Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Self-Paced Public High School Graduates 16 in November

Independence High School Graduates Sixteen Area High School Students
Independence High School News Release 12.01.2008

Sixteen area high school students graduated from Independence High School this November - one of the strongest ever pre-Thanksgiving finishes by students motivated to deliver a much appreciated "graduation present" to their families for the holidays. Independence, located in downtown Alpharetta, is a Fulton County open-enrollment public high school which offers differentiated and teacher-assisted self-paced learning. The school processes graduation completions for each individual student within a few hours of completing the State of Georgia graduation requirements. Sixteen students have made it to the next level of academic achievement, their high school diploma, in November alone.

These Independence graduates have donned the traditional cap and gown to walk the halls in joyful same-day mini-graduation ceremonies on almost a daily basis this November. The graduation march plays in the background and each student's departing comments are read over the school's intercom. In addition, graduates may choose to receive their diploma from Independence or their original high school (Alpharetta, Milton, Roswell, Chattachoochee, Centennial, Northview, Riverwood or North Springs). They also have the option of choosing to participate in the May graduation ceremonies at both Independence and their original school.

Student Stories

"I got off to a bad start at my first few years of high school because I was sick so much. I didn't know how I was going to catch up to graduate with my friends. Independence made it possible for me to graduate and I will be able to participate in graduation cremonies at my home school this May -- with my original class and my friends:, commented one recent Independence graduate. Another wrote, "I couldn't stand listening to teachers talking so much at my old school. I am ADHD and I just wanted to get my work done. At Independence, I was able to work with freedom at my own pace and compete courses much faster. I was able to get indivdiualized attention and help from teachres whenever I needed it."

The School

Four years ago, the decison was made to break Independence High School away from the student population involved with discipline issues. Since then, any student who would rather work at his or her own pace in a stress-free environment can apply to enroll in this small, safe and comfortable accredited public high school to complete their Georgia high school requirements.

A typical Independence student might be excellent in Math, for example, but may need extra time in English. Independence allows this student to work at a faster pace in Math to complete Math courses rapidly. With his or her English classes, on the other hand, the student is encouraged to work at a pace with which he or she is comfortable. Independence High School graduations are evidence that this approach is a very effective breakthrough for many high potential students.

Like one of the recent graduates quoted above, some students get behind in their traditional school because they have health problems which cause them to miss significant portions of a semester or school year. Independence self-pacing allows these students to catch up and graduate on schedule. In addition, of concern to many medically fragile students, traditional high school classes march on while the student is recovering from any illness. At Independence, the medically fragile student doesn't have to worry about returning from an illness to find him or herself "out of it" or far behind. The student merely returns to Independence when their health improves, and the work is there from them to complete from wherever they left off. They can, of course, be provided work-at-home packages during their illness as well.

Other teenagers simply feel lost in larger traditional school environments -- with over two thousand students and maximum class sizes in bigger schools. Social pressures may be overwhelming, too. Independence has smaller class sizes and an enrollment averaging 300 to 400 students -- just like the high schools many students' parents enjoyed when they were teenagers. The environment is designed to be simpler and calmer. Students who need assurance that they are valued as individuals find Independence an excellent place to finish up their high school careers and move on to successful post-secondary education.

Today's economy, and the financial situations of most families, make it impossible for the great majority of students to afford a private school alternative. High potential students drop out simply becasue the traditional public high school environment and style is not a good fit for them. Fortunately, a public school alternative such as Independence high school exists for these North Fulton Students and their families. Sixteen new November High School Graduates are thankful for the opportunity.

More information:
Lee Nicholson
CTE Department Chair
86 School Drive
Alpharetta, GA 30009

Thank you to Susan Hale, Communications Manager, Fulton County School System for submitting this information to Georgia Graduation Stories blog.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Americans for the Arts Hosts Arts Education Webinar

Americans for the Arts Hosting Arts Education Webinar

Steve Seidel, Director of Harvard’s Project Zero and Director of the Arts in Education Program at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, will present the completed findings of his Wallace-commissioned study, Qualities of Quality: Excellence in Arts Education and How to Achieve It.

December 17, 2008 at 2:00 PM EST, 1:00 PM CST, 12:00 PM MST, 11:00 AM PST (90 minutes)

Many children in the United States have little or no opportunity for formal arts instruction so access to arts learning experiences remains a critical national challenge. Additionally, the quality of arts learning opportunities that are available to young people is a serious concern. Understanding this second challenge – the challenge of creating and sustaining high quality formal arts learning experiences for K-12 youth, inside and outside of school – is the focus of a recent research initiative, The Qualities of Quality: Excellence in Arts Education and How to Achieve It, commissioned by The Wallace Foundation and conducted by Project Zero at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

The study focuses on the character of excellence itself and asks three core questions: (1) How do arts educators in the United States—including leading practitioners, theorists, and administrators-- conceive of and define high quality arts learning and teaching? (2) What markers of excellence do educators and administrators look for in the actual activities of art learning and teaching as they unfold in the classroom? And (3) How does a program’s foundational decisions, as well as its ongoing day-to-day decisions, impact the pursuit and achievement of quality? In this webinar, we will share the findings of this study and introduce some of the tools developed by the research team for use by practitioners committed to examining and improving the quality of the arts learning experiences they provide for young people.

Get in touch with any questions.

John Abodeely
Manager of Arts Education
Americans for the Arts
T: 202.371.2830 F: 202.371.0424

Tools to Strengthen High School Transitions & Success

ECS Highlights Tools to Strengthen High School Transitions & Success

DENVER, CO – Today the Education Commission of the States (ECS) goes

live with three new resources focused on policies to ensure academic

success in high school. The policy briefs build on research suggesting

the 9th-grade transition year, along with parental engagement and teacher

preparation, are critical to academic success in and after high school.

A 9th-grade transitions policy brief reviews research emphasizing the

freshman year as a predictor for high school success. The policy brief

identifies solid approaches to develop and support successful transition

model policies, articulating how such policies look, whether they are

aimed at funding summer “catch-up” programs, growing positive peer

networks or developing individual graduation plans.

Successful high school transitions also are heavily dependent on parental

support and guidance, yet research suggests many parents are unsure of

how best to support their child during the high school years. A second

policy brief highlights research indicating the types of parental

involvement that positively impact high school students. Designed for

state policymakers, this resource also identifies a set of policies and

practices that reflect and reinforce a commitment to increase parental


“Having worked at the building, district and state level, I know that

parents are key to students’ success, no matter what grade those students

are in,” ECS President Roger Sampson notes. “Yet too many parents don’t

know how to be involved once their child leaves the elementary grades.

This policy brief provides real answers to help state and district level

leaders get parents of high school students involved in meaningful ways.”

Research indicates that along with parents, teachers also are instrumental

in the success of high school students. A third policy brief examines

seven high-leverage components to strengthen teacher professional

development at the high school level and provides state policy

suggestions for each.

“As the research shows, 9th grade is a ‘make-or-break’ year for high

school success. States need to make sure they’re providing the supports

these students need to set them on the path to high school graduation,”

explains Sampson.

The Education Commission of the States (ECS) is the only nationwide,

nonpartisan interstate compact devoted to education. ECS helps

governors, legislators, state education officials and others identify,

develop and implement public policies to improve student learning

at all levels. A nonprofit organization, ECS was formed in 1965 and is

located in Denver, Colorado.

For questions or more information about these or other high school

policy issues, please contact ECS Senior Policy Analyst Jennifer Dounay


Announcement was released on Thursday, December 11, 2008.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Georgia Graduation Coaches Talk About the Program

Georgia Graduation Coaches Talk about the Program

In the fall of 2007, The Georgia Partnership for Excellence in Education (GPEE) sponsored the XV Annual Bus Trip Across Georgia. At several high school and middle school stops on the trip, GPEE and Georgia Public Broadcasting (GPB) took the opportunity to interview Graduation Coaches. Visit the website for Communities in School of Georgia for more information on the Graduation Coach program.

Interview Question: What Is Your Job?

Responses from:
Sarah Alford - Banks Stephens Middle School, Monroe County
Steve Sweat - Dawson High School, Dawson County
Jennifer Rudeseal - North Hall High School, Hall County
Prelvis Paster - Mary Persons High School, Monroe County
Randi Sagona - Ottwell Middle School, Forsyth County

Interviews with Georgia Graduation Coaches

Georgia Graduation Coaches Talk about the Program

In the fall of 2007, The Georgia Partnership for Excellence in Education (GPEE) sponsored the XV Annual Bus Trip Across Georgia. At several high school and middle school stops on the trip, GPEE and Georgia Public Broadcasting (GPB) took the opportunity to interview Graduation Coaches. Visit the website for Communities in School of Georgia for more information on the Graduation Coach program.

Interview Question: How Do You Know that the Program is Working?

Responses from:
Jennifer Rudeseal - North Hall High School, Hall County
Sarah Alford - Banks Stephens Middle School Monroe County
Steve Sweat - Dawson High School, Dawson County
Prelvis Paster - Mary Persons High School, Monroe County

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Young Women in Science & Technology

Young Women in Science and Technology (YWIST)

This is the tenth year that DeVry University has sponsored this daylong event as a service program for Georgia high schools. The goals of the program are to encourage and reinforce young women's interest in careers involving science and technology and to increase the number of young women pursing these careers. Over 400 high school juniors and seniors from all over Georgia along with their parents, teachers and guidance counselors had a day to explore career options, to be motivated by a panel of outstanding women professionals and to celebrate dreams for the future. The November 13th event was offered at no charge to the participants.

The students pictured to the left are in AP Computer Science at Centennial High School in Fulton County. They came to the YWIST event with ideas about careers in medicine and business. Their teacher hoped that they would be exposed to different aspects of technology and hear about additional new career options. The other adult with this group was a mother of one of the students. She was pleased to see how this program added to her daughter's long standing interest in technology and potentially provide some clarity on a path to a career. She was also pleased to see the theme of women in technology being promoted.

The next group of young women and moms were some of the representatives from the Center for Engineering and Applied Technology at Atlanta's Frederick Douglas High School. They talked enthusiastically about the process of applying as 8th graders with strong grades and written essays for selection into a program that now defines their high school experience.

The mothers' offered their own perspective on the day. They saw their participation in this event an another way to become informed and to be there for their daughters. A good education, good grades and GPA are all part of an overall plan that has to be in place to help these young women set goals and achieve success

Morgan County High School students along with Mr. Eric Hamilton, Assistant Principal started their day at 5:30 am in order to participate in the YWIST event. The students participate in the MCHS Math & Science Academy. The day's activities were part of a larger school strategy to encourage young women to follow careers of excellence, empower then to achieve and to formulate and follow their dreams. To have the MCHS students see women who have found success in a career of their choice and to hear the women's stories was a large motivation to make the trip.

The reflections of the students took shape in takeaway messages:
learned more about science and technology wants to persue careers in science broaden horizons always in style to be the best women should not feel inferior and can succeed you do not have to be a man to be powerful in this work

Panel Members provided equal portions of information and motivation through the stories of their own life stories and career goals. The Panel included:
Karen A. Albrecht, Engineering Site Director, Lockheed Martin Aeronautics
Rosemary Cloud, Fire Chief, East Point Fire Department
Lynn Do, President, RenovoData, Inc.
Sue Miller, Managing Consultant, MDI Group: President, WIT Foundation
Jacqueline Plair-Rushin, Director, Global Customer Care, InterContinental Hotels Group
Kanchana Raman, Founder, President & CEO Avion Systems, Inc.
Kim Ruple, Director of Contracts, Georgia Technology Authority

Visit the DeVry website to learn more about the University along with the YWIST program and sponsors.