Three summers ago, a team of educators from Hinckley-Finlayson High School (HFHS) took a trip to Northfield High School to learn about their Academy Program. What they discovered was something they knew then and there was needed at HFHS.
“When we visited Northfield and met with the person who coordinated their program, I knew right away that is the job I wanted,” said Annie France, 9th Grade Academy Coordinator.
The team brought the program back to HFHS and made it their own. Two years ago they implemented it on a very basic level, with some success, but according to France, “We knew we needed the whole program.”
The program includes 20 percent of the ninth grade class. These students are chosen by the Academy team using MCA scores and MAP scores, looking at attendance and behavior, and listening to teacher and parent input.
Last year was the first year of the full 9th Grade Academy program. With this program, students attend their three core classes, English, math and science, together as a small group during a four-hour block. They are the same core classes that the rest of the ninth graders attend, just with a smaller class size. The students still choose their own electives. France goes with the students to these core classes, and then the fourth hour is seminar. During seminar, they start out working on things such as team building, math and English review, and various other opening activities. The rest of the hour is spent as a “very structured study hall,” according to France.
France said each student has a daily goal. It started out with her setting that goal for them, and by the end of the year the students were setting goals for themselves.
At the August school board meeting, High School Principal Brian Masterson spoke to the board about how the Academy was helping students. The data collected from MAP testing shows this year’s Academy students going from 22 percent meeting their growth targets in reading in eighth grade to 82 percent in ninth grade. Math numbers grew as well from 56 percent to 82 percent.
Following the same group of kids, other numbers improved as well. The number of D’s and F’s were cut by more than 50 percent, they missed fewer days of school and the behavior referrals were down. Eight out of the nine Academy students received all of their attempted credits.
“Seeing them want to come to school, want to be part of this, that is ultimately the best part for me,” said France.
Principal Masterson said, “We couldn’t have a better Annie France. She is the best person for the job. Annie and her team did wonderful.”
Both Masterson and France said they are very proud of all that these kids have accomplished.
The students won’t be left stranded as tenth graders. France will continue meeting with them one hour a day, just to check in. She has become very attached to these kids. “The kids will know I’m still there from them,” she said. They think of her as their “school mom.”
Starting this school year, they will be implementing a 7th Grade Academy as well.