Palmer Catholic Academy is fully accredited by the Florida Catholic Conference and follows the curriculum set forth by the Diocese of St. Augustine.Our rigorous curriculum encourages creative, critical thinking and higher-order problem-solving skills. We continually refine our curriculum through an interactive review process incorporating the input of various teachers and administrators throughout our diocese. In addition, a Curriculum Committee consisting of the principal, vice principal/guidance counselor, reading specialist, and grade-level team leaders meets at least twice a year to review and revise current curriculum content at the school level. Palmer Catholic Academy also has Vertical Teams, made up of the teachers in grades K-8 from each core subject, which conduct regular evaluations of that subject’s curriculum; these Vertical Teams update and tailor our programs to ensure a well-rounded and challenging learning environment. These combined efforts provide a seamless transition for students from grade to grade, eventually leading to a successful high school career.
At the primary level (grades K-2), phonics and whole language theories are integrated, exposing students to Saxon phonics and the Houghton-MifflinReading Wonders series. Students are also benchmarked three times a year using the Reading A-Z program; this allows teachers to differentiate their instruction so that learners can work on materials at their established reading level. With this combination of leveled readers and the whole-group basal series, along with the structured and systematic phonics program, students have a strong foundation upon which to build further reading instruction. Zaner-Bloser handwriting is taught upon entering kindergarten, and the Writing Workshop format is utilized in the primary grades for written composition. To further differentiate instruction, the Words Their Way program begins in first grade, allowing students the benefit of personalized spelling words each week.
At Palmer Catholic Academy, we also employ Response to Intervention (RTI). After universal screenings are conducted on all students, teachers are able to identify those who would benefit from additional support. These students work one-on-one or in a small group with the teacher and/or paraprofessional. A full-time reading specialist is also on staff to assist students in grades K-3 who are identified as needing further remediation, beyond the help of the classroom teacher. Our reading specialist works one-on-one, several times a week with these students to administer intensive, research-based interventions.
Our intermediate grades (3-5) place an emphasis on reading comprehension strategies through the use of novel studies and Reading A-Z. Cursive writing instruction also begins in third grade. The Writing Workshop format continues at this level, and vocabulary is studiedusing the Greek and Latin roots to understand how words are related. During the middle school years (grades 6-8), students move into a well-rounded program integrating the analysis of the written word and composition through novel studies. The 6 Traits of Writing program is utilized here, as well as learning and understanding MLA format, which prepares students for the transition to high school. Students also benefit from the use of the Criterion writing program, a web-based composition tool that provides immediate feedback to students. Additionally, all students enjoy our Book of the Month program, which allows all classes in grades K-8 the opportunity to read and discuss a quality work of literature during library class.
We utilize McGraw-Hill’s My Math in grades K-5, which incorporates developmentally-appropriate manipulatives and real-world application of student learning. Mathematical reasoning, problem-solving skills, and creative, critical thinking are continually developed. A combination of discovery learning and explicit instruction make up our math curriculum, encouraging students to persist in problem solving and understand the concepts behind the algorithms. Like our reading program, RTI is in place with mathematics as well. All students take part in the screenings administered three times a year, and those students who are identified as needing further support work closely with their classroom teacher and/or paraprofessional. Then, students in grades K-3 requiring additional remediation work with the math support teacher for more intensive, one-on-one intervention.
Our middle school math curriculum includes the study of pre-algebra and algebra. Students in the accelerated program have the opportunity to take Honors mathematics in middle school; at the end of the 7th and 8th grade years, the Honors students take a Diocesan-created, full-year cumulative exam. Additional enrichment programs include Sunshine Math, Math Club, the Math Counts competition, and the St. Jude Math-a-Thon.
Science lessons provide a hands-on approach in demonstrating various scientific concepts. The primary grades use a theme-based approach, integrating the lessons into their current topics of study. As early as kindergarten, students learn the experimentation process through the Scientific Method. Students in grades K-2 take part in Scientist of the Week, which allows them the opportunity to complete an investigation at home, then demonstrate the experiment for the class at the end of the week. Students in the intermediate grades move on to explore physical science, life science, earth and space, and health, again focusing on the Scientific Method.
The middle school science lab is equipped with computers, an advanced microscope for each student, and a digital microscope for individual use. Sixth grade focuses on space exploration, chemistry, and a study of the earth, while 7th grade learns about the five kingdoms of life, human impact on the planet, DNA, genetics, and systems of the body. Once in 8th grade, students delve into chemistry, physics, formulas, and detailed lab exploration procedures. Students in the accelerated program have the opportunity to take Honors science in middle school; at the end of the 7th and 8th grade years, the Honors students take a Diocesan-created, full-year cumulative exam. Both 7th and 8th grade participate in the Science Fair; winners move on to the Diocesan and Regional competitions.
The primary grades are introduced to the importance of neighborhood, community, country, and global awareness through theme-related units. Intermediate and middle school classes address the areas of history, geography, sociology, political science, economics, humanities, and ethics. We utilize our textbook series as well as news publications and current event discussions to reinforce curriculum standards. Students are graded on performance assessments (oral presentations, group projects, and web quests), in addition to traditional assessments such as tests and formal writing assignments. Our main goals are to help students gain critical thinking and problem-solving skills and to make students aware of the world around them, both past and present.
The Catholic faith is taught daily to our students through a Diocesan-approved religion curriculum. The children are introduced to the building blocks of our Eucharistic faith, the importance of Mass, the experience and meaning of the sacraments, and how to develop their relationship with the Blessed Trinity. Grade-appropriate discussions, activities, and experiences help to shape students’ religious formation. All students attendweekly Mass together; parents are invited and welcomed to attend. Students are selected by the principal and middle school religion teacher to train as sacristans for maintaining the school chapel and assisting with school Masses. The school-wide Catholic Awareness Project (C-Project and Bible Search) allows the students to expand their knowledge and understanding of the Catholic faith. Additionally, with a team for grades 2-5 and 6-8, we take part in the annual Bishop’s Bowl, where schools are invited to participate in the Eucharistic Congress. Most importantly, our student body is encouraged to participate in service activities that affect their community, their state, and their global neighborhood; all class parties include a service project as part of the celebration.
Six different enrichment programs are offered weekly to the students. Computer, library, Spanish, art, music, and physical education provide the opportunity for students to express their creativity, experience diversity, and promote community and sportsmanship. Several of these programs are expanded into clubs, intramural, or interscholastic activities. PCA has athletic teams and/or clubs in soccer, softball, basketball, volleyball, flag football, golf, track, and field hockey. Middle school students also have the opportunity to participate in Exploratories which have offered course selections such as video production, yearbook, Wii fitness, scrapbooking, forensic investigation, French language, art, yoga, guitar, and dance, among others; course opportunities vary by semester. Additionally, sixth grade students participate in Middle School 101 and eighth grade students take part in High School 101 in order to better prepare them for academic and social challenges.
Technology is an important part of learning at Palmer Catholic Academy. Each classroom is equipped with networked PCs and internet access for students and faculty to conduct research, explore new learning techniques, and reinforce their studies. In addition, teachers are able to access their math and reading series, as well as programs such as Reading A-Z and Discovery’s United Streaming, through the use of projectors, Smart Boards, or mimeos. This allows for greater interactive learning in the classroom. We are proud of our state-of-the-art multimedia center with our art and music suites, an over-10,000 volume library, and advanced computer lab with over 30 PCs.
An up-to-date technology curriculum is followed in our computer classes. Keyboard skills are introduced as early as kindergarten and developed in an escalating manner through the grades. Students begin using programs such as Microsoft Word and PowerPoint as early as 1st grade, Excel in 2nd grade, and Microsoft Access and Publisher in 5th grade. Internet safety and credibility is also taught. Our computer teachers collaborate with classroom teachers to support their curriculum, further integrating and reinforcing concepts students are already studying.
Testing, Recognitions, and Achievements
Students in grades 2-8 participate annually in the nationally-recognized Iowa Tests of Basic Skills (ITBS). The PSAT is offered to 8th grade students. In the 7th and 8th grades, students are recommended for the Johns Hopkins University Center for Talented Youth (CTY) Program, and qualified students in 7th grade are also recommended for the Duke Talent Identification Program (TIP). Eligible students in grades 7-8 may apply to be a part of the National Junior Honor Society (NJHS) or National Elementary Honor Society (NEHS) for students in grades 5 and 6.