Morningside Academy


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Dr. Kent Johnson founded Morningside Academy in Seattle, Washington to provide behaviorally designed academic and social programs for children and youth and preparation for teachers and other school personnel. Since that time, Morningside has grown to be a complex corporation with two distinct programs serving each of the original goals. First, Morningside Academy is a non-profit school, operating during the school year and in summer. Second, Morningside Teachers’ Academy participates in formal external partnerships with schools and agencies throughout the United States and Canada. It also offers a summer institute for teachers, graduate students, and other professionals. Morningside Academy’s school helps both elementary and middle school students to catch up and get ahead. Its students have not previously reached their potential; many have learning disabilities or ADD/ADHD diagnoses; all have average to well above average intelligence. Morningside is not a school for children with significant emotional problems, behavioral problems, or developmental delays.


Frequently Asked Questions

What makes you unique?

All of the instructional materials, tools and methods used at Morningside are research- based “best practices” proven to be effective. As a result, we offer a Learning Guarantee: students are guaranteed to make at least two years growth in one school year in their area of greatest academic need or their tuition is refunded. In over 40 years, we’ve refunded less than 1% of tuition. Many schools practice compensatory education for struggling students, by offering modifications to the grade level curriculum. Morningside is very different in that we directly address learning disabilities, rather than “work around” those challenges. For example, if students are struggling with working memory, we address that difficulty with fluency building procedures to improve working memory. If students have trouble organizing their materials, we teach them strategies for effective organization. Most importantly, students are grouped homogenously, meaning they are in mixed age classrooms where all students have similar academic strengths and weaknesses. Instead of progressing from one grade to the next because of their age, students move between curriculum levels, and do so once they’ve mastered certain skills. We know that we cannot hold both mastery and time constant, so we choose mastery, ensuring students have a rock solid foundation to build more complex skills upon. Morningside Academy helps both elementary and middle school students to catch up and get ahead. Our students have not previously reached their potential; many have learning disabilities or ADD/ADHD diagnoses; all have average to well above average intelligence. In Multi-Tier System of Supports (MTSS) or Response to Intervention (RTI) models, our students would been in need of Tier 2 academic and social-behavioral interventions. They are the “Forgotten 40%” of students in US schools – those who fall through the cracks but whose learning disabilities are not so severe that they often receive effective intervention. Morningside is not a school for children with significant emotional problems, behavioral problems, or developmental delays. The Foundations Program serves elementary and middle school children in grades 1-9. It focuses upon reading, writing, language, mathematics, reasoning and problem solving, organizational skills, learning skills, and citizenship. Those middle school-aged children who demonstrate foundation skills at or above the 6th grade level, and who are chronologically at least 6th graders qualify for admission to the Middle School Program. The Middle School Program includes Foundations skills plus all the skills necessary for excellence in a content course. Middle School students also learn how to engage in inquiry and project based learning. School operates during the typical school year and in the summer. Morningside also designs and tests its own instructional materials and teaching methods. Our programs are continually evolving to better prepare students for successful schooling and citizenry.

Do you offer onsite therapy?

No, however many families choose to pursue therapy outside of Morningside, which we support. We often work with families to help them find effective therapists to support their child’s development.

Can parents pay extra for onsite services or bring in offsite experts?

No. If families are working with a particular therapist who supports their child in ways that we cannot (i.e. speech therapy, physical therapy), those experts might observe the child in our classrooms; however, the therapy sessions are conducted outside of our building.

Do you have parent support groups?

Yes. Friends of Morningside Academy (FOMA) is a parent-school group that works together to coordinate various family and school events. Because our students come to us from a wide variety of home schools and often transition back into their general education setting after 2-3 years, we work to build as much community as possible. FOMA plays a large role in building those connections. Parent education also occurs throughout the school year. We teach our families about Generative Instruction model as well as the concepts our students learn in their Transactional Analysis psychology course, allowing families to have a shared language for solving interpersonal challenges.

How is your staff trained?

Professional development is held in very high regard at Morningside. Each summer 30- 40 education professionals from around the world to study with us and learn our Generative Instruction model during our Summer Institute. New teachers receive their initial training then. Each Wednesday, students are dismissed an hour earlier than usual and our teachers spend 2.5 hours in a professional seminar, much of which is dedicated to ongoing training. We also have six pre-service days of training before the start of the school year and seven professional development days throughout the year. Lastly, educational research tells us that training workshops only leads to about 5% of skills learned being applied in the classroom. Effective training requires ongoing coaching. Morningside has two administrators and one teacher who spend significant portions of their time providing ongoing, in classroom coaching to teachers.


Morningside does not provide transportation. Many families drive while others walk or take public transportation. We do connect families to coordinate car pools whenever possible.

Do you take children with behavior issues?

Morningside is not a school for children with significant emotional problems, behavioral problems, or developmental delays. Some of our students have minor problem behavior as a result of being unsuccessful in school settings, but are successful without the need for individualized behavior plans.



When it comes to behavior issues, what are your standard policies for a child continuing in your school?

Morningside has developed a three-tier system for addressing social behavior issues. All students receive the same Tier 1 Preventions, which include daily schedules, clear expectations, and our Daily Support Card (DSC). The DSC is a document that follows the student throughout the day. For each activity in each class, the teacher sets a specific AIM for how many positive behaviors the child should engage in. Those behaviors are organized into successful academic, learning skills, organization, and citizenship behaviors. When the teacher observes the student performing those behaviors (e.g. using respectful voice tone with a peer), the teacher marks a tally on the DSC. The students try to earn as many tallies as the AIM set by the teacher. For example, in a reading comprehension activity, the teacher may set an AIM of three learning skills points. If the student engages in the specific learning skills being taught three times, they meet their AIM. The teachers also write positive and constructive feedback about specifics on the DSC. At the end of the day, the teacher and student have a brief meeting to discuss how many tallies the student earned and how those tallies relate to the AIM for the day. If students meet or exceed the AIM, they earn an =. If they miss a few tallies, they earn a , and if they miss several tallies, they earn a -. Parents are taught how to organize social celebrations to acknowledge their child’s success, like giving their child the choice of what they have for dinner, or taking a walking trip to a nearby park. When students have several – days, problem solving sessions are conducted to figure out what instruction or change in expectations needs to happen for the child to be successful. The DSC is successful in managing and developing new positive behaviors for 90% of our learners. For those who need more support, a Tier 2 intervention is employed. These are usually group oriented, and involve more frequent positive reinforcement than the DSC offers. Research based practices are used here as well, as Morningside teachers commonly employ successful interventions such as The Good Behavior Game, the Caught Being Good Game, or the Check In/Check Out (CICO) intervention. If even more support is needed, a Tier 3 intervention is developed. These are more intensive, individualized interventions aimed at helping students move back into a Tier 2 intervention. 1-2% of Morningside students need Tier 3 intervention.

Can you challenge a high achieving academic child while also building core foundation skills?

Absolutely! We do both simultaneously. Timed, meaningful practice of core foundations skills is done each day through a fluency building technology called Precision Teaching. By strengthening foundational skills, it allows teachers to challenge students with more difficult problems with the knowledge that the students have all of the prerequisite skills necessary to solve those problems. Two common sayings at Morningside are, “the problem that presents is not usually the problem to solve” and “the solution to struggles in Algebra is not more Algebra.” Far too often, even high achieving students run into problems because of a lack of fluency with the skills necessary to solve a complex problem. Many students “know how” to perform many different math skills, but might not be fully accurate or perform them too slowly. When asked to do something more complex that involves multiple steps, they get tripped up by those underlying skills that aren’t fluent. By focusing on fluency of core foundational skills, students are freed up to only have to focus on what’s being taught, not on trying to remember things they already learned while also learning something new! For example, even in our pre-Algebra class, students spend a portion of their daily math block doing timed practice of simple math facts and computation with whole numbers, decimals, and fractions. Doing so ensures fluency of those “simple” skills and allows them to move quickly through new learning. Further, students are Morningside are taught a generalized problem solving routine called Think Aloud Problem Solving (TAPS), that allows them to grapple with new, complex challenges that they’ve never been taught. As teachers examine upcoming curricular objectives, they’ll select those that need direct teaching and those that the students can figure out on their own. They are then instructed to “TAPS it out!”, a common saying at Morningside which means to use their TAPS skills to solve a problem.

Do you offer college prep?

Morningside only goes through 8 th grade; however, many of the learning skills we teach our middle school students are applicable to college learning. In fact, many of the study and reasoning procedures we teach, such as Fluent Thinking Skills for note taking and studying, and the aforementioned Think Aloud Problem Solving reasoning routine, were originally designed for undergraduate and graduate students. Our learning model is grounded in educational psychology research, so we’re as invested in teaching our learners skills and strategies for how to learn as we are in teaching them specific content. Our Middle School program, for students who have caught up and are ready to get ahead, focuses primarily on teaching students how to study, how to take notes, how to organize their materials, how to develop homework routines, how to work in groups, and many other skill sets necessary to be successful beyond high school.

Do you have co-op opportunities for your older students?

Not directly while they’re enrolled with us, however, many students return during their high school or college experience to volunteer or intern with us, particularly during our summer school. While they attend Morningside, our students learn so much about how they and others learn, and are taught to perform so much of their daily routines and even teaching of peers, that they’re uniquely well-suited to serving as classroom assistants to our summer school students.



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