Atlantic High School implements tenth-grade academy to support students

Transitioning students from one grade level to the next is the goal at Atlantic Community High School in Delray Beach.

And the school now has two academies to reach this goal.

With the implementation of a ninth-grade academy two years ago and a tenth-grade academy this year, students are segregated to different buildings based on grade level. Teachers of different subject areas are also teamed up and assigned to certain students, according to Johnny McDaniel, assistant principal at Atlantic Community High School.

“It provides support with these small learning communities,” McDaniel said.

McDaniel said the goal of the ninth-grade academy is to transition students to high school. The tenth-grade academy has another objective.

“It’s to help them realize that they are young adults and that they do have more responsibility,” McDaniel said.

With the academy model, teachers are also grouped together, McDaniel said.

“In high school you find teachers become teachers of curriculum,” he said. “With the academies, teachers share a group of students and focus on how to take the team approach to teaching students.”

Another unique aspect to the academies is the grading process, McDaniel added. Students never receive a D grade; instead they receive an incomplete grade which they have the possibility of raising.

“With the academy model, instead of failing a course, students get an “I” or Incomplete. If they get an “I” they can bring it up to a C or they can get an F,” he said. “Each student has a contract with teachers and they know what to do to bring it up to passing.”

However, he added that the students aren’t completely segregated from the upperclassman.

“During electives, they are interacting with other upperclassman,” he said.

McDaniel said the ninth-grade academy has proven successful and believes the tenth-grade academy will follow. The ninth-grade academy has helped to raise the attendance rate, promotion to the next grade has increased, and the absentee rate has decreased.

“It’s a community of learners and a team of teachers giving them data feedback,” he said. “Kids need a place to fit in and identify and feel like they’re a part of something. And they get that here.”

Currently the school offers a variety of academies including construction, sports management, and leadership.

Other schools have followed Atlantic High’s model of grade level academies. Boynton Beach High School recently implemented a freshman academy. Atlantic High School will continue to add more academies.

“We’re working to be wall to wall academies,” McDaniel said. “It’s part of our long term plan. We want to stay with the academy model and continue to offer that support.”

Nicol Jenkins can be reached at njenkins@bocanews.com or 561-549-0844.