Friday, January 29, 2016

Catching up with ACE: One CCSD Program That Works

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How does a 15-year-old end up in the eighth grade? It's not a pretty story, but an innovative program at Northwoods Middle School, the Alternative Choice in Education (ACE), has smoothed one such student's rocky road. Harry Brunson's winning a lottery seat at Jerry Zucker Middle School turned out not to be so lucky. Home life and lack of confidence equalled failure. His life changed partly because of the assistance of an older brother and sister and partly because teacher Jason Allen saw that putting "10 students for a couple of hours a day in a portable trailer behind the school" wasn't going to change lives.

The appeal of using "one teacher and a program on computer with earphones" to enhance learning is a siren call that few school districts have resisted. It's oh-so cost effective, but rarely academically effective. Fortunately, in Allen, Northwoods has a teacher who cared enough to question an ineffective program and persuade his principal to approve another. He also recruited Zac Goatley, "the best teacher in the school," to assist.

Don't forget that the Charleston County School District planned and built an entire alternative school that fizzled. Personnel count. Teachers count. Programs count. Now 21 overage students at Northwoods have chance to catch up with their peers instead of being the anonymous and troubling faces in a crowd of 1,000. 

Oh, yes. One-thousand-student middle schools are cost effective, too. Academically? Not so much.

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