September 21, 2022

Schenectady Schools Launch Freshman Academy; other ongoing initiatives – The Daily Gazette

SCHENECTADY — After months of preparation, the City of Schenectady School District is ready to welcome students back and move forward with changes designed to better engage students and create learning journeys that it hopes will officials, will increase graduation rates.

The changes will be most visible in high school, where incoming freshmen will automatically be enrolled in the district’s first-ever Freshman Leadership Academy when classes begin Wednesday.

Unveiled earlier this year as part of the district’s high school revamp, the freshman academy is designed to build peer-to-peer community while giving students the opportunity to explore future learning opportunities.

Superintendent Anibal Soler Jr., in an interview last week, said the goal was to create a new learning experience for students, which includes separating a portion of high school for freshmen only. , which he says has increased the number of credits students earn, which increases the chances of graduating on time.

“We’re really trying to give this freshman group a different experience than what’s traditionally been there,” he said.

Once students complete the leadership academy, they will have the opportunity to enter five leadership communities at the start of their second year. Opportunities include: visual performing arts; STEM; Company; marketing contractors; human sciences, communication and advocacy; and distance education.

The district will also expand its footprint to include parts of downtown as part of its “City as Our Campus” initiative.

The initiative includes an expanded partnership between the district and Proctors Theater through the Capital Region BOCES, which will allow students to benefit from hands-on learning about theater production as part of their day.

Students enrolled in the district’s Early College High School program will take classes at SUNY Schenectady’s downtown campus, located at 433 State St. The program, which allows students to earn an associate’s degree while in high school , will include 120 students, up from 75 last year.

SUNY Schenectady President Steady Moono said he’s excited about the expanded program and the idea of ​​welcoming high school students to campus, which he says is crucial to ensuring that every student interested in higher education have the opportunity to obtain a diploma.

“It’s really about bringing the students to the university and bringing the university to the community,” he said.

The high school redesign is just one of many things the district hopes to unveil in the coming months in hopes of better engaging students and breaking down barriers that stand in the way of education.

The district is currently working to finalize a community school initiative that will see schools across the city become community centers, offering weekend services, extended hours to meet child care needs, and services that expand. tackle mental health issues and food insecurity.

Soler said the district has identified five schools that will participate in the initiative and hopes to release more details later this fall. He said the district is finalizing contracts with community organizations and working with building leaders on how to roll out the programming.

“Some of these things have slowed us down a bit, but hopefully everything will be in place by October 1,” he said.

Soler said the district is also finalizing plans to expand its My Brother’s Keeper program, a mentorship program for young men of color started by former President Barack Obama.

The program came to Schenectady in 2018, and the district announced plans to expand the program earlier this year in hopes of connecting students with mentors to help guide them through their academic journey. and personal.

Soler said the program has focused primarily on high school students, but the goal is to expand the presence to colleges in the district and eventually create a program for female students. The district, he said, is finalizing its action plan to move the program forward.

The goal of the new programs is to better engage students by allowing them to pursue pathways that interest them, which Soler says will help improve graduation rates and ensure students have a sense of direction once they will move on to the next chapter of their lives.

Schenectady High School’s graduation rate was 80% in 2021, below the state average of 86%, but a 14-point improvement from the 2013 academic year, when the graduation rate was not than 66%, according to data from the state Department of Education.

Soler said much of the focus has been on changing the high school experience for freshmen, but noted the district is looking at ways to revamp education in hopes of strengthen commitment.

The district is also considering partnerships with other organizations to create additional courses and expand the city as a model campus.

“I know there are more conversations about it,” Soler said.

Contact journalist Chad Arnold at: [email protected] Follow him on Twitter: @ChadGArnold.

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