Academies adjust to fit new state law

Story by: Rosalind Willamson, Copy Editor

Changes in state law and administrative interest in better addressing student needs resulted in changes to the academy system this year.

Administration expanded last year’s freshmen CHAMPS academy to include sophomores. Juniors and seniors now have their own academy which will focus on five state-mandated endorsements, or programs of study: STEM, Business & Industry, Arts & Humanities, Multidisciplinary Studies, and Public Services.

“I like the new nine-ten traditional because you have to have your academic foundation set before you can really get into all that higher level, relevant kind of career-oriented stuff,” Director of Instruction Donna Pahmiyer said. “I like that better because I want to make sure that everybody has a good strong foundation first before they start doing any other things. I think it’s going to work well for us.”

The establishment of CHAMPS last year contributed to lower numbers in discipline and tardies and improved performance on end-of-course exams (EOC). Ninth and tenth graders take the bulk of EOCs, four out of the five tests administered to high school students, so the new freshman and sophomore combined academy allows a heavier focus on succeeding at EOC exams.

“Based on what happened with CHAMPS last year, that was really successful, so we’re pretty happy with that,” Pahmiyer said.

With last year’s success in the CHAMPS academy, administration thought adding sophomores seemed like a logical step.

“It feels like we’re able to be more focused on the primary goals for each of the academies, more focused on in the nine-ten passing those classes, passing those EOCs, really focusing on academics, and in the eleven-twelve, we’re looking at classes and we’re making sure we’ve got all the requirements,” Coordinating Counselor Terrie Shell said. “I think it’s a little bit easier to focus that way because our focus is not so spread out.”

Teachers and counselors moved classrooms this year to accommodate the new academies and allow sophomore classes to be grouped together.

“I think it’s going to be better since all the classes will be closer to each other, so it’s faster commutes and everything,” sophomore Chloe Hardy said.

Counselors have new groups of students this year, each around 575 students per counselor. Last year, two counselors had 500 students, and the rest had around 350.

“I have to get to know a new population of students, and so that’s always fun for me because every year that I’ve been here I’ve changed from one academy to the other,” ninth-tenth grade counselor Nina Williams said. “What it does for me is it allows me to know more students in the building, so to me that’s a positive thing that I get to have relationships with a number of students.”

There are critics of the new academy structure, however. Sophomore Chantal Thantrong thinks the system stops sophomores from fully integrating into the reality of high school.

“It makes sense having a freshman academy keeping the freshmen all together, but after they’ve gone through 25 percent of their high school career, it doesn’t really make sense, because they need to grow up,” Thantrong said. “Having mixed grades helps them mature more because they’re treated as equals. It’s kind of like being in freshman year all over again, except more work, more tears, more tantrums.”