Currently in its second year, McClain’s Academy period was implemented to help combat the school’s unsatisfactory graduation rates by helping students craft a plan for what comes after graduation.
“Our graduation rate was abysmal a few years ago,” said McClain Principal Jason Potts. “As a building, we thought that part of the problem was that all students did not have a plan when leaving here. We believed if each student had a plan, it would give them a reason to stay in school.”
Hence the creation of the 30-minute Academy period where students meet daily in grade-level groups with the same teacher all year.
“It is time set aside in which students focus on social-emotional growth, remediation in reading and math, technology skills, study skills, and career exploration,” Potts said.
The principal said that one day a week, students focus on social-emotional growth. Two days a week, freshmen through juniors utilize an online program that targets their specific learning needs in reading and math and is aligned to the state End of Course Assessments, or the ACT. On other days, students focus on career exploration. Every Friday, students and staff have Free Read Friday. Students and staff read either a book or magazine (nothing online) to help foster reading for enjoyment. At the end of the school year, seniors learn life skills, such as how to change a tire or address an envelope.
“We think it’s beneficial because we are taking time within the school day to teach students ‘things’ that they might not otherwise learn in regular classes,” Potts said.
A primary focus of the program is the three E’s: employment, enlistment and enrollment, according to Potts.
“The content varies and becomes more acute as the grade level increases,” Potts said. “For example, freshman through junior students explore various careers in depth in all three E’s. Seniors choose either the employment, enrollment or enlistment track and the content is tailored to their plans after high school. Seniors who know they want to get a job after high school meet with local companies and are essentially recruited to work for their company right after graduation. Enrollment track students learn more about financial aid and information that will help them as they transition to college. Enlistment track students learn more about their military career options upon graduation.”
The program is proving to be successful. According to Potts, it gives all students a general idea of all three tracks (employment, enlistment and enrollment) and they are educated about jobs available in the community. There are also multiple career fairs during Academy which allows students to get a better idea of various careers they might not know about.
Potts said the district’s graduation rate was graded an F on the 2016 state report card. The graduation rate grade on the state’s just-released report card for the 2018-2019 school year is a B. Additionally, the school’s progress academically has improved, something that Potts attributes in part to the course-specific remediation completed in Academy.
“The overall goal is for each student who leaves McClain to have a career plan, whatever ‘E’ that may be,” Potts said, and Academy helps students accomplish that.
Angela Shepherd is a correspondant for the Greenfield Exempted Village School District.