About Us

Why We Are a K-8 School

Calvert’s first Head Master, Virgil Hillyer, set out to create a system of instruction that would help to redefine the way we view the elementary years. He believed that children had the capacity to do and learn more, that these early years were essential to the building blocks of learning, and that skills and fundamentals should never be assumed, but practiced and mastered. Virgil believed that each age required a specific pedagogical approach in order to best reach the child at that moment in their educational lives. This, of course, is why Calvert has ‘Ages’ in Lower School.
 
In addition to his commitment to teaching fundamentals and in lockstep with the idea that pedagogy must be a tailored fit to the age of a student, Head Master Hillyer had a deep reverence for the wonder of childhood. In truth, evidence is all around us, we need not look any further than Calvert’s Lower School building (built in the shape of an E for education). Calvert’s Lower School building has a unique auditorium with whimsical benches, created to mimic the gargoyles found atop medieval cathedrals. More evidence can be found on lockers, embellished with shapes of toys and characters, and on the rooftop finials. Calvert’s Lower School entry way dons a chandelier with images of witches and other fairy tale characters.
Mr. Hillyer’s appreciation for the joys of childhood extended into the classroom as well. Not only did he walk the hallways playing his violin to inspire the children, but in his Distinctive Features of a Calvert Education, Virgil wrote of creating a “game like spirit in all work—a spirit which gives interest and zest to the work….” There is no doubt that Mr. Hillyer was well ahead of his time in creating a system of education for Calvert students.

A hundred years later, some things have changed and some have stayed the same. We still shake hands, but we do it in two buildings. We still teach Calvert script, but we also teach keyboarding. We still have Ages, but they transform into Grades in the Middle School. As much as the particulars of our practices may ebb and flow over the years, our commitment to teaching the fundamentals in an age appropriate manner and to the joys of childhood have remained consistently at the core of a Calvert education. In fact, these ideals have never been more central to our mission as we have now fully embraced the elementary and middle school model of educating students.

No educational model better addresses the developmental needs of its students. Focusing exclusively on the educational needs of elementary and middle school students allows us to honor Mr. Hillyer’s commitment to developing a program that meets children where they are developmentally. This model allows us to provide a challenging curriculum, but in the context of a safe and nurturing environment.
A recent study in the American Educational Research Journal confirms what Mr. Hillyer knew all along. Students who attended a K-8 school are the most comfortable, feel the safest, and ultimately perform better academically than their counterparts at traditional middle schools.
Our model also permits us to offer leadership opportunities to our Middle School students at a time when they are naturally developing these skills and need the exposure, encouragement, and responsibility that come with being the oldest students in a school. Calvert’s structure provides older students with a chance to be role models for our youngest students, a practice we see every day in the life of our school. Focusing all of our resources on these crucial years in a child’s life allows us to hire teachers who specialize in these ages and who appreciate the unique educational opportunities that present themselves during these foundational years.

Every year, another graduating class heads off to many excellent high schools. Our students have found great success beyond our walls as academics, athletes, artists and leaders. At Calvert, we understand that their success is due in large measure to our program and our talented teachers. We also know that this success is aided by the structure of our school. By allowing our boys and girls to grow, learn, and mature in an elementary and middle school program, they are better equipped as Eighth Graders to choose a high school that fits them best. It also empowers our students with an opportunity to reinvent themselves at a time in their lives when such a reinvention is a healthy reflection of the young men and women that they have become.

Finally, our structure allows us to provide a program that celebrates childhood, and in turn, allows our students to remain children for just a little bit longer. This benefit not only provides a respite from a world that increasingly cuts short the innocence of childhood, but it also reaffirms Virgil Hillyer’s commitment to provide a school centered on this magical time in all of our lives.
Calvert School is an independent lower and middle school with a curriculum that is designed to challenge capable boys and girls.

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