Ki Charter Academy (Ki), located in San Marcos, is the largest residential treatment center (RTC) for children in Texas. Approximately 200 students reside at the center at any given time. While the RTC addresses treatment needs, Ki provides an education to the students. Ki Charter is the first of its kind in the nation to offer students STEM curriculum and access to a state of the art science/technology lab. Ki is receiving recognition for their innovative methods to learning using various kinesthetic desking options within the classroom.

The Ki administration team spent many hours developing their ideal school. Based on their experience and research on kinesthetic learning environments, the team decided to employ various options within each classroom including stand-biased desks by Stand2Learn. For those unfamiliar with the concept, kinesthetic learners are students who learn best through acting, doing, touching, and experiencing a concept. This is in contrast with visual learners, who can learn from charts, videos, and written instructions, or auditory learners, who engage well with audible instruction.

When you hear the phrase ‘thinking on your feet,’ you probably do not realize how accurate it really is. Research has shown improved cognition, engagement, and focus from people who stand versus sitting throughout the day, including students. This makes a strong argument for the adoption of standing desks in the classroom to increase student engagement.

There’s also a strong argument in favor of standings desk benefits that stem from a freedom of movement in students. Many struggle to stay seated for seven or more hours per day, fidgeting and fussing in their seats. Allowing them to stand, move around, and engage their bodies more removes the distraction of that unreleased energy from the equation.

The partial elimination of certain disruptive behaviors may also play a role in explaining why standing desks show the improvements they do in students. Excess energy in a single student can quickly become a distraction for the entire class. Even worse, such disruption can require direct teacher intervention, cutting directly into educational time. It’s no surprise, therefore, that something which can help relieve the valve to some degree can show a remarkable impact.

Now, let’s look at what that 15 percent engagement means in practical terms. For a typical class schedule, this equates to roughly nine minutes of additional engagement in the classroom. Over the course of a school day, this adds up to nearly an entire hour of focus. Over the course of a school year, you’re looking at 9000 minutes of engagement, an entire 150 hours of additional engagement.

With all this in mind, it’s easy to see why some educational experts are already recommending the move to standing desks. There’s very little to lose, and quite a bit to gain.

Philip Muzzy contacted Stand2Learn in 2014 with the Ki Charter school concept. We were honored to be part of this innovative learning environment and loved being part of the conceptual process. The Ki Charter team had an amazing vision and are now providing exceptional structure for students with diverse learning needs.

“Students enjoy the choice in seating, in particular the Stand2Learn desks. It give them an opportunity to move, stand and sit while still fully engaged in the classroom instruction,” said Christopher Allison, Director of Operations at Ki Charter Academy.

Dr. Mark E. Benden, Designer and Researcher, Stand2Learn
Dr. Benden’s research began to highlight the ergonomic advantages of standing and movement in the office environment as early as 2001, long before standing desks became popular. As a commissioned Officer in the Unites States Army Reserves, and in a civilian Ergonomic Engineering career culminating as an Executive VP for an Ergonomic Product manufacturer, Dr. Benden has seen firsthand the impact of his research.

He is currently serving as the Director of the Ergonomics Center at Texas A&M where his groundbreaking research continues. Stand2Learn draws insights from his published research to provide educational solutions that fit children and adults of all sizes. His work with biometrics and biomechanical precision behind the scenes combined with research and years of industry experience is why these innovative solutions feel so natural.

Tucked away in the hills of San Marcos is the campus of Ki Charter Academy (Ki) which serves students at the San Marcos Treatment Center, the largest residential treatment center (RTC) for children in Texas.

Last week, Ki’s Superintendent Jerry Lager and Director of Operations Chris Allison welcomed some of the Texas Charter Schools Association (TCSA) team for a campus visit.

Approximately 200 students reside at San Marcos Treatment Center at any given time. While the RTC addresses treatment needs, Ki provides an education to the students. This charter school is the first of its kind in the nation to offer students STEM curriculum and access to a state of the art science/technology lab at a RTC. Ki is receiving recognition for their innovative methods to learning and even was featured as the cover story for the PITSCO Network.

Often times, students are placed at RTC as a last resort and have already been removed from their respective public school, disciplinary school, and inpatient or outpatient care. Seeing as the student population is extremely transient and dynamic, Ki has put systems in place to adequately measure student academic progress no matter their length of stay. Ki conducts Curriculum Based Measurement testing on each student when they arrive at Ki charter and upon exit. This helps track their demonstrated growth and grade level growth. This charter school uses a multi-model curriculum delivery with the full integration of visual, auditory, and kinesthetic learning strategies and aids to fully engage students.

Every teacher is certified in their content and grade level, as well as certified in special education. As part of its team, Ki seeks U.S. veterans through agencies such as Troops to Teachers, whose skillset includes discipline, structure and the ability to work with diverse populations to impact learning.

TCSA thanks Lager and Allison for having us at the Ki campus and providing a glimpse of the care and joy evident in their hard-working teachers and students.

When the term “public charter school” is discussed in the education arena, some might think of college preparatory courses, a focus on STEM, or dual-language programs.  However, there is a lesser discussed model for public charter schools—those located at a residential treatment centers (RTCs).  Generally, RTCs help provide students with a temporary home, counseling, treatment and recovery programs, and of course, a public education. 

One such RTC is Trinity Charter School’s Pegasus campus in Lockhart, home to approximately 175 boys ranging in age from 10 to 17 years old.  The majority of students come to this campus by way of Child Protective Services or a Juvenile Probation Department.  Each boy resides at Pegasus for a period of time ranging from about a year to 18 months in order to complete each of the four phases of treatment. 

Pegasus emphasizes three areas as part of its recovery program: therapy, behavioral interactions, and education.  With respect to education, students attend third through 12th grades at Trinity Charter School but are not your average students.  Each arrives with his own unique challenges and at times, an incomplete educational history.  School staff at Trinity reach out to past schools to piece together each student’s educational background and develop an achievement plan to work towards grade-level student performance.  Classroom sizes are smaller and student to teacher ratios allow for more individualized attention.  Since Trinity is located on the Pegasus campus, teachers and school staff are able to accommodate student needs including a block schedule to meet the competing demands for treatment and counseling sessions. 

This is one of the many reasons that public charter schools exist—to meet the needs of students.  Charter schools provide flexibilities other public school models simply do not.  Students experiencing various levels of abusive relationships resulting in assignment to an RTC, do not lend themselves to a traditional seven hour school day in a classroom.  We must also recognize that the accountability and performance measures for students in an RTC must be different from the standard since these students are not leading the “standard” lives.

In order to continue to meet the educational needs of students who are going through traumatic life events, we must support public policy that takes such challenges into account when measuring the performance for these schools.  Policy measures such as SB 306, passed by the 83rd legislature, allows for certain accountability exemptions for students receiving treatment in a residential facility.  It also recognizes that we cannot expect the type of student arriving at RTCs like Pegasus to perform at grade-level on state assessment tests.  These test results are not necessarily a reflection of the quality of education offered by a charter school like Trinity on a RTC campus, but are certainly impacted by these students’ life challenges. 

Further, the standards under Texas’ new Performance Framework (an additional system of standards for charter schools measuring the performance of a charter school, which are separate and apart from state accountability standards) must take into account the uniqueness of charter schools located within an RTC and truly measure according to the mission of the school.  The Performance Framework must make sense for these schools and students, otherwise it is not an accurate representation of the school’s performance and we run the risk of closing schools that are actually performing well when considering the student population.

Finally, we also need to identify a permanent change to address the consequences of HB 2610, in which the 84th legislature changed a day of instruction to minutes of instruction.  Unintended consequences of this legislation has called into question the funding of charter schools that do not provide a full day of instruction.  As previously mentioned, students at Trinity divide their time between the classroom and treatment by the RTC.  Treatment is exactly what is needed for this specific student population to overcome their challenges and move forward in a healthy manner with their lives.  While going through treatment, however, as much as possible this population also needs access to and should participate in an educational program.  Most recently, the Texas Education Agency offered a temporary fix for the 2016-2017 school year but we need to find a lasting solution during the next Legislative Session, particularly since public charter schools do not receive any facilities funding from the state.  Any reduction in funding for RTC charter schools would further reduce the current funding allotments for these students, running significant risk of having a negative impact on their educational program.

There is substantial impact of public policy to these schools and students.  Charter schools at RTCs like Trinity provide more than an education to the students they serve, they offer an opportunity to get back on track in life in order to be successful moving forward.  We need to support their efforts, and not stifle the progress they foster with their students.

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