Over the past several months I have relayed information regarding district goals, core beliefs, and the district vision; updates to the legislative session and school funding issues; and a description of a 21st Century education. Today I want to expand on one approach RISD will use to provide a 21st Century: The Ninth Grade Academy.
The Ninth Grade Academy was approved by our school board earlier this year and it has been mentioned in a previous article. Because the idea of an academy is new it provides uncertainties for some of our parents and students. I am confident there are several parents of RHS ninth graders that are wondering what is a Ninth Grade Academy and why are we using this approach?
To appropriately describe this would require a great deal more space. So I will attempt to provide an outline with a framework of the academy, why this is important for students and what additional resources are available for research on this subject.
The Academy is focused on helping freshman students have a successful ninth grade year. RISD is attempting to bridge some of the educational gaps that occur between the eighth and ninth grade year that contribute to a higher six week and semester failure rates, a greater retention rate, poorer test scores and eventually a higher dropout rate.
The Academy w ill prov ide students with an increased ownership in their learning, tech tools that they are familiar with, projects supported by state standards and support from specially trained teachers and administrators. Also, for the first time ninth grade students will be assessed with four end of course exams known as the STAAR. Passing these assessments will require greater critical thinking skills that the academy is designed to include as part of its structure. Project Based Learning (PBL) will be the main instructional format for our students. Students will be assigned a project in each core area that will last from two to three weeks. During this time period students will: work in assigned groups (groups change on each project), collaborate with business partners and make professional presentations. Even though projects will be the focus of learning students will still take exams and complete individual homework assignments that are focused on the project.
RHS administrators will explain this concept to students during FISH Camp and at the start of school and to parents at a Ninth Grade Academy Orientation that will take place during the evening hours following one of the FISH Camp dates. If you are interested parents and students can research this concept from the following websites: www.bie.org/ (Buck Institute) w w w. new technetwork.org/ node/154 w w w.thsp.org/tstem- earlycollege/ manor-new-technologyhigh school/ (Both for Manor New Tech) www.coppellisd.com/473720523163040823/site/ default.asp (Coppell New Tech).
The Ninth Grade Academy, along with PBL is an exciting opportunity for the students of RISD. In case you were not able to read some of the articles that have been written regarding a 21st Century Education they will be placed on the RISD website at www.rockdaleisd.net.