Columbus Schools Create SuccessWorks Academy to Combat Poor Conduct and Academics

Columbus Schools’ SuccessWorks Academy will be an alternative education program that aims to provide quality education to those students with continual and often severe behavioral issues. The Columbus Schools’ SuccessWorks Academy plans to admit students beginning in January of 2007. The SuccessWorks Academy will provide education to approximately 150 students in third to seventh grades. The school will not only follow a strong academic curriculum but offer services and trained counselors to address the social, emotional and physical health needs of students. The overall goal of the SuccessWorks Academy is to transition the students back into a regular school environment and give them the skills to participate fully and effectively in a normal school.

The Staff and Curriculum of Columbus Schools’ SuccessWorks Academy

The SuccessWorks Academy will have two teachers for each grade level and support staff that includes a principal, a counselor; a behavior specialist; instructional assistants; a nurse; art, music, and physical education teachers; and a psychologist. Prior to hiring, the staff will have to show that they know how to work successfully with at-risk students, have experience in how ability to apply effective research based instructional practices, have the necessary communication skills needed to work with parents and the skill to document student development on a regular basis.

This is in order to ensure that the most cable teachers are placed in the SuccessWorks Academy. The teachers will have to teach a curriculum tailored to the needs of the student population. Not only the core subject areas of reading, writing, math, science, and social studies, as well as health/physical education and the unified arts but the curriculum will reflect the weakness and strengths of the students determined by pre-entrance examines. This may include the use of individualized, small group and class instruction to better handle the students learning or socialization needs.

Student Selection

As the aim of the SuccessWorks Academy is to have the students return to a regular school environment the student population will be continually changing. The Columbus Schools admissions committee will admit students into the SuccessWorks Academy based on the referrals from schools and the students’ records. Referrals can be based on severe misbehavior as well as documented frequent poor attendance, low academic performance, and lack of social skills. The placement period will be initially set for one semester and the students will be monitored and considered on an individual basis to determine after the first semester if the student is prepared to return to a regular school environment.

This will include serious collaboration with parents and counselors. When the student returns to the regular school environment, the student will receive support for the transition from the school counselor to help assure a successful transition. The support services of the SuccessWorks Academy will follow and maintain a close connection to the student as the student returns to his or her regular school. The school that receives the transitioning student from SuccessWorks Academy will get an all-inclusive report about the student’s growth and future needs. This is a highly innovative program that will improve the Columbus Schools.

School Reform Is Hot Topic For Philadelphia Schools

Philadelphia Schools are in dire need of reform. In an effort to achieve this goal, two committees, The Right to Education Task Force and The School Reform Commission, have been formed to focus on improving the situation for all Philadelphia Schools students. A new mission statement, a Declaration of Education, an anti-truancy effort, and summer programs have all been implemented within the district of Philadelphia Schools.

The Right to Education Task Force, which focuses on special education and persons with disabilities served by Philadelphia Schools, strives to do the following:

o Review state and national legislation that affects improvements of special education classes

o Participate in active and meaningful discussion about education concerns, and give recommendations to resolve them

o Serve as advisors and advocates to protect the rights of students with disabilities

o Encourage and facilitate cooperation between public and private agencies and their officials to provide services to persons with disabilities

Philadelphia Schools has put a “School Reform Commission” in place in order to continue the improvement of Philadelphia Schools. The commission’s mission statement is as follows: “The mission of …Philadelphia Schools is to provide a high quality education that prepares, ensures, and empowers all students to achieve their full intellectual and social potential in order to become lifelong learners and productive members of society.” The Commission has set several target goals for themselves, teachers, administrators, and staff, which they hope to achieve by June of 2008. These goals include Early Literacy, Academic Achievement, a Safe and Orderly Environment, Community Collaboration, Equity, Efficient and Effective Philadelphia Schools, and improved Support Operations.

Among other efforts, Philadelphia Schools have teamed up with Mayor John F. Street to implement a citywide anti-truancy initiative. The program is designed to ensure that school-aged children and teens are actually present in their Philadelphia Schools, and that their parents are aware of truancy laws. The initiative also intends to assure that parents and students alike are aware that the City, Philadelphia Schools, and the Family Court plan to hold them accountable.

In addition, Philadelphia Schools offer numerous summer programs that both keep kids off the streets, and serve to help students who have fallen behind in their studies. The programs are focused on academic enhancement and enrichment, and are mandatory for any 1st – 8th grader who did not achieve proficiency in a core subject, such as Math or Reading. Eighth graders who need additional help meeting Philadelphia Schools promotion criteria and 12th graders needing additional credits to graduate are eligible.

Mark S. Schweiker, President and CEO of the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce sums it up by saying, “The reformation of the Philadelphia public schools serves as a model for the entire nation. As the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce touts the advantages of this region to the world, our rapidly improving public school system is an example that Greater Philadelphia is a progressive place to live and raise a family.”