frequently asked questions
Why are you starting a soccer school?
We are starting the soccer school for the following reasons. We believe:
1. Our soccer players need more training hours to be competitive at the highest levels.
2. The educational experience can be greatly improved given changes in technology, teaching methods and workforce needs.
3. Family time is high priority given busy schedules.
4. Energy management and sleep are critical to both athletics and academics.
The school was designed to overcome these constraints.
How much does the school cost?
At the moment, we have set the price at $16,500 per year in Cary. This will include the school and the soccer instruction. This compares to IMG Sports Academy of $85K annually and YSC of $28.5-35K annually.
Is there a discount for siblings?
Yes, 20% off.
Can we stay with our current club?
Yes. We want to supplement training through the school hours and let you train with your club in the evenings and play games with them on the weekends.
Who is going to be the soccer coach?
The Director of Coaching is Gary Heale. He is joined by Coaches Kristen Howering, Santiago Fusiler and Aaron Kimball.
What is the target age group for the school?
We offer 4-9th grades. If there is sufficient interest at other age groups, we will do our best to accommodate.
What is blended learning and how is it different than pure online learning?
Blended learning is a teaching model which combines online curriculum with face-to-face teaching. Students get most of their content from online and often take short quizzes to monitor progress. Teachers and tutors monitor progress and direct their attention to areas where students have difficulty mastering. The goal is to use technology to enable more high quality interactions between teacher/tutor and student.
Take a look at What is blended learning? video by a non profit supported by the Gates Foundation. With personalized learning, the Gates Foundation is investing a lot of money to help public schools transition to blended learning environments. The students are passionate about learning and take ownership of their own education.
At the Accelerator School, the technology allows for teachers to spend more high quality interactive time with the kids in areas that matter. At most times of the day, there will be two teachers/tutors, along with other subject matter experts, for the 20 student class. The 1:10 instructor/pupil ratio will enable numerous high quality interactions.
Who is going to teach at the school?
Dr. Cindy Copolo and Sara Kourtsounis will teach and manage outside subject matter experts. These experts include college professors, practitioners and researchers. We will add teachers as the number of students grows.
Where will the school be located?
The RailHawks have generously offered to help us with the Town of Cary to host the school at Wake Med Park. We have partnered with XL Soccer to provide indoor facilities for inclement weather days and additional academic/event space . This will minimize travel time between the pitch and the classroom.
Transportation to/from school?
We are working on this and will hopefully make more information available as we see the final geographical distribution of the students. Until then, plan on dropping your student off at WakeMed Soccer Park in the morning before 9AM and picking up in the late afternoon. We will do our best to meet your schedule.
We will certainly help arrange carpools. We know CASL starts practice early relative to the other clubs. We have talked to them and assured them that their students will be released in time to make training. Those that can stay later in the classroom will stay.
Will the kids get the same school hours as regular public school?
The hours will be similar. Our semesters are longer but the school days are shorter to accommodate the soccer training. Students will be studying on international trips. Our school time is more efficient in that the students do not have to transfer from one classroom to another.
How will college admissions officers view the school?
As with all new schools, there is an education process for admissions officers. Based on ongoing discussions with college admissions officers, we will prepare our curriculum package for submission. ACT and SAT test preparation will be fundamental to college preparation. We are confident that first student class of 2022 will be well-prepared to apply for admissions.
What about their social life?
Social life at a smaller school is a common concern for parents. We believe that our kids will be better socialized given the collaborative learning, being in a learning environment with children of different ages, and establishing relationships with students from other countries.
what is your thought process on moving your children from an accredited traditional school?
I often get the question from parents on why I moved my children away from an accredited traditional learning environment.
Most parents find it surprising given that I teach at a top university, was on the board of the Public School Foundation, and moved back to North Carolina so my children could attend top public district schools.
First, I looked at the data:
- According to the 2012 International Student Assessment, the US ranks 35th in math and 27th in science out of the top 64 industrialized nations.
- According to Education Week, North Carolina public schools graded out at C+, 21st in the country, just above the national average.
- According to US News, Raleigh Charter High School (with a 1:13 teacher pupil ratio) is ranked 37th in public schools nationally. The only other Greater Raleigh school, Green Hope High School is ranked 336th nationally. All the other Wake County high schools are ranked below 1000.
- Private schools generally do not participate in rankings, so there are no national comparison.
- According to former US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, the K-12 system “largely still adheres to the century-old industrial-age factory model of education.”
- According to a Gallup Student Poll, student engagement falls from 76% in elementary school to 61% in middle school and to 44% in high school.
While these facts are compelling reasons for change, the deciding factor in creating a new school has been my personal experiences on the board of the Public School Foundation and in education in general. Over time, I was able to have candid conversations with many people in multiple roles in public and private schools:
- Under-resourced teachers who have said that they teach to the annual test to meet regulatory and fiscal targets. Few thought that this form of teaching was optimal for the children’s education.
- Teachers who struggle to keep up given disruptions due to “socialization” issues - bullying, drugs/alcohol, sex, family and mental health issues.
- A “Principal of the Year” winner who said that she has to convince one of her three children to go to school on every school day.
- A school district superintendent that said he needed another 7 years to get the necessary reforms in place. Change is too slow given fiscal and regulatory constraints as well as employee and institutional inertia.
My key takeaway is that there is room for tremendous improvement in accredited traditional learning environments. While the hard working staff are well-intentioned, the obstructions to adapt best practices are huge.
Based on my years of research, teaching and curriculum development, I have given a great deal of thought on educational matters including: the purpose of education, adopting key habits and making pedagogical tradeoffs. Many of the recommended changes in the learnings sciences have been around for more than a decade and are ready for implementation. Decisions to develop a new curriculum, consistent with these issues, have also been based on the recent changes in technology, learning sciences and the workforce. We have focused on adopting the best recommendations and practices in middle school education.
After years of research, the Gates Foundation has chosen to focus its efforts on teacher quality. I agree that high quality teacher-student interactions should be the key priority; the more, the better. Blended learning maximizes those opportunities, particularly if students participate in a school with low teacher:pupil ratios.
As for implementation experience, I have been teaching in a blended learning environment for several years. My children have been learning in a blended learning and experiencial environment for at least 5 years. My wife and I have been pleased with the experience and importantly the results. My son has done well on annual tests and his projects have done very well in the Science Olympiad state competitions against schools with more resources on paper. My 11 year old son struggled and then flourished in a small group writing workshop class where the deliverable was a 7000 word story. Traditional schools, public and private, would simply not have the resources to provide this level of support. I did not start writing papers of this length until college.
In the end, I am not willing to wait another 5-7 years for the public schools to make the reforms. Schools are already moving toward the blended learning environment. But, my son and daughter would have already graduated from high school by that time. I believe they and the other students will do well in a small group workshop environment like the Accelerator School where frequent, high quality student-teacher interaction is the norm. They will benefit from accumulated best practices in education, preparation for college and a changing, global workforce.
For reference, I suggest that you take a look at the following video which is based on the most popular TED talk of all time. I think you will find it one of the most thought provoking 12-minute videos that you will ever watch. Changing Education Paradigms
Moreover, I suggest that you also take a look at the What is Blended Learning? video
What are the details and cost of travel?
We would like to travel internationally for student/player development, most likely 1-2 annually. These are OPTIONAL trips given the time, family and cost considerations. We have partnered with a travel agency specialized in extended soccer trips which is estimated to be ~$3,000 per person for a 2-3 week trip. These costs are in addition to tuition. We will synchronize the travel with the clubs so as to not disturb their season. Dates will be coordinated with parents and clubs during the summer. Contemplated travel dates to Uruguay include December 2016 and July 2017.
Where will we travel?
We have developed relationships with some of the best clubs in Uruguay, Argentina, and Brazil. Those countries are producing the most exciting players in the world and we want to learn from them first hand. We plan to stay longer than the typical vacation/soccer package in order to immerse the players in the culture both on the pitch and off. And by the way, we are bringing the teacher on every trip. We are planning on Uruguay for our first trip.
Can middle school students handle an extended International trip?
In a word, yes. One of the main reasons we wanted to start the school was to have our players experience other cultures through soccer. We consider both the soccer play and the educational experience in everything we plan to do. By age 12, our sons have been on multiple extended trips already including to England, Spain and Scotland.
How have you considered safety on the trips?
Safety is the most important consideration of any trip. We have been scouting travel destinations for some time and safety is always the first criteria. Coach Kerr has been to South America several times getting to know the local clubs. We are partnering with an experienced travel agency, whom we have used in the past on International trips.
Why South America?
It is not that we don't love European football, we do, and we might go there as well. However, Coach Kerr is very interested in bringing our players to South America because of their ability to produce some of the greatest soccer talent in the world (Messi, Suarez, Neymar...).
How often will we travel?
As for frequency, we will go slowly at first mostly due to finances. We know this is expensive and we will likely only go on one or possibly two trips the first year. As such, it has to be optional with no strings attached.
What is different about Accelerator School soccer trips?
We are trying not to be like the “soccer vacation” packages. We have done those and they are great. However, there are several major differences:
We want immersion into the soccer and culture as much as possible and to do so requires more time.
We also want the players to be learning about the destination culture and will research the trip prior to departure.
We will bring the teacher on every trip to take advantage of down time and promote continual learning.
We will be able to train with their players as opposed to just being coached by their coaches - big difference.
We are also working on reciprocity for their coaches and players to enhance the quality of training here in the US.
The clubs in South America that we talk to are eager to do this.
Can parents come on the trips?
You bet but it is not required. The travel agency will handle the itinerary and chaperone the trip but we know the kids are young and are likely to not have been overseas before. We are also parents and know exactly how you feel. The satisfaction of seeing your little guy playing in that situation is indescribably great.