Alternative Meets Advanced Placement at The Stables

All students are held to a high bar at The Stables, where students in this alternative school setting all take Advanced Placement courses by the time they graduate.

The Stables serves 7th-12th grade Fayette County Public School District students in Lexington, Kentucky. Located at the Kentucky Horse Park in partnership with nonprofit Central Kentucky Riding for Hope, the alternative school integrates an equine component with a project-based learning environment and career-training experiences to prepare students for life after high school.

The Stables implemented the Summit Learning personalized approach to teaching and learning in 2017. Principal Rachel Baker was looking for a program that would enable project-based learning, mentoring, and self-direction, and found all of these key components in the Summit Learning Program.

After learning that the Summit Learning Base Curriculum includes Advanced Placement (AP) courses, Baker decided that her students would not only have access to, but be encouraged to, take these courses.

“We all say that we should have high standards and rigorous curriculums in education,” Baker says. “But the question really comes [down to], do we really believe that for all children?”

At The Stables, all seniors take AP courses by default, and many students do so before they reach 12th grade. From English to Statistics, these courses challenge students to meet high expectations that Baker says aren’t always expected of all students.

“Many of our students come from high poverty, from minority communities, and are not always expected by society to be college-bound,” says Baker. She and her staff, however, believe that all students can achieve, and that expecting a high bar for all students helps them believe in themselves as well.

Recognition as a Summit Learning Spotlight School

The Stables Educator Meeting
Principal Rachel Baker (center) and Summit Learning educators meet for their daily check-in.

The Stables was recognized as a 2017-18 Summit Learning Spotlight school for its steadfast commitment to the success of its students, many of whom have lacked sufficient support in the past. Teachers are dedicated to growth, both for students and in their own teaching; they use daily check-ins with one another to collaborate on a continual plan of action for their school.

The Stables has coupled other unique initiatives that align with Summit Learning values, including a mentoring program grounded in Cowboy Ethics and the “Go Green” initiative, which encourages students to stay on track with their academic goals and share their successes.

A Hands-On Learning Environment

Walking the grounds of The Stables — through the classrooms, around the horse stalls, running into the barn cat Jewels — there’s an energy you can’t find in any other school in America. School is hands-on, through projects and through work shadowing opportunities. Students have an unmistakably unique opportunity to work alongside horses, which inspires some to follow career paths in the equine industry.

Rising junior Dawson McCarty, for example, is interested in being a farrier, a specialized blacksmith focused on equine hoof care. He came to The Stables knowing he learned best in hands-on environments and has thrived working with horses.

“If I don’t understand something, I take it apart and put it back together,” McCarty says. At The Stables, he’s been able to get hands-on through projects while also contributing directly to the horses he and other students care for. “We’ve built muck ramps, bee-catchers, saddle stands.”

“I’ve learned that sometimes it’s easier to work together than to work by yourself… Sometimes I don’t know things other people know, so it helps.”
— Dawson McCarty,
Rising 11th Grade Student

McCarty is featured in the video above, hauling a wheel barrow up the muck ramp that he and fellow classmates built together after constructing scaled models of the planned ramp. McCarty is also excelling in his academics, including within the AP offerings, which he has taken on enthusiastically.

That sentiment of excitement for learning and growing echoes throughout the halls and stalls of The Stables. The school sets a high bar for not just its students, but also for all educational institutions to model.

This post is part of our Summit Learning Spotlight series. Follow the Summit Learning Spotlight tag to get the latest Spotlight school and teacher stories.

About the author

Summit Learning
Summit Learning is a research–based approach to education designed to drive student engagement, meaningful learning, and strong student–teacher relationships that prepare students for life after graduation. Created by teachers with experience in diverse classrooms, Summit Learning is grounded in decades of research about how children learn. With Summit Learning, students gain mastery of core subjects like math, history, English, and science, while also carefully developing the skills and habits of lifelong learners. Summit Learning is independently led and operated by the nonprofit, Gradient Learning.