Key Design Features

Seton recognizes that the greatest “innovation” needed in schooling today is actually a return to the traditional, in terms of both curricula and non-academic goals. Yet there are uses of modern technology that have been proven to achieve better educational outcomes. As Brilla College Prep did, new Seton schools will draw on lessons from our Blended Learning Initiative that has seen superior results in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Cincinnati, Milwaukee, New Orleans, and Philadelphia schools. Brilla College Prep has demonstrated the academic excellence and greater economic efficiency that comes with this leading-edge approach to learning. In addition to our blended learning model, other school design features include:

  • Smart start – Start with kindergarten and 1st grade in year 1, then grow a grade level each year.
  • Strong parent involvement – All Seton schools will honor parents as the first educators of their children. Seton schools will implement a Commitment to Excellence, workshops four times per year, and many in-school and out-of-school opportunities for parents to be involved.
  • Power to lead – Seton will select an entrepreneurial school leader who has demonstrated teaching success with underserved students and provide him or her with the authority and resources to implement our vision, build a team of mission-driven professionals, and manage school operations. The school leader will then be held accountable for results.
  • Core Knowledge – Brilla shares the belief with The Core Knowledge Foundation that every child deserves equal access to common knowledge. We believe in the simple but powerful premise behind Core Knowledge that knowledge builds on knowledge and we reject the false choice that schools must choose between knowledge and thinking skills. Therefore, Brilla will utilize the Core Knowledge Sequence, a detailed outline of recommended curricular content to be taught in language arts, history and geography, mathematics, science, music, and the visual arts from grades K-8.
  • Paideia – Based on the Paideia approach, our pedagogy will integrate didactic instruction, coaching, and student-centered discussion.
  • Literacy x2 – The education program provides a double block of literacy instruction daily, which is integrated with history and other content and balanced with strong mathematics and science instruction.
  • Afterschool/extended day partnership – Consistent with our cornerstones of “more time” and “lead with character,” each school will partner with an extended day program, such as El Camino, that helps children grow in good character and faith. In addition to providing a safe and nurturing program for children whose families work until 5:00p, the program will allow teachers and staff to have a more sustainable work schedule.

Seton has developed a set of Essential Practices which provide clarity around elements critical to the Brilla educational model, and a Leadership Competency Model to provide clarity around the recruitment, evaluation, and professional development of our school principals. Our Essential Practices and Leadership Competency Models underpin our successful leadership pipeline recruitment efforts.

Seton is committed to future growth, and will continue to seek ways to expand opportunities for underserved children to achieve a character-building and academically-excellent education. 

Our Approach to Character Formation

One of the six cornerstones upon which Brilla was built is “Lead with Character.” We believe that good character makes for a meaningful life and produces lasting happiness. As a result, the development of moral virtue in the children and adults we serve is a central part of our educational mission.

Brilla emphasizes the cardinal virtues of classical antiquity—Courage, Justice, Wisdom and Self-control. The term “cardinal” comes from the Latin word “cardo” that means “hinge”; the cardinal virtues are so called because they are regarded as the basic virtues required for a virtuous life. The cardinal virtues are infused throughout Brilla’s curriculum, referenced regularly in classroom instruction, intentionally modeled by faculty and staff, and showcased in tangible and deliberate ways.

While we are still developing our approach, we hold the following beliefs about character formation:

  • Character formation must be intentional and cannot be a separate, stand-alone program; rather, formation must be holistic, infusing all parts of a school’s culture, routines, curricula, and ethos.
  • Children learn how to be and who to be from personal experience, the examples of influential adults, and through direct instruction. These three ways of learning is essential to our approach.
  • An understanding of dignity, a context greater than oneself, and the belief that self-giving is key to one’s happiness must be nurtured in children.
  • Because growing in good character is a good in, and of, itself we seek to develop moral virtue in children, as opposed to “performance character.” Likewise, we seek to promote the formation of internally-driven character rather than externally-motivated behavior.
  • Forming virtue in adults who work with children is paramount to effective character formation in children. While our approach involves children integrally, it begins with the formation of adults. Because one cannot give what one does not possess, we challenge all of our educators (teachers, staff, parents) to reflect on their own character, and how they can grow in virtue.
  • When we talk about character, we intentionally use the term “virtue,” and not “value.” Virtue is moral excellence supported by developed habits of mind and behavior. Virtuous citizens are a cornerstone of just societies.
  • We believe in good and bad and right and wrong; that there is objective truth in the realm of morality; and that an open mind is not an end to itself but a means to the end of finding truth.
  • Social emotional learning (SEL) compliments our holistic approach to character formation. While recognizing social emotional learning and character education are not the same, SEL provides children with important tools for demonstrating elements of good character, especially self-control.
  • Use of restorative practices, particularly restorative circles and conferences, is an important tool in our approach.

Seton is committed to future growth both inside and outside of New York City and will continue to seek ways to expand opportunities for underserved children to achieve a character-building and academically-excellent education. If successful in New York, we are confident our model can be replicated across the country with the same high degree of success that Brilla College Prep has shown in its early years.

Help Launch More Schools of Virtue

Seton seeks mission-driven, results-oriented leaders to participate in a yearlong training program to prepare for launching and leading a new urban school of excellence in New York City. We are looking for dynamic educators who have achieved strong academic results with their students and want to dramatically increase their reach. We seek motivated entrepreneurs who want to start a school from the ground up—a school that helps underserved children develop the virtue, knowledge, and skills necessary to earn a college degree and pursue lives of value, faith, and integrity.