Member Profile- Milton Academy

Monday, December 8, 2014

An inspired lower-school principal returned from a conference 37 years ago with a vision: to harness the physical and intellectual resources of Milton Academy to benefit surrounding communities and families. The Saturday Course was born.

Today, 1,000 students who show academic promise participate in the program. A typical Saturday Course student body represents 100 different schools in the greater Boston area.

The program offers students the opportunity to study traditional and non-traditional topics. Courses range from computer programming to wood-working and are taught by professional teachers and industry leaders.

Shared ownership
The partnership between the Saturday Course and the participating schools is one reason why the program continues to grow after 37 years. Ninety percent of admissions decisions are made by teachers and administrators of participating school districts. The understanding is that schools know which students would excel and enjoy a fast-paced, advanced educational environment. Two full-time faculty members, Kristan Burke and Gary Shrager, lead the program.  With over 50 years combined leadership with the program, they are proud of its growth and impact on local youth. “Through our regular evaluation process, we hear from parents and students that the program sparks creativity and innovation. Our faculty calls the program a teacher’s utopia.”

There is a small tuition for each course, and once the participants are selected, Milton guarantees their tuition. If a student's family cannot pay for the tuition, Milton Academy underwrites the cost.

A growing enrichment gap
The spending gap on enrichment activities has widened in the last 35 years, according the Russell Sage and Spencer Foundation (Whither Opportunity? 2011). Families with income in the top quartile increased their spending on enrichment by 150%, while families in the bottom quartile increased spending by only 57%.

Affordable enrichment opportunities are needed for students of all abilities. But Massachusetts has some of the lowest funding for academically gifted students in the country. Programs like Milton's Saturday Course are helping to bridge the gap.

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