Case study: Something special at Christina Seix Academy

A private school for economically disadvantaged children is not something you see every day. Learn why the Christina Seix Academy chose Tools for their early childhood program.

The challenge


What we heard from teachers and administration at after implementing Tools at

Case study: Something special at Christina Seix Academy


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The process

Committee search to choose the right curriculum

Selection of Tools of the Mind curriculum & professional development

Tools training and implementation for all relevant staff

Teaching and learning review and outcomes

A school on a mission

Christina Seix Academy, an independent school serving children from preschool through eighth grade in the greater Trenton, New Jersey, area, exclusively enrolls children with acute economic needs and only one adult caregiver. Every child accepted into the Academy receives a full scholarship that includes tuition, materials, transportation and meals–even free board for older students who may choose to live on the campus. In addition to providing a safe environment and meeting students’ basic needs, the school has a mission that goes far beyond the basics: the Academy intends to send their students on to highly selective independent schools and ultimately some of the best colleges in the country.

As they prepared to open, back in 2012, leaders were looking for an evidence-based early childhood curriculum that would provide engaging experiences for their students and a robust professional development program for their faculty. Not just any curriculum would do. The Academy was seeking to prepare students from marginalized communities for the most rigorous and renowned secondary and post-secondary schools – they would need something special to nurture the independence, confidence and sense of agency their students would need as they began their ambitious journeys. They also wanted them to have fun, love school and learn how to learn.

Exceeding expectations

Christina Seix Academy found what they were looking for in Tools of the Mind. The curriculum was hitting the mark for children and addressed the Academy’s desire for substantive teacher training as well. Literacy data from the first cohort of Christina Seix first graders, who began Tools as 3 year olds, showed 86% of children meeting or exceeding the beginning of the year literacy benchmark on their Reading Roots assessment. The 36% of students who exceeded expectations were scoring at the beginning of 2nd grade.

In the years that followed, school leaders continued to partner with Tools team members, who exceeded Academy expectations in their responsiveness to the evolving needs of the school’s children, families and instructional team. Christina Seix Academy made intentional play, a central feature of the Tools curriculum, the foundation of their early grades program. Tools of the Mind helped the Academy to establish a high-performing early grade academic program and to develop a tight-knit, confident team of teachers who continue to enjoy deepening their understanding of the developmental needs and interests of the children they teach and preparing them for greatness in the years ahead!

“I could go on and on about the many positive results I’ve seen with my students using the Kindergarten Tools of the Mind curriculum. My students are progressing into First Grade performing at a much higher level academically, socially, and emotionally, than I’ve seen with other programs. Because of the focus on self-regulation and the use of various mediators, such as the Dispute Bag, I see much less tattling and arguing. The students are able to solve problems independently and regulate their own behavior.”
—Cari Welsh, Kindergarten Lead Teacher, Christina Seix Academy