sequences of courses in a field may request permission to pursue an independent study. These classes are sometimes directed by our faculty here at the school, sometimes offered by universities online in fields such as Computer Science, and sometimes conducted by tutors in foreign languages such as Chinese or Russian. In order to receive credit, these courses must be supervised and assessed by a faculty member at Dewey.
As part of their transition out of Dewey, seniors who are doing well academically and therapeutically may be encouraged to intern at local businesses in their areas of special interest. Recent internships have included research and writing for The Berkshire Edge, riding along with the EMT team in Great Barrington, and working on a project for the town planning board.
Although students may be found doing academic work anywhere in the Castle at almost any time of the day, we designate weekday evenings from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. and Saturday mornings from 9 a.m. to noon as mandated quiet study halls. During these times, more advanced students ensure that everyone is engaging in focused work on academics.
Sophomores and juniors at Dewey take the PSAT at the school. Juniors and seniors take the SAT or ACT (or both); some seniors also take SAT II examinations in fields in which they are particularly proficient. Students must sign up and prepare for the exam independently.
During the summer leading up to their senior year, students at Dewey take a workshop that walks them through the process of applying for admission at a quality college. They consult with faculty and parents, and put together a list of appropriate colleges and universities (including “reach,” “target,” and “safety” colleges), request recommendations, and begin writing their application essays. Students in good standing often apply Early Decision. The staff approves campus visits, including interviews, at a few select colleges. Our students have a 100% college placement acceptance rate. See the full list of colleges from the past five years.
Dewey encourages students to express themselves creatively through explorations of various art forms. Although technical skills are usually developed, the teacher supports a free-flowing expression of creative energy. Students may focus their individual work in theater, studio arts, creative writing, music performance, or music production. They may also attend local museums or art shows, poetry readings, concerts, and films.
In order to fulfill their three required hours of physical exercise a week, students may choose to run, play pick-up basketball games, take a yoga or ballet class, or simply use the gym downstairs. Students train each other on weights and equipment, and an advanced student keeps tracks of students’ gym hours.