Frequently Asked Questions
The following FAQ's are answers to questions that we have received over the years. We hope that this will be a helpful resource for your family as you seek to learn more about our school.
As an additional resource to the below, the following STMA podcast episodes discuss the FAQ's in detail:
We have heard that STMA emphasizes student formation. What is student formation?
Simply put, student formation is the formation of the whole person (physical, mental, spiritual). This formation begins in the home, of course. We are blessed that our students' parents have chosen to enroll their children at STMA to continue that formation. Students are constantly being formed in how to study and learn well, engage with adults, engage socially with peers, and engage with our Lord during their time at STMA. For more information on student formation and why we say "trust the STMA process", please listen to our podcasts on this subject:
Is STMA accredited by an accrediting agency?
No, STMA is not accredited by any for-profit, private accrediting agencies. These agencies are separate from the state, but purportedly ensure that schools meet minimum standards, which are set by the state for public and charter schools. We have chosen to forego the accreditation process that is time-consuming, comes with high cost, and regulations that do not necessarily improve outcomes. Accreditation would also limit our freedom to hire the best instructors and tailor curriculum. Our classical liberal arts and college-preparatory education delivers exceptional outcomes in the form of exceedingly well-formed graduates. There exists a school of thought that accreditation equals excellence, but this is not always true. As an example, all public schools are accredited, but many offer unsafe learning environments and poor educational outcomes. St. Thomas More Academy goes over and above the minimum standards and limitations these types of agencies accredit.
Does lack of accreditation affect college acceptance? Will my student need to take extra classes before college?
No, college acceptance does not depend on whether a school is accredited or not. As an example, consider homeschooled students who have been accepted into college despite the lack of accreditation. Students who graduate from STMA are more than prepared academically (not to mention emotionally and spiritually!) for college and do not have to take any extra classes to be accepted into college.
How is STMA able to maintain such low tuition costs?
This question is a very reasonable one given the fact that many times quantity equals quality. That is simply not the case at STMA. It is the vision and mission or our founder and benefactor, Mr. Robert Luddy, to provide quality education at a cost that families can afford. Our tuition remains low in order to make his vision and mission a reality.
Is STMA only for exceptionally bright students?
We believe that STMA forms exceptionally bright students, but every year our incoming class averages on the ISEE placement test are just below the national mean.
How long does the admissions process take and when are admissions decisions made?
The admissions process consists of an on-line application, entrance exam, submission of school records from a student's current or most recent school, and recommendations. Details may be found on the Admissions section of our website here. The length of the process largely depends on how quickly an applying family completes the requirements.
In order for an applicant to be considered in the first round of admissions (Early Admissions), the admissions process must be completed by early December. Decision letters will be sent in mid December. In order to be considered in the second round of admissions (Winter Admissions), the admissions process must be complete by early March. Decision letters will be sent in mid March. After March, if there are remaining seats, admissions decisions are made on a rolling basis until all spots are filled. Students who apply after this time may be placed on a waiting list.
What happens after a student has been admitted?
Once an admissions decision has been made, a Commitment to Enroll must be signed by each family and student. Once the Commitment to Enroll has been received by the Admissions Office, each family will receive access to our on-line enrollment packet, where the $300 (tuition deductible) enrollment fee may be paid, tuition plans may be selected, and supplemental documentation completed and submitted. A student is enrolled for the upcoming academic year after the enrollment packet has been completed. Information about the upcoming school year will be sent to each enrolled family during the summer months.
How much homework is assigned?
Upper School: Several years ago, STMA moved to an intentionally lower homework model in our Upper School. We have worked hard to eliminate "busy work" assignments outside of class. In some classes there will be no homework. In others, there will be very limited work assigned outside of class. All students have built in silent work periods during the school day. Reading assignments are not considered as homework. Reading and writing assignments, by nature, occur outside of class and vary in length dependent upon individual student motivation to complete the assigned book or writing assignment. Some students may spend more time on reading and writing than others, causing longer periods of work at home.
Middle School: There is no homework in middle school, but just as in the high school, reading assignments are not considered as homework and students have built in silent work periods.
Do you offer AP or International or Baccalaureate Classes?
Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate classes do not fit well with our classical liberal arts curriculum. These programs are usually taught from a textbook and to a test, neither of which follow our approach of formation of deep and critical thought on important subjects.
While we do not offer AP classes, students may participate independently in AP classes on-line and STMA faculty will facilitate the AP exam.
Classes at STMA offer honors sections, which allow students to dive deeper into subjects of interest.
How do you handle math placement in the Upper School?
By our nature, we are conservative about math placement. We believe students should possess mastery of math skills before advancing to higher maths.
Freshmen complete a math placement test during the first week of school to properly assess math placement.
Does STMA have a STEM program?
STMA focuses on the whole person, not particular parts. Specialization in education for children has been shown time and again to be problematic. This said, we do offer outstanding core and elective classes in science, technology, engineering, and math. In fact, taking elective offerings into consideration, students at STMA have perhaps more opportunities for STEM classes than at any other high school. After graduation, the majority of our alumni successfully pursue degrees in STEM fields and do extremely well in their college and university classes.
Do you provide IEPs or make accommodations for learning disabilities?
STMA does not provide Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) for students. At our tuition level, we are unable to make curriculum accommodations for learning disabilities.
Do you allow extended time for tests?
No, we do not allow extra time for tests. Our experience has been that students learn to complete tests in the allotted time. This is beneficial preparation for college and careers beyond.
Do you provide tutoring?
We do not provide school administered tutoring. Teachers may provide additional support to students who request assistance. Upon teacher suggestion, peers who excel in specific subjects may offer tutoring assistance, but it is the student's responsibility to follow-up on the suggestions, demonstrate self-reliance, and seek out time before school, during lunch, or after school to obtain tutoring help from peers.
Classroom disruption has become an issue in many schools. Is it a problem at STMA?
We prize classrooms ordered to learning and enjoy the blessing of classes with students that are working hard to remain positively engaged in the material at hand. For this reason, we cannot and do not tolerate classroom disruption. Please listen to our podcasts on Student Formation above for more information.
Are students allowed to bring personal computers, tablets, or smartphones to class?
Aside from graphing calculators for math classes, we do not allow any personal technology to be used by students during the school day. Phones may be left, turned off, inside student lockers. This is not an anti-technology policy. We understand the important role technology plays in our lives today, as well as in the modern economy. In fact, students are expected to use technology to communicate with their teachers, as teachers will often email students (in addition to parents) regarding class assignments, quizzes, and tests.
STMA has a dedicated technology center that students may utilize before school, during lunch, and after school to work on papers and projects and to communicate with their teachers via email, as needed.
How many days of school are students allowed to miss a year?
STMA does not describe absences as excused or unexcused. Students may miss up to fifteen (15) full school days in an academic year at family discretion. STMA offers each student an emergency absence reserve for potential use over his or her full time of enrollment. The reserve is four (4) days for grade 9 and pro-rated for continuing (and transferring) students at three (3) days for grade 10; two (2) days for grade 11; and one (1) day for grade 12. If a student exceeds the annual allowance, he or she may access the reserve in whole or part. The reserve cannot be replenished.
Does STMA have Prom or other school dances?
The STMA Upper School does not have Prom in the traditional sense, but we do have a formal dance in the spring called The Chancellor's Ball. Our juniors and seniors prepare for this by learning social forms of dance every week during the school year, which they demonstrate with their partners and other peers during the Chancellor's Ball. We also offer other dances and social events throughout each school year, which are organized by our Student Council and Parent Student Organization.
Do you have PE classes?
Given the restraints of our core curriculum and schedule, we are unable to offer Physical Education classes for the Upper School at this time, although it is offered for Middle School students. Occasionally, there may be options in the form of electives. We do, however, participate in school-wide walks around our campus during morning break three days a week; we also enjoy long lunch periods when students are encouraged to go outside and be physically active. We often see students enjoying a game of frisbee or corn-hole during the lunch period, as well as after school during the carpool period. Upperclassmen take social dance classes every week (in preparation for the Chancellor's Ball in the spring); and once a month, there are swing dances during lunch. Additionally, more than half of our student body participates in sports and we offer a strength and fitness club after school to all faculty and students.
Does STMA offer band classes?
Unfortunately, we do not, but there are many opportunities throughout the year for students with instrumental gifts and talents to share them with the school community (this includes opportunities in some theatre productions). An important part of a classical curriculum is the offering of music. All middle school students are placed in music class. All students may participate in the choir during Mass.
Are seniors allowed off-campus for lunch?
We do not allow students to leave campus for lunch. There are a number of reasons for this decision, the main one being that we want our seniors to remain on campus to interact with the rest of the school community. Additionally, a number of our clubs and activities occur during lunch. We often schedule food trucks on campus during lunch and provide feast day lunches to students throughout the year.
Do you require service hours?
Students are required to participate in school organized service trips with classmates each of their four years in the Upper School and three years in the Middle School. Service hours obtained at STMA may be used towards Confirmation service hours (but please consult with your parish to confirm this).
Do Theology classes at STMA count for confirmation classes?
STMA Theology classes do not count as confirmation classes in the Diocese of Raleigh.
Is Confession available at school?
Opportunities for the Sacrament of Reconciliation are often made available during lunch following the weekly Mass. This is dependent upon the individual priest's schedule.
We've heard that some students who do well in middle school have struggled at STMA. Is this true and why?
Stress would need to be placed on the word "some", but yes, it is true. It would be impossible for us to explain this definitively, but what we know is that sometimes middle school grades do not match entrance exam scores. For example, a student receives an "A" in 8th grade Algebra I, but fails, by a wide margin, the Algebra section of our placement test - as well as our Math Department Placement Test. Again, it is nearly impossible for us to explain this discrepancy, but it suggests large gaps in content delivery and mastery.
STMA welcomed the first 6th grade in the fall of 2020. We will grow to a full middle school (grades 6-8) by the fall of 2022. This will serve to address the issue of lack of proper preparation for a large majority of students eventually entering 9th grade at our school.
Is STMA a good school for boys?
This is one of the most unusual questions we have received in recent years and the answer is an unequivocal YES if the hoped for outcome is well educated, virtuous, young men of God. In our nearly two decades of Catholic liberal arts education serving Raleigh, NC, STMA has graduated many of the finest young men we know and are proud to call alumni of the Academy. We are especially proud of Fr. John Kane and Fr. Michael Schuetz, STMA graduates and priests of the Diocese of Raleigh, as well as Diocesan Seminarians John DeGuzman, Robert Lane, and Kolbe Flood. Additionally, Brother Leo Dornan of the Oblates of St. Philip Neri is an alum. Given so many priestly and religious vocations in such a short time from our relatively small school, it would stand to reason, at least from this standpoint, that STMA is indeed a wonderful school for boys to grow and learn to discern the will of God in their lives.
What is the student culture like at STMA?
This particular question is not unique to STMA, as it has become somewhat the norm in recent years for prospective parents to inquire about the "culture" of a school. At STMA, we focus on cultivating kindness, for that is paramount in the Christian life of charity. We are called to love each other as Christ loves us and living lives of charity through acts of kindness and mercy are the avenue by which we demonstrate that love. Students at STMA are generally very welcoming of each other. Does that mean that no one will ever experience an act of unkindness? No, just like in life, we will all experience unkind words or deeds at the hands of our fellow man. But, our administration and faculty go to great lengths to guide our students in cultivating a life of kindness, both inside and outside of school. If a student experiences unkindness in any way (via actions, words spoken in person or on social media, etc.), that student and/or the student's parents should bring concerns to the school's administration (Dean of Students, Dean of Faculty, and Headmaster) to address. Though we are a small school, our faculty cannot see/hear every interaction between students (especially those on social media), so we must partner with families to ensure students are thriving at STMA.