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by John Savage, Founder of The Academy for Individual Excellence

     IF we judge only a child’s finished product in school—and especially if we
compare it to the finished products of other children, as most schools do, we are always going to be setting up some children to fail. Children tend to work toward what they can feel comfortable with, and be successful with. What they produce, what they make, what they write may not look like someone else’s work, but it may be the best they can do.
     Now, the child’s finished product is significant. The product that each one of them
presents is significant. But if, rather than judging the product alone, we evaluate their
work ethic, and the time and effort they put into it, then all of them can be thanked, because they took the time, were diligent, and worked toward their goal and their task.
     We have designed instruction at AIE that allows students to take control of their
work on tasks, and to base our evaluations at the end of those tasks on the decisions
they have made, and on how well and how thoroughly they engaged with the task. And
we hold them accountable for that.
     When we say, "Everyone, do a 10-page report," we know one child can get a 10-page report done in three or four hours, and another child could work their entire life and never get a solid 10-page report. So instead, I say, "I want you to work 10 hours on a report. Whatever you can produce with 10 hours of good solid work is what we're looking for." We give both children the instruction, the coaching, and the scaffolding they need. We help them do the very best they can do. In the end, we can thank each one for their work ethic, rather than simply for the product.
     That lets a child who struggles to work 10 hours know that their product will not be compared to anyone else’s work; it will be seen as the completion of what
was expected of them and asked of them. And I think that teaches them the value of
     For the child who is extremely capable, and who can whip out a finished project without any difficulty, writing a 10-page report is not necessarily work or work ethic. I challenge them to take the same 10 hours as their classmates and go as far as they can. I want them to create what they are capable of in that amount of time, so that they will know, at the end of it, they fulfilled what they'd been asked to do, that they can be proud of 
that product, and that they can be excited about it, and I can say to them, "Thank you for your work."
     Extremely capable children do not necessarily need to be congratulated for simply
knocking the top off a task. They should do that because they have IQ ability, and
experiences that other children may not. These all are things that they are not responsible for.

     What we want to congratulate them for—and thank them for—is what they are
responsible for. And that is that they choose to be dedicated to a task, set a goal, and
work to achieve it. They should be congratulated and thanked for doing what was
asked of them. And we can do the same for the children who struggle, and for everyone else in between.
     If you bring your child into our family at AIE, he or she will be challenged every day
to do the very best they are capable of, and the skills we teach them to help them get
there will stay with them for the rest of their life.

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