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, Assistant Principal, Learning Resource Teachers, and some grade-level team leaders meet quarterly 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 PK-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. Additionally, our teachers are part of Professional Learning Communities (PLC) to review data and make appropriate plans for instruction. These combined efforts provide a seamless transition for students from grade to grade, eventually leading to a successful high school career.
Our Pre-Kindergarten students are immersed in Language Arts using the Letter People Program and the Happily Ever After Program. They learn and practice proper letter formation using the Handwriting Without Tears program.
At the Primary level (grades K-2), students learn and practice skills in phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, sight words, reading comprehension, spelling, writing and handwriting using the Superkids program. 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 instructional reading level. With this combination of leveled readers and the Superkids program, students have a strong foundation upon which to build further reading instruction. Zaner-Bloser handwriting is taught upon entering kindergarten, and the 6 + 1 Traits Writing model is utilized school-wide for written composition.
Our Intermediate grades (3-5) place an emphasis on reading comprehension strategies using a combination of basal reader stories, novel studies and Reading A-Z. Cursive writing instruction also begins in third grade. The 6 + 1 Traits Writing model continues at this level, and vocabulary is studied using the Vocabulary Workshop curriculum.
During the Middle School years, students are enrolled in both an English class and a Literature class to solidify these areas before entering high school. Students are engaged in a well-rounded Language Arts program that integrates the composition of the written word with novel studies. The 6 +1 Traits of Writing model is utilized at our school, which concentrates on each facet of the creative writing process. To prepare students for high school and college, MLA format is also taught and analyzed in order to properly cite textual evidence and format writing assignments. Literature classes combine classic and contemporary novels with relevant poetry, short stories, and nonfiction articles to provide students with both literal and figurative reading skills. Literature classes are leveled based on student standardized test performance.
Additionally, students at all grade levels enjoy our Book of the Month program, which allows all classes the opportunity to read and discuss a quality work of literature based on our monthly school focus.
In Pre-Kindergarten, students are engaged in a hands-on and interactive Math curriculum using the My Math series.
Starting in Kindergarten, we utilize the Sadlier Math program, which incorporates developmentally appropriate manipulatives and real-world application of student learning based on the Diocesan objectives. 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.
Our Middle School math curriculum includes the study of pre-algebra and algebra. Math classes at these grades are leveled based on student standardized test performance. 8th grade students have the opportunity to take Algebra 1 and Algebra 1 Honors depending on their testing data.
Additional enrichment programs include Sunshine Math, XtraMath, iXL, Math Club, and math competitions such as the Math Counts competition.
Science lessons school-wide 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 1 and 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. In addition, students are engaged in STREAM projects and experiments that tie in with their objectives.
Our Middle School Science curriculum follows the standards of the Diocese of St. Augustine. Sixth grade focuses on Earth/Space Science including Earth’s place in the Universe, Earth’s systems, and the impact of human activity on the Earth. Seventh grade focuses on Life Science including interactions between organisms and between organisms and the environment, cells and cellular functions, heredity, biological evolution and vertebrate and invertebrate body systems. Once in 8th grade, students delve into Physical Science including matter and chemistry, motion, energy, electricity and magnetism, and waves and their applications. While each grade level has its focus, material from previous grades is reviewed to ensure deep understanding.
All Middle School science classes include hands-on laboratory work using advanced microscopes, electronic instrumentation and one-to-one iPads. Seventh and eighth grade students participate in our school Science Fair with an opportunity for the winners to participate in 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 through the Pearson series, as well as through the use of Newsela, news publications and current event discussions to reinforce curriculum standards. Students are graded on performance assessments (oral presentations, individual/group projects, web quests, and mapping skills), 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 and the Sadlier We Believe series. The children are introduced to the building blocks of our Eucharistic faith, the importance of Mass, the experience and meaning of the sacraments, how to develop their relationship with the Blessed Trinity, and an understanding of the Old and New Testaments. Grade-appropriate discussions, activities, and experiences help to shape students’ religious formation.
All students attend weekly Mass together; parents are invited and welcomed to attend. Students are trained as sacristans, lectors, and ushers and assist in maintaining the school chapel and with school Masses.
Students preparing for sacraments participate in special retreats to enhance the sacrament experience. In addition, each class in grades PK-8 participate in an annual grade level retreat to further fulfill their spiritual journey.
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, our students are invited to participate in the Eucharistic Congress and other Diocesan-wide spiritual events and programs. Students can also join service faith-based clubs such as Club 4:12 and the Mini-Vinnies. Our entire 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.
Enrichment programs are offered weekly to the students. Media Research and Applications, 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, golf, and cross country.
Technology is an important part of learning at Palmer Catholic Academy. All classes are equipped with iPads and middle school students lease individual devices for instructional purposes. These iPads are used to facilitate and enhance learning.
Palmer Catholic Academy is outfitted with Microsoft Office Suite of applications for teachers and students. The Microsoft Teams platform is used to electronically distribute assignments and class information in grades 3-8. Primary age students use Class Dojo for this purpose.
Each classroom is also 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 and students are able to access their math and reading series, as well as programs such as Reading A-Z, Brain Pop, Brain Pop, Jr. and Discovery’s United Streaming. 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 Media Research/Applications 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 Media Research/Applications teacher collaborates with classroom teachers to support their curriculum, further integrating and reinforcing concepts students are already studying.
Learning Resource/Student Support
To ensure the success of all our students, Palmer Catholic Academy has a Student Support Team comprised of Administration and Learning Resource teachers. The team meets monthly with classroom teachers to discuss the academic needs of their students.
The Learning Resource teachers conduct Universal Screenings in Math and Reading 3 times a year for students in Grades K-2. 3rd-8th grade students are also screened 3 times a year using the computer-based STAR Assessment program in Reading and Math. After Universal Screenings are conducted on all students, we are able to identify students who would benefit from additional support. These students work in small groups or one-on-one with teachers and/or paraprofessionals.
If a student needs remediation beyond the help of the classroom teacher, the Student Support Team will refer the student to a Learning Resource teacher for more intensive, research-based instruction. Learning Resource teachers progress monitor their students weekly to track their progress.
The Student Support Team also meets quarterly with the parents of students who have an Academic Support Plan to discuss their child’s progress.
High achieving students in grades 1-5 can be invited to be a part of our ChOICE (Challenge, Organize, Imagine, Create, Enrich) program based on certain criteria. The goal of this program is to provide enrichment for these students through higher-order and critical thinking activities and robust challenges. The ChOICE selection process takes place each year. Students in this program are expected to be role models of behavior in their classrooms.
Testing, Recognitions, and Achievements
At PCA children enrolled in our PK-4 program are eligible to receive VPK funding. Florida law requires all private and public VPK providers to administer pre- and post-assessments to all children attending a VPK program. The assessments must be completed at the beginning and end of the school year, with the mid-year assessment being optional for schools. PCA does administer the mid-year assessment. The VPK Assessment includes progress monitoring measures in print knowledge, phonological awareness, mathematics and oral language/vocabulary areas that are aligned with the Standards for Four-Year Olds.
Students in grades 2-8 participate annually in the nationally-recognized Terranova test. 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 5 and 6 may apply to be a part of the National Elementary Honor Society (NEHS) or the National Junior Honor Society (NJHS) for students in grades 7-8.
During the month of January, eighth graders and their parents will be invited to attend a conference to review their standardized testing scores and discuss recommendations for high school class placements. These conferences provide parents with all the information they need to present to high schools during the registration process.