Dec. 20, 2013
By Tara Cavanaugh
AAPS administrators and the Board of Education are considering ways to enhance high school education in the district.
Administrators and high school principals shared ideas with the board at a Dec. 18 study session. They will share an action plan with the board regarding enhancements for alternative and traditional high school offerings at a meeting on Jan. 29, 2014.
“We need to shift our thinking to offer multiple pathways to the goal of graduation,” said AAPS Superintendent Dr. Jeanice Swift. “We will intentionally deepen our work to offer a full continuum of services to our students.”
The team that presented options for high school enhancements included all AAPS high school principals: Skyline Principal Cory McElmeel, Huron Principal Dr. Arthur Williams, Community Dean Jen Hein, Roberto Clemente Principal Dr. Ben Edmondson, A2 Tech Principal Tyrone Weeks, Pioneer Principal Cindy Leaman and facilitator Tamber Woodward.
Dr. Swift’s expectations for alternative and traditional high school enhancements are:
- Connection – alternative offerings that engage, relate and connect students
- Flexible Schedule – featuring morning, afternoon, evening and year-round scheduling
- Flexible Learning Environment – face-to-face, online options and blended learning
- Credit Recovery options so that students are able to make up credits
- Career Connections – leading to a certificate, internship or program
- Full Course Offerings – including language, art and physical education
- Health Support – maintain RAHS (Regional Alliance for Healthy Schools) clinics on-site at A2 Tech and Scarlett
- Teen Parent Supports – maintain parenting program and day care offerings
- Food & Nutrition – 3 meals daily, food pantry and weekend backpack meals
- Recapture Program – to reconnect with students who have separated from school
- GED Support
- Graduation Coaching, Counseling and Mentoring
- Individual Graduation Plan for every student
Options for High School Enhancement
Early College High Schools
Early college high schools partner with a two- or four-year higher education institution and students earn credits for both high school and college graduation.
These kind of high schools focus on students who are typically under-represented on college campuses, such as first generation college students, underperforming students, students whose families cannot afford college or minorities.
A successful example is Southfield Regional High School, said A2 Tech Principal Tyrone Weeks. The school was recognized by the state for being the best alternative high school in Michigan. It has a 79 percent graduation rate.
Blended classes use online classes and resources with a facilitating teacher. They accommodate different rates of learning, provide opportunities to fill gaps and require that the student master the subject in order to advance.
Students in a single classroom could take different online courses with the help of a teacher. The teacher is also able to provide traditional classroom instruction.
The WISD WAY program, which stands for Widening Advancement for Youth, is an example of a blended class program.
New Tech Programs
New Tech high schools use a project-based and integrated curriculum with a focus on technology.
Skyline Principal Cory McElmeel, who was formerly the principal of Ypsilanti New Tech High School, is familiar with opening tech high school programs.
Students work on long-term, 3-5 week projects and take in instruction that is relevant to their project. “Learning occurs by the facilitator applying instruction and that instruction being directly applied to the project,” McElmeel said.
Integrated classes such as geo-art combine geometry with art and design and are taught in classes of 50 with two teachers. Each teacher is specialized in one of the two subjects taught in the integrated class.
Magnet schools are small learning environments that allow students to study specific areas of interest, such as technology, science, math, or the performing arts. Magnets can be set up within schools (such as those found at Skyline) or they can be standalone schools.
A high school that uses flexible scheduling creates students’ schedules similar to college students’. Students have the option for block scheduling, an extended day, a late start or early start, and a traditional day schedule.
With flexible scheduling, students can take more than six courses, have opportunities for credit recovery, remediation and advanced classes. Students can also schedule classes to accommodate personal and family needs.
International Baccalaureates (IB) are internationally recognized programs of study. The rigorous, global education is accepted for qualification into higher education institutions worldwide. Some universities give IB graduates sophomore status during their first year.
IBs comprise two programs: a middle years program for grades 6-10 and a diploma program for grades 11-12.
“We see our high school programs as a continuum so that we are offering lots of different options and both attracting and keeping students because we have what they want,” Tamber Woodward said.
“What we want to offer is something for everyone in our district, and that includes our alternative schools. We want all of our schools to be destination schools.”
“Our school ARE destination schools,” said Board President Deb Mexicotte. “We always are at the forefront of not just the traditional awards our students win but new ones we don’t know exist yet. Bringing that energy to the board at this time is extraordinary, a long time coming. We are ready for this.”
District officials will present an action plan regarding high school enhancements at a Jan. 29, 2014 meeting. Stay tuned to the AAPS News.
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