Title

Success Prep Academy: An Innovative School’s Formula for Clearing the High Hurdle of Low Expectations

Location

Scarbrough 1

Strand #1

Academic Achievement & School Leadership

Strand #2

Social & Emotional Skills

Relevance

All too often students from low-socio economic communities are faced with limited resources or plagued with educators that are seeking but failing to find answers of how to more effectively meet their educational and socio-emotional needs. Educators must reflect on the power of high teacher expectations. This is more than raising teaching standards. It involves recognizing that educators must first clear the high hurdle of low expectations; it is only then that their students will be successful; it is only then that effective innovative practices will take root. If this is not done, students that have been traditionally under-served will continue to be exposed to less challenging educational opportunities and post- secondary opportunities. Success Prep Academy is an innovative alternative program that has proven results for students faced with academic challenges. Students that are admitted into this program are supported by local and state community agencies. They enter 1 – 2 grades behind their 9th grade cohorts, but leave as confident on-time high school graduates. The program serves students from all of the city’s high schools. Program components are supported by a school social worker, counselor, community mentors and highly qualified core instructors. The program is also supported by the University of Alabama’s computer science department and the University of Alabama’s Center for Ethics & Social Responsibility. Students are required to participate in leadership opportunities as well as participate in school academic clubs. They compete in local and state Robotics and Chess competitions. Specific activities were designed to build students’ academic self-image and self-esteem. With the support of a full year Robotics Engineering program, the students have held the title of Regional Robotics Champions in the Tuscaloosa area as well as 2nd in the University of Alabama State Robotics competition. They compete as members of their school’s chess team and hold weekly Mental Math Competitions. They are skilled members of their school’s debate team. They leave Success Prep as confident high school graduates or students on track to graduating with their cohort.

Brief Program Description

Success Prep Academy supports the National At-Risk: “5H” CONFERENCE STRANDS: Head, Heart, Hands, Health, and Home. The presentation will show how the meshing of these indicators will undoubtedly ensure the success for students learning in an alternative education setting. By showing the success of a program that embraces best practices, it is our hope that the traditional, punitive approach to alternative education will be critically reviewed.

Summary

The Academy’s mission is set to prevent students from discontinuing their educational services. Workshop participants will be given specific activities that were developed and proven successful for targeting school attendance and decreasing discipline referrals. Sample materials and the program’s framework will be shared with all participants. One example is the program’s use of community agencies and its college and university partnerships. The University of Alabama supports the Academy’s Robotics and Chess programs. The students that were once labeled as potential drop-outs have held the title of Regional Robotics Champions, and 2nd place state winners. The program has also built in daily Community Meetings and weekly counseling and support sessions that provide wrap-around services. Students are taught the importance of contributing and serving their communities. Students attend Tuscaloosa City Council meetings as well as support special education students through their student developed “Adopt a Buddy” program. Moreover, students participate in fundraisers to benefit local social service organizations such as United Way and Temporary Emergency Services. These projects have served to show our students the importance of being good, productive citizens as well as emphasizing the importance of giving back to the community in which they reside. Former “at-risk” students have led government events for their city and have been called upon by their city mayor to stand by his side during his inauguration. Extended learning opportunities coupled with our current program offerings have been key to ensuring that the students reach their academic goals and stay engaged. The curriculum design will be shared with all participants, which effectively allowed students to recover credits at a rapid pace. At the opening of the school year, all students participate in a week long school-wide retreat, conference style set-up. The retreat activities include a thorough study of our program’s core values, (Determination, Courage, Empowerment, Resilience, Relentlessness and Solidarity) learning and understanding the program creed, as well as how to effectively work as a team.

Evidence

There is extensively researched, analyzed, and documented data correlating high school math/Algebra I success with college readiness and success. Several studies have indicated that a students’ proficiency level in math in general and algebra in particular can determine if he or she is prepared for college level courses, without the need for remediation. Therefore Algebra preparedness is the Academy’s primary focus. Workshop participants will learn how students completing this program were exceeding at or above their peers after one year of academy participation. One example of this is through an extended instructional day and Saturday School program. This has allowed students to receive additional instruction as they seek to recover credits and work toward the attainment of additional graduation credits. The program’s curriculum was layered with additional Algebra instruction. This included extended day and weekend learning opportunities. At the program’s inception, 94% of its students entering received a score of D or F in mathematics, including algebra and geometry. There middle school scores revealed that they were non-proficient in math as well. Upon completion of the year, students’ algebra math scores were equal or higher than their peers.

Format

Individual Presentation

Biographical Sketch

Dr. Linda Harper’s career spans over 24 years as a secondary school educator, beginning as an English teacher, curriculum specialist, assistant principal, educational consultant and most recently principal in the Tuscaloosa City School System. While serving as principal of Oak Hill School, in 2009 and 2013, the special needs and alternative school programs were recognized by the Council of Leaders for Alabama Schools (CLAS) as Banner School programs. This honor is bestowed upon programs that are considered highly effective programs for Alabama students. Under her leadership, students in the special needs program have successfully met all reading and math goals five years in a row and have received local, state and national recognitions in the area of Special Olympics. Both programs were featured in the National Association of Elementary School Principals Journal. She worked with her school board and superintendent to develop and expand Success Prep Academy. The Academy was designed with the goal of helping the city’s students meet on-time graduation requirements. The Academy was highlighted as a state model at the 2013 School Superintendents of Alabama Conference. It was also one of the few programs in the state and the only program in our city to receive the Preparing Alabama Students for Success grants. Success Prep Academy was featured in 2013 Edition of Voices for Alabama Children, Success Stories and will also serve as a national model at the National Alternative Education Conference in Atlanta, Ga this March. Success Prep was also honored as a 2013 CLAS Banner program. Dr. Harper was just recently transferred from Oak Hill's School Success Prep Academy to lead the Paul W. Bryant High School community as principal. Prior to returning home to Alabama, she served as a district level curriculum specialist with the Broward County School System, in Fort Lauderdale, FL. She is credited as a major player in the preparing the nation’s largest fully accredited school system with the system honor of District Accreditation, her role included serving on the State of Florida Council on Accreditation and as a superintendent designee for charter school support. She believes that students will rise or fall to adult expectations. She believes in having the highest expectations for her students and her staff, not accepting excuses or failure as an option. She is a true advocate for them and works tirelessly to improve her students’ educational outcomes. She believes that all students can reach their highest educational and athletic potential with the support of highly effective, loving educators.

Keyword Descriptors

at-risk, graduation rate, black male students, minority student success

Presentation Year

2015

Start Date

3-4-2015 11:15 AM

End Date

3-4-2015 12:30 PM

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Mar 4th, 11:15 AM Mar 4th, 12:30 PM

Success Prep Academy: An Innovative School’s Formula for Clearing the High Hurdle of Low Expectations

Scarbrough 1

Success Prep Academy supports the National At-Risk: “5H” CONFERENCE STRANDS: Head, Heart, Hands, Health, and Home. The presentation will show how the meshing of these indicators will undoubtedly ensure the success for students learning in an alternative education setting. By showing the success of a program that embraces best practices, it is our hope that the traditional, punitive approach to alternative education will be critically reviewed.