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New Curriculum Focuses on Academic Distinction and Excellence

Community Update: Important Curricular News
February 23, 2022

Dear Prep Community,

In spring 2021, the Board of Regents approved a new strategic plan for the school focused on academic distinction and excellence. The plan calls us to develop our curriculum, faculty, and learning experiences in support of outstanding educational outcomes and our identity as a premier arts and sciences world school.

Last November, we initiated a curricular review process with our Upper School faculty to examine how we could enhance and expand the learning experience at Prep. Those discussions have been guided by a commitment to create experiences that are both distinctive and distinctively Prep. We have focused on designing a curriculum that provides broad opportunities to explore and achieve, outstanding college preparation, and whole-student development and formation. We are grateful to our faculty, who have provided extraordinary leadership throughout this important process.

We are now far enough along to announce a new curricular framework that we expect to fully implement by fall 2023. Over the coming months, our faculty will continue to add detail and character to the framework to design a new and deeper learning experience at Prep – one that will offer curricular pathways beginning in the 9th grade and provide opportunities for distinction for all students.

The new Aspire to Excellence (A2E) Curriculum will rest on seven foundational learning goals. Drawn from our mission and our Catholic Benedictine values and traditions, the Prep Learning Goals will define the curricular and co-curricular experience we provide. The A2E Curriculum will have three component parts:

  • Foundation Curriculum. The Foundation Curriculum at Prep reflects minimum graduation requirements. We do not anticipate making any changes to our current graduation requirements, which already exceed Minnesota state standards and are consistent with admission and academic expectations at selective colleges and universities.
  • Academic Distinctions. We will create opportunities for our students to pursue Academic Distinction in any of the eight disciplines offered at Prep: English and Literature, Visual Arts, Performing Arts, Social Science Studies, Physical and Natural Sciences, Mathematics, World Languages, and Theology. Graduation with Distinction in any discipline will require completion of coursework or experiential learning activities beyond the minimum graduation requirements.
  • Honors. Honors offers the highest level of distinction at Saint John’s Prep. Students who graduate with Honors will demonstrate exceptional academic and intellectual depth and achievement. Honors graduates must complete three disciplinary distinctions; complete a faculty-advised Senior Capstone based on a combination of research, original coursework, writing, and presentation; and complete an Honors-designated Knowledge and Truth course.

When fully implemented in fall 2023, the A2E Curriculum will leverage all our educational assets, including the talents and skills of our faculty, opportunities for students to take college courses at CSB/SJU, and the introduction of Advanced Placement courses where appropriate. It will span all four years in the Upper School and broaden opportunities for all students, not just the highest achieving students.

As we considered the elements of a new curriculum guided by our strategic plan, we determined with our faculty that the International Baccalaureate Diploma Program would no longer be offered after spring 2023. Though a strong experience for many students, the IB Program affords too little opportunity for flexibility in its design and delivery. We could not simultaneously develop programs and pathways of distinction and deliver the IB curriculum. The Aspire to Excellence Curriculum will provide opportunities for academic distinction for all students without the requirement of a one-size-fits-all curriculum, which for years has limited participation in IB at Prep. The class of 2023 will have an opportunity to complete their IB Diploma. All graduating classes thereafter will experience the A2E Curriculum.

On Monday, February 28, at 7:00 p.m. we will host an Aspire to Excellence Forum via Zoom to answer questions about the upcoming registration process and our plans and ambitions for the new curriculum. Please use this Zoom link by to join the forum. We invite and encourage everyone to attend.

We are very excited to move forward with the Aspire to Excellence Curriculum! When fully implemented in fall 2023, it will provide wonderful new opportunities for our students to demonstrate talent, excellence, and achievement. We are well-positioned to enhance our identity as a premier arts and sciences world school and leverage our distinction and excellence in support of our students’ future.
Please contact us if you have questions or concerns.

With gratitude,

Jon McGee 
Head of School

Christine Glomski

Prep Learning Goals

Learning at Saint John’s Preparatory School happens in classrooms and labs, on stages and athletic fields, in outdoor experiences, and in social and reflective settings on campus and around the world. Drawn from our mission and our Catholic Benedictine values and traditions, our Prep Learning Goals define the curricular and co-curricular experience we provide. They represent our pledge to students and families.

Excel Academically (Dignity of Work, Ora et Labora)
Ora et labora, work and prayer, anchor Benedictine life. We prize learning and growth as key components of student work and life at Prep. Our learning experience provides an innovative and well-rounded college preparatory education grounded in the liberal arts, where teachers and staff help students understand and pursue the promise of their potential. Our students engage in wide-ranging work in all disciplines, discovering the many ways of learning and knowing. They develop an ethic of holistic academic excellence, taking ownership of their education and striving to develop their unique talents to reach their fullest potential.

Grow Spiritually (Awareness of God)
We ground spirituality in an awareness of God, the heart of the Catholic Benedictine tradition. Spiritual reflection and growth are integral to learning and personal formation at Prep. Our learning experience provides students with opportunities to contemplate their own spirituality and to understand how prayer, work, service, and play animate faith. They learn ways in which diverse spiritual traditions can come together in mutual recognition, cooperation, and respect.

Develop Socially (Community Living, Respect for Persons)
We give special attention to the Benedictine practice of community living and our need as humans for relationships with one another. The Prep learning experience rests on a framework of school-wide community formation and programming within the classroom and through co-curricular and extra-curricular activities. Our students develop relationships through many kinds of social interactions, including personal friendships, teamwork, and social acceptance of all persons, ultimately coming together as one community.

Serve Compassionately (Service, Common Good, Justice)
Our students develop an understanding of how to use their unique blessings and talents in service of a common good, reflecting a Benedictine commitment to bringing people together in support of one another and the world. The Prep learning experience provides students with opportunities to recognize injustice, grow in empathy, and take appropriate action in service of a more just world. Our students learn to recognize and respond to needs within the school and greater community as well as how their actions impact and influence others.

Think Creatively (In All Things May God Be Glorified)
We encourage our students to think inventively and imaginatively, taking risks and following inquiry toward personal discovery. The Benedictine motto, In Omnibus Glorificetur Deus, “that in all things God may be glorified,” reminds us that our whole being, including our gift of creative expression reflects the creator. The Prep learning experience encourages and celebrates distinct opportunities for creative expression within each discipline and across disciplines, from writing, research, and speaking to performance, visual artistry, and movement.

Embrace Difference (Hospitality, Respect for Persons)
Our students learn to practice inclusivity and cultural awareness informed by the Benedictine tradition of hospitality and respect for persons, which call us to welcome all as Christ. This welcoming of each person leads to a broadening of perspectives and the development of compassion and empathy for others. The Prep learning experience provides students an opportunity to discover who they are and to reflect on their own identity while accepting and embracing values and cultures distinct from their own.

Engage Globally (Respect for Persons, Strive for Peace, Stewardship)
The learning experience at Prep transcends our geographic location. Central to our Benedictine values, we believe that an exceptional education must preference many voices, perspectives, and experiences. The Prep learning experience provides students with opportunities to engage and experience global cultures on campus and through international study. Our students develop an understanding of justice and the common good, awareness of social responsibility, and knowledge of world systems and their points of intersection and divergence.