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Monday, August 24, 2015

Secrets of their success: Area charter schools earn high marks

Ben Kleine, News Herald Reporter summarizes, "A common charter school philosophy is students learn by doing."


At University Academy, the elementary school that repurposed a former airport terminal, one example is Rock and Roll Academy.  

Fifth-graders Madeline Olive and Catherine Lee, both 10, recorded vocals on a song their band, the Geniuses, wrote called, “I’m Happy to Be Me.” Teachers Aaron Bearden and Jennye Shaling preferred the rock and roll campers to write and perform their own music. Although Rock and Roll Academy is a regular class, the school hosted a Rock and Roll Academy camp over the summer.  

“What I like is that it has more opportunities,” Olive said of her schooling at University Academy. “You get to have more fun. It’s hands on, everything.”  

Both University Academy and the Bay Haven family of schools — North Bay Haven Elementary, Middle School and High School and Bay Haven K-8 — have exemplary records for school grades. Dating back to 2009, the schools earned a slew all but one A, and that grade was a B.  
Of the Bay Haven schools’ 119 graduating seniors from 2014-15, 20 had Advanced Placement honors and 108 students plan to attend universities in the fall, many receiving some of the $5.4 million in scholarships awarded Bay Haven students by various colleges. Out of the graduating class, 58 students participated in internships at the school. The school also had a National Merit scholar, now on a full ride to Auburn University.  

Bay Haven Chief Education Officer Tim Kitts said the explanation of the charter schools’ success is simple: They do things differently than other public schools.

But Bay District Schools officials counter that the success of charter schools is based on cherry picking high-performing students...
“There are multiple ways of solving a problem,” University Academy Executive Director Judy Vandergrift said. “It’s all about problem solving.”

University Academy teaches STEAM — science, technology, engineering art and math. The way the course is organized is the first nine weeks are research and technology, the next nine weeks are debate and economics and the next nine weeks are devoted to visual art.  

“Technology is involved in all of that,” Crowe said.

For the school’s own problem solving, Crowe said they will try to divide students into different groups based on a variety of factors, behavior and intelligence being two.  

Like Bay Haven, Crowe said University Academy has a passionate group of parents.  

“Since we’re a school of choice, they’re choosing to apply here, the parents are more involved,” Crowe said. 

Source: The News Herald