New plan has fewer credits required

Dec. 10, 2013 @ 09:43 PM

A minimum credit diploma program for at-risk high school juniors and seniors is being developed for Northern and Southern Vance high schools in response to the school system’s low graduation rate.

It is a plan that school system leaders say is different than one in place for at-risk students already at Western Vance High School.

Brian Creasman, assistant superintendent for administrative and instructional support, introduced the Transition Academy as part of the school’s graduation plan to the school board.

Adjustments to the district’s graduation plan will be discussed at the school board’s curriculum committee meeting later this month, and the full board will vote on the graduation plan at its Jan. 13 meeting.

Vance County Schools require students to earn 28 credits to graduate, but those enrolled in the academy would need either 21 or 22 credits, which are the minimum requirements set by the state board of education.

The academy is designed for students in the junior or senior cohort who demonstrate characteristics that place him or her at risk of not graduating on time or dropping out of school.

Creasman said the academy would use a small teacher to student ratio, as well as individualized student goals and an online curriculum.

However, he said, each student enrolled in the academy may require a different, personalized plan for catching up and finishing required credits.

Trixie Brooks, an assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction, said the Transition Academy is different from Western Vance High School. Western is the district’s alternative four-year high school for at-risk students. Western Vance students also graduate with minimum credit diplomas.

Brooks said Western Vance is like a fresh start for students who couldn’t find success at the traditional public high schools.

“Western Vance is actually a whole other setting,” she said. “We find that students need another setting away from where they started to get a fresh start. A lot of our Western Vance students really need that new beginning, that fresh start.”

She said the students who are eligible for the Transition Academy do not need the same level of support as the at-risk students in Western Vance.

“Even though they may have similar characteristics, we consider Western Vance our very at-risk population of students,” Brooks said. “These students we are talking about have had the characteristics where they are behind, but they don’t necessarily need that fresh start. They don’t necessarily need to be removed from the traditional high school setting in order to obtain those minimum high school requirements. This is a program. Western Vance is a school.”

She said students in the program would still be able to attend classes outside the Transition Academy, such as career and technical education classes.

Students are not allowed to enroll in the program as a way to graduate early, and the program is not open to freshmen or sophomores.

“We do not want to say, initially, that we are going to put certain kids in a minimum requirement standard so early,” Brooks said. “Ninth-graders sometimes are still finding themselves. They may fail a course or two, but that is not going to be an indicator that you are a minimum requirement student.”

Brooks said administration will focus on early intervention in both high schools, which now have a counselor assigned to each grade.

The graduation plan targets lower grades by providing support services to recognize students who require additional help mastering foundational subjects.

“The identification of at-risk students early on is key,” Brooks said.


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